Police see film of children faking death in wood where Rory's body was found

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The Independent Online

In a macabre coincidence, some of the 11-year-old's classmates are shown in a home movie called "Dead Man Falls", which was shot by a former pupil two years before Rory disappeared on his way to school a fortnight ago yesterday.

The 13-minute film shows a young boy "lying dead" in the same woodland where Rory's asphyxiated body was found near Meldrum Primary School in Livingston.

The semi-autobiographical film was written by Simon Miller, who attended Meldrum school in the 1980s and centres on an English schoolboy, Nicholas, who struggles to fit in when he moves to Livingston, near Edinburgh, during the Falklands conflict.

The boy finally makes friends by introducing them to the macabre game Dead Man Falls, in which participants compete to fake dramatic deaths in the woods.

The film received critical acclaim when it was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival and when it was given its first public viewing in Livingston at the town's Dens Community High School last year, an event that may have been attended by the suspected killer, Simon Harris.

Rory vanished after being dropped off near his school by his mother on the morning of 18 August. His body was found in woodland three days later covered in a tattered tent.

After more than a week of searches and public appeals detectives raided a house in Livingston, about a mile from where Rory was last seen, in response to information from the public that the occupant matched the description of a man wanted by police.

Inside the end-of terrace rundown council property they found the body of Simon Harris, a 37-year-old loner who had been on bail awaiting trial on sex charges against girls.

Harris, who was not on the sex offenders' register as he had not been convicted of any crime, and not previously interviewed by police about Rory, is believed to have hanged himself.

An arrest warrant had been issued at Linlithgow Sheriff Court when he failed to turn up for a court appearance on Monday last week, the day after Rory's body was discovered.

Lothian Borders Police said they were not alerted about the warrant, provoking a political debate over the granting of bail to suspected sex offenders while awaiting trial.

Police have not yet released results of any forensic science tests that may confirm a link between Harris and Rory's death but they are understood to be interested in the film and the fact Harris may have seen it.

Liz Smith, the film's co-producer, has said that although Rory did not appear in the movie, some of his friends did and the details of all those who took part have been passed to police.

She said it was both "disturbing" and "chilling" that children from Rory's school had been filmed faking death in the woods where the boy was found.

A spokesman for Lothian and Border Police declined to comment on the film yesterday but it is understood detectives are aware of its contents.

"The investigation into the murder of Rory Blackhall continues and it would be inappropriate to discuss specific details of the case at this time," he said.