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Elgin man who killed dog walker is detained at high-security psychiatric hospital

By Lorna Thompson

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David Johnstone.
David Johnstone.

AN ELGIN man who brutally killed an 83-year-old dog walker after attacking a couple out exercising their pet was ordered to be detained in a high-security psychiatric hospital today.

David Johnstone's spree of violence left Frank Kinnis dead and two other victims needing hospital treatment after assaults carried out 40 minutes apart on October 21 last year.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Johnstone's parents had twice contacted NHS 24 in a bid to have their son sectioned over concerns about his well-being.

First offender Johnstone (36) was charged with murdering Mr Kinnis at Linkwood Farm, Barmuckity, Elgin, following the attack in which he seized hold of him, put an arm around his neck, compressed his throat and repeatedly punched and kicked him and stamped on his head.

He was also charged with attempting to murder Morris and Janette Smith, who were both 70, on the same day at Birkenhill Woods, Elgin.

Johnstone was accused of repeatedly striking and punching Mr Smith, causing him to fall to the ground and repeatedly punching and kicking him and stamping on his head, rendering him unconscious.

He was also accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Mrs Smith on the head and body.

Johnstone was also accused of attacking police constables Mitchell Dickson and Iain Meggat at Birkenhill on October 21 last year. He was said to have repeatedly punched Constable Dickson on the head, struggled with him and tried to punch his colleague.

Johnstone was today acquitted of the offences after pleading not guilty on the grounds that at the time he was unable, because of a mental disorder, to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of his actions, which the Crown accepted.

A judge ordered that he be held at the State Hospital at Carstairs under an interim compulsion order before a further hearing in September.

David Johnstone's family had raised concerns over his mental well-being.
David Johnstone's family had raised concerns over his mental well-being.

Lord Uist said it was an "extremely sad and tragic case".

The judge said he had to deal with the consequences for Johnstone in the High Court, but added: "It appears there may be a question as to whether some steps could have been taken at an earlier stage which would have prevented the death of the deceased."

Lord Uist said it was a matter for the Crown to consider whether a fatal accident inquiry should be held into the case.

Advocate depute Alan Cameron told the court that Johnston had worked as a design technician until June last year.

He said: "At that time his employment was terminated due to repeated non-attendance and concern about his behaviour was expressed by colleagues.

"His parents also had concerns about his mental health and he saw his GP on June 24. She referred him for an urgent psychiatric review but Mr Johnstone failed to attend the appointment," he added.

On the day of the attacks Mr and Mrs Smith were out exercising their dog at Birkenhill Woods, which is popular with dog walkers, shortly before 9am.

Johnstone, who was unknown to them, approached Mr Smith and shouted at him, asking if he was called "Tom" or "Tim". He then hit him twice on the face.

Mrs Smith said she was going to call the police and her husband suggested they should run, which they started to do.

Mr Cameron said: "The recollection of both complainers is somewhat hazy but Mr Smith was knocked to the ground by Mr Johnstone and recalls him kneeling down next to him and repeatedly punching and kicking him on the head, saying nothing as he did so.

"It is not clear how many times he struck Mr Smith but he did repeatedly punch, kick and stamp on his head, acts which rendered Mr Smith unconscious," said the prosecutor.

Mrs Smith phoned police and saw her husband being attacked, but had no further recollection of events until she was in hospital.

Police officers who responded to the call found the injured victims covered in blood. They were taken to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin where Mr Smith was found to have facial fractures and extensive head injuries. His wife also suffered head injuries.

A police officer at the scene after the attacks at Birkenhill Woods, south of Elgin, on October 21 last year.
A police officer at the scene after the attacks at Birkenhill Woods, south of Elgin, on October 21 last year.

Mr Cameron said: "The attack has had a significant impact on Mr and Mrs Smith. Both were unable to drive for a period of time afterwards due to their head injuries, something which impacted upon their ability to lead the busy life which they had previously led.

"Each reported feeling significantly anxious about being in public or around strangers, things which would not have concerned them prior to the attack. It has changed their way of life," said Mr Cameron.

After the attack Johnstone ran off before encountering Mr Kinnis on a path between fields about 9.40am.

Mr Cameron said: "He was a retired dairyman with an active lifestyle who lived with his wife. He still worked as a handyman on a local farm two days per week and kept generally good health."

The father-of-three had set out almost an hour earlier on a dog walk.

The incident between Johnstone and Mr Kinnis was seen by a worker who was on the roof of a building quite a distance from the scene.

Mr Cameron said: "He saw the two come together then appear to fall over. Mr Johnstone got up and walked away for a short distance before returning while Mr Kinnis was still on the ground.

"The worker heard a yelp and saw Mr Kinnis's dog run off down a farm track. Mr Johnstone again began to walk away and Mr Kinnis got up and started to walk in the opposite direction.

"However, Mr Johnstone then turned and approached Mr Kinnis again. The worker saw them grappling and Mr Johnstone behind Mr Kinnis with his arm around his neck, apparently compressing it.

"The worker was concerned and, along with a colleague, went to attempt to assist Mr Kinnis. They encountered Mr Johnstone at around the same time as police officers who were looking for him following the earlier incident with Mr and Mrs Smith.

"Although they tried to stop him, including using PAVA spray with no apparent effect, he managed to escape from them and ran away pursued by the officers," said Mr Cameron.

Another dog walker found Mr Kinnis and made a 999 call. Mr Cameron said: "It was not possible, due to the extent of his facial injuries, to identify Mr Kinnis at that stage.

"However, officers were approached by his wife who had come looking for him when the dog arrived home without him. She was able to describe the clothing which he had been wearing, thus allowing an identification to be made."

Mr Kinnis was also taken to Dr Gray's Hospital and found to have complex multiple facial and jaw fractures and significant bleeding to his brain. He died later that day.

Frank Kinnis.
Frank Kinnis.

"The cause of death was given as blunt force head and facial injuries. Mr Johnstone inflicted these injuries on Mr Kinnis during the attack," said the prosecutor.

Johnstone, who lived alone, was arrested by police at his Elgin home after a short struggle.

Defence counsel Ian Duguid QC said: "At the time he was suffering from delusions and perhaps hallucinations. He was someone who was significantly mentally unwell.

"His own parents had tried on two occasions to contact NHS 24 with a view to having him sectioned under the mental health provisions because they were so concerned for his wellbeing."

He said Johnstone had previously been a well-regarded employee and active sportsman and promising footballer who signed with Elgin City as a schoolboy.

But Mr Duguid said it had become apparent to his employers about six months before the events that he was mentally unwell.

Mr Duguid said Johnstone's mental health had now improved and added: "He does wish his remorse and extreme regret to be expressed and finds it, I think, difficult himself to acknowledge what his physical actions were on that date."

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