Man cleared of turn­ing pal into ‘ball of flames’

Court: Jury’s not proven ver­dict on se­vere in­jury charge

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - News Highlands & Islands -

The case against a Barra man ac­cused of se­verely in­jur­ing his friend was yes­ter­day found not proven fol­low­ing a three-day jury trial.

Fish­er­man John Christie, 31, de­nied spray­ing a flammable sub­stance on Iain Gil­lies’s head and body, then ig­nit­ing the sub­stance, burn­ing him to his se­vere in­jury and per­ma­nent dis­fig­ure­ment in June 2014.

Lochmaddy Sher­iff Court heard how Mr Gil­lies was said to have downed nearly one litre of whisky – but if hehad­been fully con­scious and sober he would have suf­fered a lot of pain.

He was air­lifted from Castle­bay to Glas­gow Royal In­fir­mary for weeks of treat­ment.

Ear­lier in the trial, de­fence lawyer Neil Al­lan in­sisted there was “very con­sid­er­able doubt” against Christie who aided Mr Gil­lies by “call­ing for help and treat­ing his burns”.

Christie of­fer­ing to “take the blame” was not an ad­mis­sion of ac­tu­ally do­ing a wrong­ful act, he said.

He pointed out six aerosol can­is­ters were re­cov­ered and the jury was asked to be­lieve one of them was used in the in­ci­dent yet none were tested to see if they were full or empty.

Nei­ther was there ev­i­dence that Christie had touched any of the cans.

The lawyer asked if “some bizarre ac­ci­dent” could be an ex­pla­na­tion rather than blam­ing Christie.

This was a “par­tic­u­larly sadis­tic as­sault” on an “ine­bri­ated and vul­ner­a­ble” man, stressed procu­ra­tor fis­cal Karen Smith.

The vic­tim was un­hurt when he ar­rived at the house in St Brendan’s Road, Castle­bay, but left in an am­bu­lance with “se­vere in­juries” after be­ing burnt with a naked flame which burned and charred his skin.

“The only sce­nario con­sis­tent with all the ev­i­dence” points to John Christie, said the fis­cal.

Thomas Bar­ber ob­served a big ball of flames” when Christie had a can of de­odor­ant spray and a lighter next to Mr Gil­lies, she said.

Ms Smith told the jury: “You saw the scar­ring on his body - he is per­ma­nently dis­fig­ured.”

Ear­lier, 49-year-old Mr Gil­lies gave ev­i­dence say­ing he could not re­mem­ber what hap­pened.

He had mem­ory prob­lems fol­low­ing a mo­tor­bike crash, he said.

He told the fis­cal: “I re­mem­ber go­ing into the house - after that it’s a

“Some bizarre ac­ci­dent could be an ex­pla­na­tion”

blank.” He was “OK” when he ar­rived but “seem­ingly not OK” when he left, he said.

The jury of eleven woman and four men took about an hour to reach a ver­dict of not proven.

IN­JURED: Iain Gil­lies, who was very badly burned in house in­ci­dent, with his sis­ter, Cather­ine Beaton, who also gave ev­i­dence dur­ing trial

John Christie walked free after not proven ver­dict

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