Unsolved Murders

Peter Smith

Age: 44

Sex: male

Date: 25 Apr 1989

Place: St Vincent Place, North Court Lane, Glasgow

Peter Smith was stabbed once in the chest in North Court Lane near toilets at St Vincent Place on 11 April 1989.

He was taken to hospital but died two weeks later from his injuries.

He was a supermarket manager but had been a former soldier.

The St Vincent Place area was well known as a place for gay men to meet and a gay cruising area and it was said that he had been out looking for sex at the time. It was noted that no one knew he was gay. He had lived in Plean and it was noted that it was impossible to come out as a gay in such a place, which was a former mining village. It was said that he had never had a boyfriend, but instead satisfied himself with one-night stands in the city-centre toilets. It was noted that cottaging was a common practice in the alley next to the St Vincent Street toilets.

Peter Smith had lived at home with his mother in West Plean, Stirlingshire.

A 25-year-old man was convicted of his murder in 1990, but always protested his innocence and in 2006 his conviction was quashed.

The man was a petty crook and that he had a criminal record and that he had just got out of Low Moss Prison two weeks before the murder.

It was heard that at the time of the murder that the petty crook was with his girlfriend looking after a friend’s baby and two friends in a hostel/B&B in the West End of Glasgow. The hostel was actually a B&B being used as a hostel. It was noted that the friends were just passing acquaintances and had no reason to lie for him.

It was also noted that when one of the friends got back to the hostel at 10.45pm they had brought a bag of chips back to share, but the petty crook said that he had wanted butties and so he had gone downstairs and asked the night porter to let him into the kitchen which was locked, a fact that the night porter supported in his evidence which was part of the man's alibi which was described as cast iron. Further, when the petty crook went back with the butties he went to his room which he shared with a stranger, it being noted that the hostel/B&B owners would not let him share his room with his girlfriend because it complicated DSS claims and as such he had to share with his room with the stranger, that he found another man there also and said that they all sat about smoking and talking until quite late. He said that the other man left after about half an hour after that, but that that the mand that he was sharing the room with the stranger, or acquaintance, stayed all night.

It was noted that Peter Smith was stabbed at 11.15pm.

However, the petty crook was picked up the following morning for a minor and unrelated offence and when the police found that he was from Plean, where Peter Smith was brought up, they began to build a case against him.

It was noted that the reason for him being arrested by the police was unclear, but it was thought that it had something to do with a robbery at a chemist shop. However, it was also noted that the petty crook said that he felt that he had done nothing wrong, and that as he was used to being questioned by the police, that he had been cocky with them and he was kept for some hours and that when the Plean connection was made the police began to draw him in on the murder charge.

It was said however, that the fact that they had both come from Plean was not enough to link him to the murder as it was noted that Peter Smith had come from a farm outside the village and that they were also separated by age, Peter Smith being 44 and the man being 25.

It was heard that the police pressured a number of young and frightened gay men, about four of them, into giving evidence stating that they had seen the man that was tried and another man attack Peter Smith.

About three weeks after the man was arrested, the police brought in the other man that they later claimed the petty crook had carried out the murder with.

He was then also pressured into saying that he had attacked Peter Smith with the man that was tried. He was picked up for questioning by a uniformed policeman whilst walking through Buchanan Street bus station and shown a photofit picture that was said to have looked like him. When he was taken to Stewart Street police station, he was asked whether he knew the petty crook, but he said that he didn't.

He said that he first denied knowing the petty crook but said that the police kept telling him that he had been seen with him. He said, 'They kept asking me if I knew the petty crook and another man. I said no, but they said I did know the petty crook. They told me they had witnesses that had seen us and then they said it was a murder and I panicked. Next thing I knew I had been charged with murder'.

It was noted that he was a timid man and had no alibi for the night, saying that he couldn't remember where he was on the night of the murder. He said however, later, that he knew one thing, and that was that he didn't know the petty crook.

