The trial of two men accused of the murder of 16 year old Liam Aitchison in November 2011 continued today (Thursday) with evidence coming from a former work colleague of Johnathan Mackinnon (22) and Stefan Millar (22).
Gavin Wright (20), a fisherman from Stornoway, worked alongside the two men aboard a local fishing boat and claimed in his statement to police that he had heard Mr Mackinnon say he ‘would love to stab someone.’
Mr Wright worked alongside Mr Millar regularly and had also worked with Mr Mackinnon for a period.
He had also known Liam Aitchison and had socialised with him and the two accused.
In his previous statements to police, Mr Wright recalled a conversation onboard the boat when Mr Mackinnon had allegedly said ‘I would love to stab someone’.
In this statement Mr Wright admitted he had been under the influence of alcohol at the time he heard Mr Mackinnon say that.
Speaking in court he said he couldn’t recall saying this to police but said: “If it is in my statement it must have been something he said.”
He also claimed a meat cleaver had gone missing from the boat and that Johnathan Mackinnon had turned up at his house with the knife in his pocket.
He did remember a conversation when working with Mr Mackinnon that he had asked if stabbing a fish would be similar to stabbing a human and Mr Mackinnon had said the closest to stabbing a person was stabbing pig skin.
In his statement he said Mr Mackinnon had said when stabbing someone you are ‘not meaning to kill them’ but Mr Millar had added that ‘you are meaning to kill them’.
Mr Wright said in court he could vaguely remember that conversation. He had said in his statement that Mr Millar had made fun of Mr Mackinnon and said that he would be too scared but Mr Mackinnon had said he was not. Again Mr Wright could not recall telling police this but said if it was in his statement it must be true.
In cross examination by Mr Mackinnon’s defence lawyer Mr Paterson, he was asked why he had not mentioned the conversation they had allegedly had about stabbing in his first statement to police. Mr Paterson also asked if he recalled police asking him ‘quite a significant question’.
After some prompting he said: “They said something about some woman who had said something. Some woman said I was involved.”
Asked again about the conversation he referred to in his subsequent statement to police, Mr Wright couldn’t recall when it had taken place or whether the boat was at sea or in the harbour.
He said the skipper was strict in his rules regarding alcohol on the boat and did not approve of crew turning up after a night of drinking although it had taken him a ‘few tellings off’ before he adhered to this. He also admitted that they did consume alcohol on the boat in the harbour but that the skipper did not know.
Mr Paterson asked him of the stabbing conversation: “Do you remember if you were joking? Do you remember if Johnathan Mackinnon was joking? Were you all just fooling around?”
He said he didn’t know.
Mr Paterson asked him when was the last time he had seen Liam who was a regular visitor to his home in Stornoway and had stayed there one weekend.
In his statement to police he said he had seen Liam on the pier on Saturday November 19th.
“I really can’t remember,” he said.
“Did you just say anything to the police to get out as soon as possible?” asked Mr Paterson.
In further cross examination by Stefan Millar’s defence QC Frances McMenamin, Mr Wright was asked if his first statement to police might be more accurate as it was closest in time to the 23rd November. She added that in the conversation about stabbing, referred to in Mr Wright’s statement to police, that Stefan Millar’s position had been that it was ‘just wrong to stab anybody.’
He told the court he had worked with Stefan Millar on the day after Liam had gone missing and he and his boss had picked Mr Millar up in the morning near Mr Mackinnon’s home.
He had asked Mr Millar about what he had been up to the night before and he told him he had been drinking with Mr Mackinnon and Liam Aitchison. He said Mr Millar told him there had been a disagreement over an aftershave and Liam had then headed off to Pemma Maclennan’s house which was the last time Mr Millar had seen him.
A Nurse at Western Isles Hospital, Peggy Macleod (58) also gave evidence this morning.
She was on duty at the Western Isles Hospital in the Accident and Emergency Department when Johnathan Mackinnon had come in with an injury to his hand on November 23rd 2011.
She said he came to the hospital about 2am and explained that he had been cut with a knife.
While he was being treated by Mrs Macleod, he said something which struck her as odd.
She said: “I think I remember him saying that his mother said to him that he should be in a mental institution or some words to that effect and then he said did we think he should be.”
She said she told him that he had been very co-operative with the A&E staff.
“I could smell alcohol on his breath, he wasn’t shouting, he wasn’t being aggressive and he answered questions when you asked him,” she said adding that the remarks about mental health were ‘quite spontaneous on his part.’
A further witness Maureen Stewart (46), who is a health care assistant in the A&E department had been working with Mrs Macleod in aiding Mr Mackinnon.
She said he had said: “Do you think I’m mentally disturbed?”
She said there was nothing about his presence which suggested that he was and so the remark had struck her as odd.
Both men deny the charges against them and the trial continues before Lord Kinclaven.