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Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Anger over killer's painting display
Shotts Prison
The exhibition was of Shotts prisoners' work
A painting by a convicted killer has been withdrawn from an exhibition after protests by his victims' family.

Iain Meikleham's work, depicting the Crucifixion, had been displayed only a few miles from Roddy and Anne Marie Aitken's home in Aberfoyle.

The couple's disappearance in 1997, began one of the biggest murder enquiries ever mounted in Scotland. They were lured to an isolated farm, shot dead, and their bodies set on fire over a drug deal which went wrong.

The Scottish Prison Service has apologised to the Aitken's children, who still live in Aberfoyle. An SPS spokeswoman said the works were supposed to be anonymous.

The exhibition in Stirling was designed to showcase the work of the National Induction Centre at Shotts Prison, which prepares new prisoners for long sentences.

'Evil beyond belief'

The painting has been removed from the MacRobert Arts Centre. Staff obscured the name with stickers and then unscrewed the 18ins by 2ft 3ins acrylic with a power tool.

Anne Marie Aitken
Anne Marie Aitken: Killed with her husband
The work, called Verses, shows Christ on the Cross with Chinese symbols drawn or tattooed on his chest.

Christ's blood is shown flowing onto a grey globe - possibly meant to indicate the Earth - against a background of black.

On the globe are the words: "May God Our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you Grace and Peace."

During his trial Meikleham, 32, was branded "evil beyond belief" by the Aitkens' family and he was jailed with a recommendation he serve at least 20 years.

The judge, Lord Eassie, described the killings as premeditated and ruthless, and Meikleham's treatment of the couple's bodies afterwards as "callous and utterly despicable".

The Aitkens were both 38 when they died.

'All we can do is apologise'

Local Conservative councillor Catherine Organ said: "The shocking thing about this is the recentness of the murders.

"People in Aberfoyle will be absolutely livid that this murderer's work has been put on display only a few miles away from where his victims lived, only a couple of years after he killed them."

She added: "His victims' children still live in Aberfoyle."

At the family home on Sunday Anne Marie junior, now 22, was comforting her brother, Roddy Jnr, now 15, over the incident.

Roddy Aitken
Roddy Aitken: Murdered in 1997
A family friend said: "It's only two years last month since the bodies were found. This has brought it all up again.

"Is this painting a reference to what he did to Anne Marie's parents?"

The friend added: "She doesn't need this. She's only a young girl and she's had enough."

An SPS spokeswoman said: "All we can do is apologise to the victims' family for this.

"As far as the staff at Shotts were concerned, all the paintings had been checked and they were all anonymous.

"Unfortunately they hadn't realised that this prisoner must have signed it at the bottom."

She added: "All the rest of the paintings in the exhibition will be checked once again."

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