However, he said that after some time he lied and said that he did and that when the police turned on the tape recorder and started to question him that he said that he had been with the petty crook in North Court Lane on the night of the murder and that they had taken Peter Smith down the lane with them to mug him, but that the petty crook had stabbed Peter Smith and that he had afterwards run away. Which he later said was a lie.

The man said that he spent three months in Barlinnie prison and that it was there that he first met the petty crook. He said that they had a brief conversation through the latch of a locked cell, saying that the petty crook said to him, 'Are you up for Peter Smith's murder?' and that he replied, 'Aye, but I don't know anything about it', to which he said the petty crook replied, 'I'm your co-accused and I know fuck all about it as well'.

However, the charges against him where then dropped and he gave evidence for the prosecution against the petty crook.

However, on the first morning of the trial he stated that the confession that he had signed had been made under duress. He said that he didn't know the petty crook, knew nothing about the murder, and that he had not gone down North Court Lane with the petty crook and Peter Smith.

He said that he had been in St Vincent Place on the night of the murder, after being in the area of the Buchanan Street bus station and that he had gone to the toilets but that no one was with him or caught his attention. He said that he walked round the block perhaps five or six times, around 11pm, once through the lane, but saw nothing unusual happening and did not see an ambulance or police officers at the toilets. He said that he passed along Gordon Street some time between 11pm and midnight during which he was in Gordon Street two or three times, always on his own. He added that he had been in that area quite a few times, maybe once or twice a week, and that when he was interviewed the police mentioned the name of the petty crook and told him that he knew him and had been with him. However, he said that he didn't. He said that the police then told him that the petty crook had murdered Peter Smith and then asked him if he was gay. He then claimed that he ended up making up a story 'so they would leave me alone', saying that he was saying the first things that came into his head. When he was asked why, he said, 'They were sort of getting nippy, sort of angry, agitated, and this was putting me under stress, I was getting more and more panicky'. He said that the police then asked him who had the knife and that he replied that he did not know anything about it. He said that next he just started to make up the story, saying that that he knew the petty crook as that was what was on the sheet, and that he was there when it happened and that there were other people there, and that he also saw the petty crook with the knife and that when he saw the knife that he ran away. He said that he never saw Peter Smith being stabbed and never saw him after that. He then said that that was when they took him in and put him on the tape. He then said that they made up two names and that they had been planning to mug someone for money and that there was a struggle with Pater Smith and a squeal. He said that he did not even know what made him make up the story, adding that he wasn't thinking at all. He said that he told the police about the squeal before he told them that he knew the petty crook and that the police had already mentioned the petty crook's name. He added that the detectives had already asked who had the knife and said that he had mentioned a commotion and seeing a knife before he mentioned the petty crook. He said that he honestly couldn't say what made him say that the petty crook had the knife. He said that the police then  told him that he was being charged with murder, but that, if he co-operated, everything would be okay and he would be called as a witness and that he then made up the story, noting that that was after he had been refused a lawyer. He said that they then told him that he was being detained and charged and said that he accepted that in the taped interview he had agreed that he was not being forced or coerced.

However, at the lunch break, he was warned by the Advocate depute about the seriousness of perjury.

He said that after the court broke for lunch that he was called into a room by the police and was threatened with perjury charges and so in the afternoon he gave his untrue evidence in court as originally expected saying that he had watched the petty crook stab Peter Smith. However, he changed his story and said that he didn't know the petty crook.

