A LEADING forensic scientist, who was a chief witness at the trial of triple child-killer Theresa Riggi, has called for a more widespread sale of blunt-tipped kitchen knives in an attempt to reduce Scotland’s murder rates.
Dr John Crichton was the main Crown psychiatrist called to give evidence against American Riggi, 50, who was sentenced to 16 years in jail for killing her children in Edinburgh in August 2010.
She had used a kitchen knife as a weapon. She pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She was found dead in Rampton Secure Hospital in England last month.
Scottish scientist Mr Crichton, an honorary fellow at Edinburgh University’s school of law, believes making it more difficult for people to get their hands on the most common of all murder weapons will help prevent knife killings in Scotland.
He said knives with pointed blades which are widely used in kitchens were merely a fashion, and that knives with blunt tips were as effective when used for cooking but were less likely to become weapons.
Mr Crichton added that while Riggi originally planned to gas her family, she chose an easier and more impulsive option and murdered them with ordinary kitchen knives.
He said the case prompted him to reflect on research which showed suicides were cut in the UK after changes such as having natural gas instead of more lethal coal gas in cookers and limiting the amount of medication, such as paracetamol, that can be bought at one time.
In a paper in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine he argued that control of access to pointed kitchen knives by certain groups, such as those who have recently committed a knife offence, could cut murder rates.
He said: “Why is it acceptable to give people a potentially lethal weapon, when we are so keen on safety in all sorts of other regards?
“If you just make it that bit more difficult, just like in the suicide scenario, you might have an effect on homicide rates.”
John Cornock, founder of Swindon-based Newpoint Knives, which now makes a safer kitchen knife in response to a rise in knife crime, said: “It is fashion which makes people expect knives to have a long point… getting it to be accepted as the norm is very much a slow burn, but it will happen.”
David Sinclair, a spokesman for Victim Support Scotland, said: “We would certainly be happy to see anything which helped make that type of weapon safer, although we recognise kitchen knives are designed for all sorts of work and therefore have to be available to people.”
Riggi was found dead at Rampton in Nottinghamshire last month, the death being described as “non-suspicious”.
Riggi, originally from California, killed her three children – eight-year-old twins Austin and Luke, and their sister Cecilia, five – by stabbing each of them eight times.