Graeme McLaren jailed for murder of James Small with walking stick

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A man who murdered his neighbour by attacking him with a walking stick, causing extensive internal injuries, has been jailed for at least 20 years.

Graeme McLaren attacked James Small in the 64-year-old's flat in Greenock, on 5 June. He died four days later.

Judge Rita Rae said it was a "brutal and depraved attack on a defenceless and vulnerable elderly man".

A jury unanimously found McLaren, 47, guilty of murder on Monday, following his trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

At his trial McLaren tried to smear the character of his victim by making false sexual allegations about him.

Judge Rae said that not satisfied with carrying out the attack, McLaren, from Greenock, set out to blacken Mr Small's name with false allegations.

Died in agony

"This was inflicted in a most demeaning way and you put him in fear of being reported to the police for a wholly fabricated offence," she said. "Mr Small died in agony and alone. He must have been in excruciating pain.

Start Quote

This was a particularly disturbing and brutal attack during which James Small suffered horrific injuries resulting in the loss of his life”

End Quote John Dunn Procurator fiscal

"You have done your best to blacken the character of the deceased and made a serious, but false allegation against him and have shown no remorse."

The court heard that McLaren boasted and joked about the assault during which the metal stick was rammed 12in (30cm) into Mr Small's body.

Mr Small suffered damage to his bowel and liver. The walking stick cut through his bowel and then went right through his liver.

Pathologist Dr Julie McAdam said that considerable force would have been used to inflict the injuries.

At the trial McLaren claimed someone else must have got hold of his walking stick which was found stained with the victim's blood.

McLaren told the jury he had gone to Mr Small's home that night and found him in a state of undress with a woman he knew.

But, he insisted he later left the flat and had not touched Mr Small.

The court heard the stick was eventually discovered in nearby bushes with the victim's blood on it.

Previous convictions

McLaren said the last time he had seen it was when he dumped it at bins at his home because it was "knackered" and "always rattling".

His counsel Thomas Ross asked when it was thrown away did it have any blood on it.

McLaren replied: "Not that I am aware of."

He also said it was "blatant lies" that he had confessed to a man about attacking Mr Small.

Advocate depute Douglas Fairley QC told the court that McLaren had a catalogue of previous convictions including violence, drug dealing and carrying weapons.

Following the sentencing, John Dunn, procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland, said: "This was a particularly disturbing and brutal attack during which James Small suffered horrific injuries resulting in the loss of his life.

"I am pleased that his killer Graeme McLaren has been brought to justice for his terrible crime and now faces life behind bars."

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