He said that when he returned after lunch he told the judge that he had not told the truth and then said that he met the petty crook and Peter Smith at the bus station at the back of nine o'clock and that they went down to St Vincent Street and stood there. He said then that the petty crook and Peter Smith went through the lane, noting that he didn't think that anyone else was there and that the next thing a scuffle broke out and he saw the knife and he ran. He said that the knife was in the petty crook's hand and then pointed out by reference to a photograph and a plan where the scuffle had taken place in the lane, and where he had been standing. He then described the blade of the knife as about 9 inches long, from what he could remember of it and that he heard a sort of moan and then went out into St Vincent Place and George Square where he saw the  petty crook and asked him what had happened to Peter Smith. He said then that the petty crook told him not to worry about it and that nothing had happened to him, and just walked away. He said that the petty crook told me to say he didn't know him and that he would say that he didn't know me, and that was it. He said that he then left the petty crook at Gordon Street. He said that on the night the petty crook had been wearing a black jacket or sweatshirt, jeans and training shoes, noting that the shoes were white and scruffy.

However, it was further noted that when he was cross examined and asked whether what he said at the police interview was true, he had replied, 'Most if it was true, I was trying to make up a story so they wouldn't connect me to the case’ .He said that he didn't know the petty crook, and had not been with him that night and  didn't see him that night and therefore didn't see him with the knife in his hand. when he was asked what had happened at lunchtime to change his position he said, 'Because I thought about it while I was outside'.

However, after he left the witness box he was detained and charged by the police with perjury and then obtained legal advice and on the following morning, at the request of his solicitor he was recalled under section 148(4) of the 1975 Act and on entering the witness box again he confirmed that he wanted to be recalled, adding, 'I am scared, that's all, really scared'.

He later said that after his recent experience in prison and the threat of serving seven years for perjury, that he was more prepared to lie and do what the police wanted. It was noted that it was an unprecedented move by the court to allow him to take the stand again, but he was allowed. He said, 'The only way I was going to get myself off was by going in and telling the lies, nobody believed me when I was telling the truth. I lied and I'm ashamed of it'.

When he entered the stand the following day he said that a detective had told him on the way to the court that he was just to tell the truth and that was all that he said. He then gave an account of going into the lane at the back of 11pm, saying that he ran away because he saw a knife in the petty crook's hand, after which he heard a moan. He said that he then saw the petty crook again in Queen Street and that they walked together, including in Gordon Street and that the petty crook was wearing a black jacket or jumper, jeans and white training shoes.

It was noted at the trial that it was clear from the transcript of his evidence that at certain points the man was in some distress and when he was asked about it he had said that there had been too much pressure on him during the previous few months when he had been locked up in Barlinnie. He said, 'I have never been in prison before and when I was in prison there were things that had happened', and later said, 'I am just scared, just scared' and when he was asked what he was scare of he said, 'Well, you know, as I explained, I've had threats in prison, I had threats. The first threat was that I was going over the gallery if the petty crook went down for this murder. The second threat was I had stuck him in and I was getting my jaw ripped, I was getting the face taken off me, and I was told this twice'.

However, later, at the 2006 appeal, when the man again gave his truthful evidence, that he gave evidence that was similar to the evidence he gave first in the morning. He added that he had also been threatened by the petty crook and also said that police had told him that they were going to tell his family and his friends that he was gay and was giving blow jobs in the city and things like that which also scared him. He also said that the police told him that all he had to do was to say that he knew the petty crook, that he was with him, and had seen the knife and everything else and that they were then going to let him go and he would be home that night.

However, it was noted that he was not the only person to have lied, as the Crown had four other witnesses, all of whom said they had seen the petty crook in the area at the first trial, and all of whom later admitted that they had lied, one of them signing an affidavit stating that the only reason he was able to pick the petty crook out in an identification parade was because he had been shown a photograph of him beforehand.

It was also reported that in fact, all the witnesses withdrew their evidence other than two police officers, both of whom had been on the beat and had seen hundreds of faces that night, one of them being dead by the time of the appeal and the other saying that he could no longer remember the case.

It was noted however, that forensic evidence linked the man to the supposed murder weapon, an ornamental knife, although even that was disputed at the appeal by a forensic specialist who said that there was no blood splattering on the knife and that it was not consistent with the type of wounds found on Peter Smith.

It was however, further noted that the three people that the man said he had been with in the hostel were not called to give evidence at his trial.

