Highlands & Islands

US teacher attacker Colin Ross's minimum term reduced

Marty Layman-Mendonca
Image caption Marty Layman-Mendonca had been on her third trip to Scotland

A man given a life sentence for attacking a tourist who later died has had his minimum term reduced from 20 years to eight years.

Colin Ross, 41, was found guilty of attempted murder following a frenzied attack on US teacher Marty Layman-Mendonca in July 2006.

A case review argued the jail term of at least 20 years was excessive.

One of three judges that heard Ross's appeal said it was unlikely that he would ever be released from prison.

Ms Layman-Mendonca was hiking on the Great Glen Way, a few miles south of Inverness, in July 2006, when she was attacked by Ross.

He beat her with a metal pipe and boulder.

The primary school teacher was left in a coma and after three months in hospital in Inverness she was flown back to the US but died a month later.

Ross, formerly of Waterloo Place, Inverness, had been freed from an earlier three-year prison sentence imposed after he attacked a female German holidaymaker near Cawdor Castle.

He was on the sex offenders register and under supervision and subject to an order banning him from approaching women at the time of the attack on Ms Layman-Mendonca.

'Senseless' assault

In December 2006, Ross, of Inverness, became the first person to get an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR), meaning he would be monitored for life.

Sentencing Ross at the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Wheatley ordered him to serve at least 20 years before he was considered for parole.

Ross, who admitted attempted murder at an earlier hearing, was told that he had committed a "savage and senseless" assault on a defenceless woman.

In January this year, Ross's case was referred to appeal judges by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission which looks at alleged miscarriages of justice.

Image caption Colin Ross was sentenced to at least 20 years in jail in December 2006

Later, in April, appeal judges Lady Paton, sitting with Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord Drummond Young were told that since Lord Wheatley sentenced Ross, the rules had changed.

Ross has become another lifer to benefit from a ruling obtained by convicted rapists Morris Petch and Robert Foye.

In a newly-released written ruling, Lady Paton said: "In our opinion, Ross is a very dangerous man."

The ruling said the parole board would "undoubtedly be very cautious" about letting him back into the community.

The appeal court's duty was to consider the minimum Ross should serve.

Lady Paton said: "This court cannot but acknowledge the correctness of the SCCRC's referral."

But, in court, she warned Ross: "We emphasise, however, that whatever punishment part is substituted, it does not follow that you will be released into the community once that punishment part has expired."

Lady Paton also said it was "unfortunate" that a change in the law by the Scottish Parliament, seeking to toughen up on the Petch-Foye ruling, could not be used in Ross' case.

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