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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 13:07 GMT
Life for killer on early release
Derek Ferguson and Steven Pettigrew
Derek Ferguson (left) murdered Steven Pettigrew in April
A man who was released early from prison for a vicious axe attack has been jailed for life for murdering a teenager in a school playground.

Derek Ferguson, 23, who stabbed Steven Pettigrew to death in April, was told he must serve at least 18 years.

His cousin James McCormick, 23, was jailed for four months for punching and kicking the victim in the attack at Airdrie's Chapelside Primary School.

The pair were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.

The victim was assaulted following a late-night row at a hut in the school playground, where young people had gathered to drink alcohol and listen to music.

After Ferguson was found guilty last month of stabbing Pettigrew in the back and murdering him, it emerged he and McCormick had been jailed for a savage street attack in Airdrie six years ago which shocked Scotland.

'Learnt nothing'

The assault in July 1999, which was captured on CCTV, showed Ferguson hitting his victim with an axe while McCormick steadied himself on railings and stamped on the helpless man.

Ferguson was jailed for eight years while McCormick was sentenced to 10 years for the attempted murder, which left their victim brain damaged.

The pair, both from Airdrie, were released early from jail last year on licence.

Lord Hodge told McCormick that he must serve the rest of his sentence for the attempted murder in 1999 - three years and 215 days - before serving the four months for the attack on Steven.

I take a serious view of the callous way in which you took the life of this young man
Lord Hodge

The judge said: "I realise your part in the assault on Steven Pettigrew was much less serious than the assault in 1999 but nonetheless it reveals you have learnt nothing from your time in prison."

The judge deferred sentence until February on Ferguson's other cousin, Gary Black, who had admitted punching and kicking 16-year-old Pettigrew.

Black, 18, of Airdrie, who has been serving 18 months detention for an unrelated incident, had also admitted punching and kicking a Strathclyde Police Officer on the night the victim was killed.

The judge noted that McCormick had started the fight with the victim and had then "goaded" Black, who had been protecting Pettigrew, into joining in the violence.

Sentencing Ferguson, the judge said: "You've been convicted of the murder of Steven Pettigrew, a young man who was only 16 years old when he died.

"For the crime of murder there's only one sentence open to me and that sentence is life."

He added: "I take a serious view of the callous way in which you took the life of this young man."




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