The man was convicted of his murder, but his conviction was quashed 17 years later. He was due £1,000,000 in compensation but died a month before receiving it in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 30 October 2007.

He denied having stabbed Peter Smith and said that at the time he had been in another part of Glasgow at the hostel.

After the man was convicted a campaign grew up around his case that examined its details and in 1995 gained the support of a Glasgow solicitor who found one error after another with the evidence. It was then found that one key witness after another started to retract their evidence and then a pathologist that examined the forensic evidence said that he found that the evidence ranged from 'quite seriously flawed' to 'total nonsense'.

The man was later released on bail in 2000, but it wasn't until 2006that he won his appeal. It was noted that in the interim, he had had little support in the outside world and was a heroin user and was taken to court three times on various other charges.

It was heard at the appeal that the key issue was that of identification and it was heard that the Crown had failed to disclose important information. It was said that a 19-year-old youth had identified the man and his co-accused at the time as two men that he had seen coming out of the toilets at St Vincent Place and go off towards North Court Lane, which was described as a known hang-out for homosexual men. He had said that he had had a good look at both of the men, but it was later found that in previous statements he had given conflicting information. It was heard that in an initial statement he had told the police that he would definitely be able to identify the two men if he saw them again and noted that one of them had threatened him, but it was also noted that he later told the police, 'I have to tell you that a lot of what I have already told the police is not the truth and I made up some of it to attract attention to myself'. However, at the appeal it was heard that that information was not made available to the defence.

The defence said that if the statement had been made available to the defence at the 1990 trial that they could have cross examined the witness in such a way as to show the jury that his evidence could not be trusted.

The witness gave evidence at the man's appeal and the defence noted that when he was faced with difficult questions that he would burst into tears, which it was inferred could well have happened at the initial trial if the defence had had the statement that was not presented to them in 1990.

The court of appeal also heard the witness that claimed to have seen the two men, including the man convicted of Peter Smith's murder, come out of the toilets, say, 'All the details I gave were given to me. I saw nothing at all'.

It was further noted that Crown papers from the trial including documents relating to a time that the man had once signed himself into a psychiatric hospital, had a note attached to them that stated, 'The witness and his vivid imagination certainly set the police off on the trail of a red herring initially'. It was also noted that the defence had also not seen that evidence either.

At the appeal, the Crown accepted that the witnesses four statements should have been disclosed to the defence, but argued that 'no miscarriage of justice resulted from the failure to do so', noting that even without the witnesses statement, there was still ample evidence to conclude that no miscarriage of justice had resulted.

However, the judge commented, 'The witness was a very important witness, even if not an essential one'. He noted that the Crown had relied on the witnesses evidence to show that the man had been in the lane and had as such invited the jury to accept his evidence as credible and reliable.

Another senior judge said, 'In our opinion, there is no doubt that all four of the witness's police statements should have been disclosed to the defence. These statements showed that the witness was prepared to tell lies, to fantasise, and to change his account when it suited him. Non-disclosure of the information meant that there was no equality of arms between the Crown and the defence in relation to the witness and the defence were deprived of a powerful argument on the crucial issue of identification. The possibility that the jury might have reached a different verdict if the police statements and other information about the witness had been disclosed is in our view real and certainly cannot be excluded'

The judges then quashed the man’s murder conviction.

It was said that the judge was happy to quash the conviction on the grounds that evidence had not been presented to the defence that would have affected the jury's decision rather than to open the can of worms that there have been a full scale miscarriage of justice in which all the witnesses had lied and that the police and coerced and fabricated evidence.

However, the petty crook had a heart attack on 26 October 2007 and was taken to hospital where he died on 29 October 2007.  It was noted that a television reporter had been filming with an ambulance crew in Glasgow at the time and that it was that ambulance that went to the assistance of the petty crook. It was further noted that he was due to receive £1,000,000 the following month, but died before receiving it.

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