Man guilty of chopping up partner

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The Independent Online

A man was convicted today of murdering his fiancee, dismembering her body and dumping the remains in bags.

Shop worker Alan Cameron, 56, kept Heather Stacey's decomposing body at her Edinburgh flat for more than a year then scattered the parts across the north of the city.

The severed head of Ms Stacey, 44, a mother of four was found by a dog walker near a popular footpath on Hogmanay 2008.

Cameron, who admitted dismembering her body, denied murder and claimed she died while he was out buying chips.

But a jury at the High Court in Livingston took three hours to convict him of murdering Ms Stacey at her Royston Mains Place home between November 29 and 11 December 2007.

He was also found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and of stealing nearly £5,000 over 11 months from his victim's Post Office card account.

Lothian and Borders Detective Chief Inspector William Guild welcomed the verdict.

"Today's verdict is testament to the hard work carried out by the police and prosecutors, who worked tirelessly to piece together the circumstances of this case.

"It is clear from his actions that Cameron is a callous and calculating individual, whose only thought after murdering Heather Stacey was how he could evade justice.

"For more than a year he carried on his life as normal while hiding Heather's body, before disposing of her remains in an utterly inhuman manner.

"The verdict that has been delivered today will hopefully provide some comfort to Heather Stacey's family, and I want to thank them for the assistance they gave police over the course of our investigation."

Ms Stacey was described in court as a "vulnerable" woman who had been in violent relationships in the past.

The court heard that her remains were so decayed it was hard to tell how she died.

But the jury hearing the circumstantial case against Cameron today found he murdered her towards the end of 2007.

Cameron, said to be a "fantasist" and a "liar", then embarked on an elaborate scheme to cover his tracks.

He failed to report his fiancee's death and led people to think she was still alive. He sent a text message purporting to be from Ms Stacey and boasted to colleagues about his romantic dates with her.

Cameron, from Edinburgh, hid her dead body at the flat for 13 months and moved it from room to room within the property. He repeatedly returned to the flat to check the security had not been breached.

The killer, who sometimes slept in the same flat as the rotting body, decided to dispose of it when the council moved to repossess the property.

Council workers said later they were struck by a smell of death at the flat.

The court heard that, at some point after Ms Stacey died, Cameron made a botched attempt to chop up the body. It was likely the limbs were eventually pulled apart after they became badly decayed.

Cameron then wrapped the body parts in coverings and bags and dumped them in secluded areas of Hawthornvale Path, West Granton Road and Granton Crescent.

He also dumped the soiled bedding on which Ms Stacey's body had lain.

In the months after her death, the killer made repeated withdrawals from his victim's Post Office account, totalling £4,965.

Cameron was arrested in January last year, days after a dog walker found Ms Stacey's severed head in a bag beside the Hawthornvale Path in the Newhaven area.

During the police interview, he confessed to hiding Ms Stacey's body for over a year but denied he was a murderer.

He claimed his fiancee had been on a downward spiral with drink and died when he nipped out to buy her chips.

Cameron said he panicked and failed to get help when he found her lifeless body in December 2007 because a warrant was already out for his arrest on another matter.

He told officers: "I know any normal human being would've phoned the authorities right away. I think I was still being selfish, protecting myself. I know I shouldn't have. I know I should've put her first and foremost."

Dennis Mackenzie, who had known Cameron for around 10 years, told the court his friend was "besotted" with Ms Stacey and appeared jealous about other men.

Mr Mackenzie's wife Margaret also told the court that when Cameron visited them in Thurso in the Highlands on Christmas Eve 2007 he was "fidgety", scruffy and smoking. Mrs Mackenzie said she had never seen Cameron smoke before.

Prosecutors argued that only a murderer would have behaved the way Cameron did.

It was suggested he might have murdered Ms Stacey to get her money or he had been jealous of her associations with other men.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC described as "chilling" one witness's assertion that Ms Stacey told her she "always ended up with the wrong guy" and would be fine if she could keep away from "creepy" men.

Mr Prentice said the "gruesome" case involved the "undignified and awful" treatment of another person.

He said: "Who else but a murderer would cut into the body with a view to dismembering the body? Who else but a murderer would keep the body for a year or so?

"Who else but a murderer would take apart and distribute parts of that body around Granton and Newhaven in Edinburgh?"

Cries of "yes" were heard from the public gallery as the guilty verdicts to all the charges were announced.

Cameron bowed his head as the jury gave its decision but showed little emotion.

After the verdict, the jury heard that Cameron was a convicted sex offender.

He was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow in 1995 of nine charges of sexual offences involving children. He was jailed for six and a half years, prosecutor Alex Prentice QC said.

The court heard he was released in June 1999 and placed on the sex offenders register for life.

Judge Lord Matthews deferred sentence in the current case to June 23 at the High Court in Edinburgh. He told Cameron the only sentence he could impose would be one of life behind bars.

"You treated this lady, who was entitled to look towards you for love and support, like so much rubbish," the judge said.

Mr Prentice told the judge: "The evidence did suggest that she (Ms Stacey) was taking significant steps in order to create a better life for herself."

Area procurator fiscal for Lothian and Borders, Morag McLaughlin, said: "This was a very difficult case with huge legal challenges, not least because it was impossible to establish Heather Stacey's cause of death, due to the advanced stage of decomposition in which her body was found.

"However it was always the Crown's view that the circumstances demonstrated that Alan Cameron had been responsible for Heather Stacey's death, as well as the dismemberment and disposal of her body to which he pleaded guilty.

"Today's murder conviction follows painstaking work by police and prosecutors and I hope Heather Stacey's family will find some comfort in knowing her killer has been brought to justice."