Murdered teenager Liam Aitchison had said Johnathan Mackinnon was ‘like a brother to him’ according to Mr Mackinnon’s statement to police when interviewed as a witness early on in the investigation, the High Court in Glasgow heard today (Tuesday).
At the ongoing trial of Johnathan Mackinnon (22) and Stefan Millar (22) - who are accused of murdering 16-year-old Liam Aitchison on November 23rd at a house in Steinish - the court heard evidence from several police officers who had interviewed the two accused, initially as witnesses but then as suspects in the crime.
Both gave statements as witnesses and were very co-operative, police witnesses said, and Mr Millar also spoke at length to police when he was interviewed as a suspect and refused his right to have a solicitor present. Mr Mackinnon gave a statement as a witness but when interviewed as a suspect he declined to comment, as was his right.
Both said in statements to the police that they had been drinking with Liam in Johnathan Mackinnon’s house in Plasterfield on the night of November 22nd 2011 and that later Liam had left them to go to Pemma Maclennan’s house and that was the last time they had seen him.
In his statement to police made at Inverness while he was in prison, Mr Mackinnon said he had been at Pemma Maclennan’s house with Liam and Stefan Millar that night and had left to go home at one point. Later his girlfriend and her friend had come to his house and he had cut his hand, he said in his statement.
He admitted that he had a knife in his room as well as a 10 inch meat cleaver because it ‘made him feel safe’.
He said the three men had been drinking upstairs that night and that he had been arguing with his mother about the volume of the music and because Liam Aitchison had tried to jump out of the window. He also said that he and Liam had been sick out of the bedroom window. They had left around 12:30am and had planned to go to the derelict house opposite the Cabarfeidh Hotel. He said at one point Liam had fallen over and Mr Mackinnon’s aftershave had fallen out of his pocket leading to an altercation.
In his statement he said: “I got angry and called him a thief. I challenged him and squared up to him. He said something like I was a brother to him. I threw a punch at him but he tried to block it with his arm, it was just the once.” He said Stefan Millar had not been involved and it was all over quite quickly and they had gone on their way. He also said he had punched Liam earlier in the house when he had tried to jump out the window but it was just ‘one of those things’. He had last seen Liam when he had left to go to Pemma Maclennan’s house.
When asked if he knew of the derelict house in Steinish where Liam's body was found, Mr Mackinnon said he used to go there quite a lot when he was about 16 or 17 but that he hadn’t been inside the house for over two years. He said he had been there before with Mr Millar but not with Liam Aitchison.
“As far as I know if Liam was up there,” he said to police, “it’s a mystery how he knew about it.”
Defence lawyer Iain Paterson pointed out that Mr Mackinnon had been very cooperative in giving details of that night and had even provided a DNA sample to police before he was a suspect.
In his initial statement as a witness, Stefan Millar also gave a similar account of events and said he had last seen Liam on the hill at Anderson Road where he took one of the turnings into town to go to Pemma Maclennan’s house.
In his subsequent statement when he was detained as a suspect, Mr Millar again gave a lengthy interview. He said that night when they left Mr Mackinnon’s house in Plasterfield, they had walked towards the Cearns but that Liam had said he was going to Pemma Maclennan’s house. They had then gone to the derelict house opposite the Cabarfeidh Hotel and stayed for a while trying to make phone calls but didn’t get hold of anyone so had headed back to Mr Mackinnons.
Mr Millar was asked by police if he recognised a picture of the house in Steinish and if he had ever been there. Not that he could remember, he said in his statement.
Stefan Millar was asked in this interview why had not mentioned that Johnathan Mackionnon had punched Liam that night in his earlier statement. He said it had 'slipped his mind'.
“There is a big difference between punching someone and murdering someone,” he said to police.
He was also asked what he could tell them about reports that he had hit Liam on the head with a bottle which did not break. He said he didn’t know what they were talking about.
Defence QC Frances McMenamin highlighted that there had been more than 600 witness statements and that some of the questioning of Mr Millar had come from some information in those statements, which could be based on rumour.
She said where ever it had come from, Mr Millar’s response had been: “I don’t know who is giving you this information but it’s not correct.”
Police witnesses reported to the court that a forensic team from the Scottish Police Authority had carried out a search of the derelict house opposite the Cabarfeidh Hotel and they had found the garage door open and had found no traces of blood there.
Both men deny the charges against them. The trial continues before Lord Kinclaven.
A further report of today’s proceedings will appear later this evening.