Highlands & Islands

Kieran Ridley cleared of trying to kill 11 people

High Court in Edinburgh
Image caption The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Kieran Ridley had "drug-induced psychosis"

A man who set fire to a holiday home has been cleared of the attempted murder of 11 people after a jury found he was mentally ill at the time.

Kieran Ridley turned on a gas cooker and set fire to a bin at a house near Mallaig, Lochaber, where he was staying with his family in October 2015.

A jury found he was not criminally responsible for his actions.

Mr Ridley, originally from Worcester, will be sent to a mental health facility for assessment.

During the trial, the High Court in Edinburgh was told the 32-year-old - who worked in IT for a number of City of London finance companies - regularly abused cannabis, cocaine and ketamine.

His mental health suffered as consequence of using narcotics and he was diagnosed as suffering from "drug induced psychosis" earlier in 2015.

Locked doors

During proceedings, the court heard how prosecutors and Mr Ridley's defence team had agreed that Mr Ridley started the blaze at the cottage, which is called Mallaig Mhor.

They also agreed that Mr Ridley then left property after starting the blaze and locked the front and back doors of the house, knowing that 11 people were inside at the time.

The youngest person in the property was a two-year-old child.

Image copyright CIARAN DONNELLY
Image caption Ann Ridley told the court about her son's health problems

His lawyer Herbert Kerrigan QC entered a not guilty plea on his client's behalf, arguing Mr Ridley was not criminally liable for his actions due to him having a "mental disorder."

During the trial his mother Ann, 73, told the court her son's character changed after he moved to London to start working for Dow Jones.

She told the court that her son had "delusions" and spoke to her about "Big Brother" and the "thought police."

'CIA agents'

His brother Duncan ,46, told prosecution lawyer Geoff Forbes that he thought one of his neighbours in London was a CIA agent.

The court heard that the family became so concerned about his mental health that they arranged for him to see a medic at the Priory Hospital in Birmingham in 2013.

The court heard that a medic there thought Kieran Ridley's health would improve if he stopped taking illegal substances but he was given no medication for his mental state.

In 2015, another doctor in London concluded that Mr Ridley had "drug induced psychosis."

Members of his family tried to cheer him up in the weeks before the fire and took him to their holiday cottage in the Highlands.

Worsening mood

However, the court heard that his mood worsened during the time he spent in Mallaig.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Alistair Hay, 57, who assessed Mr Ridley at a mental health facility in Inverness in the days after the fire said he thought Mr Ridley did not have long term mental health problem and that his behaviour could be attributed to his drug use.

However, another psychiatrist who assessed Mr Ridley after he was arrested by police disagreed with Dr Hay's findings.

Dr James Finlayson told the court that he thought Mr Ridley was unwell. He said Mr Ridley told him he thought he was "Luke Skywalker" in "Star Wars."

Dr Finlayson said that Mr Ridley thought some of his family were "demons" and that a dog he saw on the day of the incident was an "android."

The court also heard that another doctor believed Mr Ridley was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Judge Craig Scott QC made Mr Ridley the subject of an interim compulsion order. He will be taken to Saughton Prison in Edinburgh for an initial assessment which will be made within seven days.

He will then be taken to the Hallion Clinic in Perth ahead of another appearance at the High Court in Paisley next month.

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