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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Murder appeal man freed
Supreme Courts sign
The court heard the criticisms of the post-mortem examination
Appeal judges have freed a man who has served five years of a life sentence, after it was claimed that "very significant questions" had been raised in his case.

Richard Karling, 47, has been trying to prove his innocence since a jury found him guilty in 1995 of drugging and smothering his ex-lover, Dorothy Niven, her with a pillow.

Karling, formerly married to the daughter of the late Lord Ross, one-time secretary of state for Scotland, was said to have had a "love-hate" relationship with Ms Niven.

At his trial, he accused her of living a double life - working for the Student Loans Company by day and in massage parlours at night.

But he denied murdering her and having sex with her, after suggestions that Ms Niven might have died as a result of having sex with her face pushed into a pillow.

At the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh, Karling's legal team strongly criticised medical and scientific evidence produced at his trial.

No opposition to bail

His counsel, Herbert Kerrigan QC, told Lord Prosser, sitting with Lords Kirkwood and Cowie, that that hearing was almost complete and "very significant questions" had been raised.

He asked the judges to release Karling on bail, pending the final outcome of his appeal. Advocate depute Graham Bell QC, for the Crown, did not oppose the move.

Dorothy Niven was found dead in the bedroom of her home in Busby, Lanarkshire.

Karling has always claimed his ex-girlfriend was alive, although unwell, when he left her at her home the night before she died.

His trial at the High Court in Glasgow in December 1995 heard allegations that Ms Niven had been dosed with Temazepam while in a Glasgow restaurant.

Later, when she was no longer able to resist, she had been smothered.

'Unascertained' cause

Karling's defence team later went to the Court of Criminal Appeal with reports from their own pathologists who said there was no reason to believe Ms Niven had been smothered.

One of Britain's top experts in the field launched a scathing attack on a post mortem examination carried out on Ms Niven.

Professor Sir Bernard Knight, of Cardiff University, said the doctor who carried out the examination even failed to notice a broken rib.

He told Lord Kirkwood that the cause of Ms Niven's death should have remained "unascertained".

He claimed there was no evidence for suffocation and the level of Temazepam in the blood was within "therapeutic levels" and not enough to lower her resistance.

Lord Kirkwood also heard that other pathologists had backed the doctor, who did not know he was investigating an alleged murder.

The judge is expected to report back to his appeal court colleagues on the evidence he has heard. Karling will then have to wait to see if they overturn his conviction.

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