Friday, 20 June 2014

West Kilbride murderers appeal convictions

Two men convicted of murdering a woman at a flat in West Kilbride have had appeals against conviction and sentence heard at the Appeal Court in Glasgow.

Last Tuesday (June 17), Queens Counsel for Glasgow man Colin Coats and Philip Wade from Glengarnock claimed the original 11-week trial in 2013 had been flawed and called for the convictions to be quashed.

In June 2013 Coats was sentenced to 33 years while Wade was ordered to be detained for 30 years after a jury found them guilty of abducting, torturing and murdering 27 year-old Glasgow woman Lynda Spence.

In evidence to the murder trial, jurors heard that Ms Spence had been forced into a car on Broomhill Path in Glasgow before being driven to a flat in Meadowfoot Road, West Kilbride. In graphic detail, the prosecution then described how the woman had been taped to a chair and subjected to extreme violence, including being struck with a golf club, burned with an iron and having one of her thumbs cut off. Ms Spence was then murdered by Coats and Wade who also disposed of her body, which has never been found.

It was stated at trial that Lynda Spence had last been seen by her parents in April 2011, and that the abduction and murder had taken place because she owed money to certain people in Glasgow.

Scotland’s Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson, who led the case for the prosecution, said the actions of Coats and Wade, both aged 43, were notable for “extraordinary brutality”.

However, QCs Gary Allan and Gordon Jackson last week argued that the original trial had been flawed on two counts, citing ‘inadmissible evidence’ and ‘late disclosure’ of Crown evidence. Mr Allan and Mr Jackson also claimed the sentences handed-down to Coats and Wade had been excessive, pointing to the fact that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died, received a more lenient sentence of 27 years.

Defence QC Gary Allan argued that evidence from witness Lee Winyard - that Wade had confessed to murdering an English man - was inadmissible. Mr Allan said the jury in the original trial had been “invited to change the identification of an English male to Lynda Spence - a Scottish female”. The QC indicated he had tried to challenge the evidence but this had been refused by the trial judge, Lord Pentland.

Both QCs also argued that the defence team at the original trial had not been told that Lynda Spence was a police informer until weeks before the case, which, they claimed, represented grounds for appeal. Mr Allan and Mr Jackson stated that the Crown had known of the information for a year before they disclosed it to the defence.

For the Prosecution, Solicitor General Lesley Thomson said, “The Crown position before the jury was that clearly the murder of this [English] man was a crime that had not occurred. If anyone had asked the Crown, they would have been told this was important evidence and was going to be led. This was clearly admissible evidence in the context.”

Referring to the disclosure that Ms Spence was a police informer, Ms Thomson noted, “This was an extremely finely-balanced disclosure point. The Crown position was that there were a number of people who had a grudge against Lynda Spence and who would wish to do harm to her. However, the only evidence of anyone involved in actual harm and the murder of Miss Spence lay at the door of the men in the dock.”
The Solicitor General further pointed to the words of trial judge Lord Pentland, who said the evidence against Coats and Wade was “substantial and overwhelming”.

The three appeal judges - Lord President Lord Gill, Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull - will give their decision in writing at a later date.

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