Woman's flat 'smelt of death'

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The Independent Online

A council worker told a court today that when he entered the home of an alleged murder victim he was struck by a smell "like there was something dead".

Joiner Glenn Walker, 48, said he thought the odour at Heather Stacey's Edinburgh flat could have been from a dead cat.

He told the High Court in Livingston a "very strong odour" was coming from the property.

"Over the years working with the council, I've come across quite a few dead bodies. I knew the smell. It smelt like there was something dead - a cat or something," he said.

Mr Walker was asked to help housing officer Elizabeth Milne get into Ms Stacey's flat in Royston Mains Place in December 2008.

The trial was told Ms Stacey's rent fell into arrears earlier that year, and that the council was unable to contact her.

Ms Milne and Mr Walker turned up at the flat 10 days before Christmas in 2008 with a court order allowing them to get into the flat and recover it.

Ms Milne, 55, told the trial she also noticed a smell when the door was opened.

"It's a smell I've never smelt before, it's difficult to describe," she said.

She agreed with prosecutor Alex Prentice QC that the smell was "unpleasant" and "pungent".

Accumulated mail at the front door led Ms Milne to think the flat was likely to have been abandoned, she told the court.

The witnesses were giving evidence at the trial of Alan Cameron, 56, who is accused of murdering Ms Stacey, 44, a mother of four, in her flat in 2007.

The trial has heard a dog walker found her severed head in a bag beside a footpath in Edinburgh's Newhaven area on Hogmanay 2008.

Cameron has admitted hiding Ms Stacey's body for more than a year and then chopping it up and dumping her remains in bags. He denies murder.

The court was told today that a charity worker closed her file on Ms Stacey because she was unable to contact her in the early part of 2008.

Catherine Reid, 44, who works with homeless people, said she began helping Ms Stacey in September 2007.

She said that Ms Stacey, whom she agreed was "vulnerable", had been in violent relationships and suffered anxiety and panic attacks.

The last time she spoke to Ms Stacey was on November 29 2007, she told the court. By mid-March 2008 Ms Reid formally withdrew her support because she had not been able to contact Ms Stacey since that day in November.

The court later heard how colleagues at the convenience store where Cameron worked noticed a "funny smell" coming off him.

Former care assistant Arlene Baillie, 39, told how an odour coming from the accused reminded her of a treatment given to elderly gangrene sufferers, involving maggots.

"I knelt down and I could smell it on the lower part of his trousers," she said.

Asked whether it was distinctive, she said: "Very. There's not a smell like it."

Stephanie McCaig, 21, also worked at the Spar store in Lindsay Road in 2008. She told the court: "There was a funny smell on him one time, just a strange smell, really hard to describe.

"It's not an odour that was very recognisable."

The trial also heard that Cameron told colleagues around November 2008 that his daughter had died of a heart attack following a car crash when his son-in-law was driving.

Megan Nolan, 22, who described herself as a close friend of Cameron, said he became "stroppier and angrier" after that and she would try to comfort him.

Ms Nolan, who also worked at the store, told of one occasion when Cameron said he had been on the phone to his girlfriend, Heather Stacey.

She said: "He started going on about her drinking and he'd had enough and she'd let him down because she didn't go to his daughter's funeral.

"It was like he had a split personality sometimes. He would be fine then he'd be quiet, then he'd be fine again."

Ms Nolan later told the court she learned from Cameron about the discovery of a human head on a footpath near the shop on Hogmanay 2008.

"The first I heard about it, I was in the back shop and Alan came through to tell me about it. I can't remember if it was already in the paper or if a customer had said a head's been found along the pathway.

"He just told me, like it was talking about the weather."

The jury was told that Cameron began work at the store in September 2008, months after he is alleged to have murdered Ms Stacey.

Ms Baillie told the court he would speak about having a girlfriend named Heather and "meeting up, buying flowers and wine for her, romantic nights in and going to the pictures".

Cameron denies murdering Ms Stacey at her home in Royston Mains Place, Edinburgh, between November 29 and December 11 2007.

The trial before Lord Matthews was adjourned until tomorrow.