USA blocks extradition of student accused of attempted murder back to Scotland

Former St Andrews student Alexander Hilton is accused of trying to poison a fellow American

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The Independent Online

A former St Andrews student will not be sent back to Scotland from the US to stand trial for attempted murder after allegedly spiking a fellow student’s wine with antifreeze chemicals.

Alexander Hilton, 21, from Massachusetts, was granted a stay of extradition in the US on Monday on mental health grounds, despite Scottish prosecutors trying to bring him back to face justice here.

Mr Hilton is accused of trying to poison fellow American Robert Forbes with methanol, an ingredient of antifreeze which is highly toxic to humans.

The alleged incident happened at the St Andrews New Hall Ball on 5 March 2011. Mr Hilton gave Mr Forbes a bottle of red wine laced with the chemical and dared him to drink it “all in one go”, according to court documents.  

Mr Forbes, who was 19 at the time and comes from Virginia, suffered severe nausea, headaches and loss of vision for days after drinking the wine before spending a week in hospital. Doctors said he could have died if he had not sought medical attention.

Mr Hilton returned to the US just two weeks after the alleged incident and attended a school in New Mexico for a year. He was arrested in February last year by the American authorities under an extradition treaty with the UK.

In May, Boston magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal ruled Mr Hilton could be brought back to face an attempted murder charge.

A Scottish warrant for Mr Hilton’s arrest was issued but his attorneys have claimed he suffers from severe mental illness and extradition could accelerate his condition.

Norman Zalkind and Monica Shah, representing Mr Hilton, said extradition could “destabilise Mr Hilton’s precarious mental health condition and lead to a high risk of suicide”.

They added that his mother, who is currently being treated for late-stage breast cancer, cannot be a source of support for him.

Scottish police reported finding an internet search for "ethanol mixed with methanol" on Mr Hilton’s computer, as well as plastic funnel and measuring jug he had bought.

St. Andrews declined to comment on the case.