Two men have been convicted of carrying out the first murder on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides for 40 years.
Johnathan MacKinnon and Stefan Millar had maintained throughout their trial that they were innocent of the brutal killing of Liam Aitchison.
The 16-year-old’s body was found in a derelict building on Lewis. He had been stripped and stabbed more than 20 times after apparently falling out with his acquaintances in a drunken row over a stolen bottle of aftershave in November last year.
Both men, aged 22, were convicted at the end of a three-week trial at Glasgow’s High Court. They will be sentenced later this month and face potential life imprisonment.
Speaking after the verdict Liam's father, Norrie Aitchison, said his son had a “heart of gold”. “The cowards who robbed our Liam of his life and his future should never be able to see the outside of a prison ever again,” he added.
The jury heard how Liam became the first murder victim in the Western Islands since 1968 when an 80-year-old woman was found dead at her remote croft.
The latest tragedy had left the tight-knit community around Stornaway severely shocked. Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Andy Logan said 126 police officers were involved in the complex murder inquiry on the island where serious crime remains extremely rare.
“Unfortunately, Liam fell into the company of Johnathan MacKinnon and Stefan Millar, believing them to be his friends and placing his trust in them. They completely betrayed this trust, and in a most brutal and callous way they killed him in a senseless and sustained attack with weapons. Neither man has expressed any remorse throughout the investigation,” he said.
Liam Aitchison, a former Youth Parliament member and a promising student, had arrived in Lewis from his home in South Uist in May 2011. Described as an “outward-going free spirit”, he initially worked on a fishing boat but later relied on friends’ hospitality after giving up his job.
On the night of his death he had been drinking with his attackers at the family home of MacKinnon. The three had got to know each other whilst working on the fleet. MacKinnon, who was said to be obsessed with knives and who kept a meat cleaver in his bedroom, had earlier punched the teenager as a “joke”.
They ended up walking the streets in the early hours when the row over the stolen bottle of Paco Rabanne erupted. Liam was attacked with a broken bottle in a disused RAF building that was used by teenagers as a place to drink alcohol. He was then repeatedly stabbed and beaten before being abandoned for dead.
The two men claimed they had left their victim alive after the street scuffle. But he was reported missing by his girlfriend and sparked a missing person alert when he failed to attend a court date. His body was found the following week. Following his arrest Millar confessed his guilt to a fellow inmate whilst on remand.