Murdered teenager Liam Aitchison was stabbed 20 times, the High Court in Glasgow heard today (Thursday), including injuries which ruptured two of his major arteries.
In the trial of Johnathan Mackinnon and Stefan Millar – both 22 – who are accused of murdering Liam on November 23rd at a house in Steinish, the court heard evidence from Consultant Pathologist Dr Rosslyn Rankin who examined the body at the scene and carried out the post mortem.
She said Liam had been stabbed eight times in the neck - one of which had penetrated the carotid artery in his neck; seven times in the chest - one which ruptured the Aorta, the main artery in the body; five times in the abdomen penetrating the spleen and the small bowel; and also had severe injuries to his face and incised wounds on his hands and forearms which suggested he had tried to defend himself from the attack.
Prosecutor Mr Iain McSporran asked her: “There is no question whatsoever that serious violence was done to Liam Aitchison?” She agreed.
She told the court she had travelled to Stornoway on Wednesday November 30th, the day after the body had been discovered, and she had examined it at the scene. When the body was transported to Inverness, she had carried out an autopsy on December 2nd.
On describing the injuries to Liam’s face, she told of numerous wounds including a laceration on his forehead with the most severe being around his mouth. She also said his upper and lower jaws had been fractured and there was a cut to his left ear which had left a part missing.
Mr McSporran asked: “Would it be right to say Liam Aitchison’s face was in a mess?” Dr Rankin replied: “Yes that would be a reasonable description.”
She said of the eight stab wounds to the neck that two had caused damage to organs with one puncturing the carotid artery which takes blood to the brain. She said this would have resulted in significant haemorrhaging from a major artery and in itself would have been fatal.
Of the seven stab wounds to his chest the most significant was the wound which had penetrated the Aorta. She explained that this was the largest artery which distributes blood from the heart around the body. She said this would also have been a fatal injury.
The injuries to the abdomen, some of which had penetrated the spleen and the small bowel, could also have been potentially fatal, she said, if not treated medically.
She was also asked about injuries to his upper limbs which she called ‘incised wounds’ which she said could have been defensive type injuries suggesting Liam had tried to defend himself.
She was asked extensively by Mr McSporran and defence lawyer Mr Paterson about the examination of the body initially and the ability to determine how much time had passed since his death.
She said on examination of the body at Steinish she had concluded that Rigor Mortis was almost fully established. She explained that there are three stages of Rigor Mortis which can help determine how much time has passed since death occured, but could not say for sure.
She said the speed of the onset of Rigor Mortis was very dependent on the environment in which the body lay and in a cold environment it would take much longer than in a warm place.
Mr McSporran asked: “Is there anything that would exclude the possibility that Liam Aitchison was killed in the early hours of Wednesday November 23rd?” No, she said.
Mr Paterson pointed out that that period in November had actually seen temperatures which might be considered relatively mild for that time of year. Dr Rankin, however, reiterated her position that she believed, in her opinion, that death had occurred several days before her examination.
Toxicology reports were also carried out on Liam Aitchison’s body and he was found to have 242mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – about the equivalent of three times the legal drink driving limit. He was also found to have very low levels of a prescription drug in his system.
In cross examination on this point, Frances McMenamin QC asked about the testing for other drugs in his system. Dr Rankin said he had tested negatively for others including cannabis. She asked about testing for acid, or LSD. Dr Rankin said testing for LSD was not routinely carried out and she was not aware of any laboratory in Scotland which still tested for it.
Both men deny the charges against them. The trial continues before Lord Kinclaven.
Further reports of today's proceedings will appear later this evening.