MSP Bill Walker guilty of domestic abuse

Image caption,
Mr Walker had denied 23 charges of assault and one of breach of the peace

A member of the Scottish Parliament has been found guilty of a string of domestic abuse charges.

Bill Walker was convicted of attacking three former wives and a step-daughter between 1967 and 1995.

The 71-year-old, from Alloa, had denied 23 charges of assault and one breach of the peace, but was found guilty of all charges at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Walker, who will be sentenced next month, has been urged to stand down as the independent MSP for Dunfermline.

He had been elected in 2011 as an SNP MSP, but was suspended by the party after the allegations emerged.

Walker was later expelled, but continued as an independent.

He will be sentenced on 20 September, but would only be disqualified as an MSP if he was jailed for more than a year.

First Minister Alex Salmond joined opposition members calling for Walker to stand down.

Mr Salmond said he was "not fit to be a public representative".

"Walker was expelled from the SNP in April 2012, and his conviction by a court of law reinforces his expulsion," he said.

Delivering her verdict, Sheriff Kathrine Mackie said: "There was evidence showing the accused to be controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling towards the three complainers, his former wives.

"The evidence also showed him to be untrustworthy, disloyal and unfaithful towards others including his present wife."

She said that however unacceptable that behaviour was, it did not amount to a criminal offence.

Bur she added that the complaint against the accused was not that he behaved abusively but that he committed criminal offences of assault on 23 occasions.

Air rifle

Sheriff Mackie said she found all the Crown witnesses, in particular the three principal complainers (the ex-wives), to be credible and reliable.

Walker was found guilty of assault at addresses in Edinburgh, Stirling, Midlothian and Alloa, and one charge of breaching the peace.

Sheriff Mackie, who heard the case without a jury, found Walker guilty of assaulting his first wife Maureen Traquair on three separate occasions in the 1960s and 1980s.

On one occasion, he punched her in the face in the run-up to their wedding day in January 1967, giving her a black eye.

The MSP was further found to have assaulted his second wife Anne Gruber 15 times at various addresses in Edinburgh and Midlothian between 1978 and 1984.

He also brandished an air rifle at her house, committing a breach of the peace, the court found.

The politician was convicted of four assaults on his third wife Diana Walker, three of which involved slapping or punching her on the face. The attacks happened between June 1988 and January 1995.

Walker was also found guilty of assaulting Mrs Gruber's daughter Anne Louise Paterson by repeatedly striking her on the head with a saucepan in 1978, injuring her.

He claimed he acted in self-defence after being assaulted by his stepdaughter, who was then 16.

The MSP's behaviour was described by the prosecution as being "violent, domineering, controlling and relentless" over decades.

He engaged in "systematic physical and emotional abuse" towards the women over a prolonged period of time, they said.

Sunday newspaper

Walker maintained his innocence and alleged he was the victim of a smear campaign and that his ex-wives colluded to accuse him of domestic violence.

He told the court he felt hurt and betrayed after allegations against him emerged in a Sunday newspaper in March last year, and said his second and third wives had been "trying to score some points".

He suggested his third wife was motivated by jealousy after being "a bit miffed" that he had won an election.

But, in the words of prosecutor Les Brown, Walker's "violent and abusive" past "finally caught up" with him in court.

His conduct towards all three ex-wives had four similarities, the Crown said - controlling behaviour, uncontrollable bursts of temper, violent conduct and unprovoked and inexplicable assaults.

Black eye

The first witness, Ms Traquair, 66, told court she had to wear concealer on their wedding day to hide the black eye Walker had given her two weeks before.

The MSP's first wife said he punched her in the eye during an argument a few weeks before their big day in Edinburgh in January 1967. A wedding photograph was said to have shown the black eye he had given her.

Russel McPhate, Walker's solicitor said: "Mr Walker is obviously disappointed to be convicted of all the charges today.

"The verdicts, in particularly the comments of the sheriff, will be very carefully considered.

"In the meantime, he'd like to thank his wife, his family, his colleagues, his staff and his friends, who have supported him throughout this ordeal, which of course has lasted since March last year and is not over yet."

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