Glasgow & West Scotland

Man facing life sentence for 'barbaric' hammer attack

The High Court in Glasgow Image copyright Google
Image caption James McMurdy will be sentenced in June.

A man is facing a life sentence for a "barbaric" hammer attack on a female shop worker.

James McMurdy, 40, admitted repeatedly battering Senga Houston, even striking her as she lay on the ground.

The High Court in Glasgow heard McMurdy raided the store in Catrine, East Ayrshire, desperate for cash as he faced eviction from his flat.

The attack last November left the 63-year-old victim with "life changing" injuries.

Ms Houston spent two months in hospital and may need medical care for the rest of her life.

The ordeal emerged as McMurdy, who already had a history of violence, pleaded guilty to robbery and attempted murder.

The court heard he could face an Order for Lifelong Restriction when he returns to the dock in June.

'Graphic' CCTV

Ms Houston had worked at the Premier Convenience store in Catrine for about eight years.

About 14:40 on 5 November last year McMurdy came in through the back of the shop.

He was clutching a hammer and a knife with his face covered with a piece of bedsheet.

McMurdy moved Senga towards the counter and demanded she open the till.

He eventually stuffed about £500 into his pocket.

The court was then shown CCTV footage of what unfolded next - described by Lord Mulholland as "graphic".

'Victim's groans'

Prosecutor Liam Ewing told the hearing: "He placed both hands around the hammer, drawing it above his head before striking her causing her to fall to the ground.

"She attempted to cover her head with her hands, but McMurdy moved them away and struck her a further nine times with the hammer."

This included McMurdy continuing to hit Ms Houston as she lay motionless on the floor.

He fled the scene but a shopper soon came in and heard the victim's groans.

She was rushed to intensive care in Glasgow suffering from "life threatening" injuries.

McMurdy was arrested at his flat after being captured on CCTV leaving his nearby home shortly before the raid.

Mr Ewing said: "He also indicated he had been threatened with eviction, needed money, so he decided to rob the shop."

Officers went on to find a knife, £485 and a blood stained hammer at his home and Ms Houston's DNA was found on the weapon.

'Life changing' injuries

The court heard she was treated at hospital for a number of serious conditions including multiple skull fractures and a complex brain injury.

Ms Houston was only discharged from hospital on 10 January and continues to be badly affected by her "life changing" injuries.

The court heard she suffered depression and post traumatic stress disorder after the incident.

McMurdy's own lawyer John McElroy called the incident "as bad as you see in these courts".

Lord Mulholland told McMurdy: "This has been horrific and life changing for the victim, who was doing no more than serve the public.

"What you did was brutal and barbaric."

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