Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Pensioner's killers in appeal bid

Margaret Irvine
Margaret Irvine was a widow who lived alone

Two men have launched an appeal against their convictions for murdering a 91-year-old woman during a botched robbery at her home in Ayrshire.

Patrick Docherty, 45, and 40-year-old Brendan Dixon were ordered to serve at least 25 years for killing Margaret Irvine in Galston, Ayrshire, in 2003.

Both men allege they did not receive a fair trial.

The hearing at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh is expected to last three days.

The original trial heard that Docherty and Dixon broke into Mrs Irvine's home on Barward Road, switched off the electricity and struggled with the pensioner.

There has been a miscarriage of justice because that evidence was not placed before the jury
Gordon Jackson QC

They then tied her hands behind her back with a belt and punched her on the head and body.

Mrs Irvine died of asphyxiation after a duster was forced into her mouth.

She was found lying on her bed by her home-help hours after she was murdered on 28 September, 2003. Both men lodged special defences of alibi and claimed they were elsewhere at the time of the murder.

But a jury at the High Court in Kilmarnock found them guilty of murder.

Jailing the pair for life, Judge Lord Hardie said the "wickedly reckless and truly evil" crime was "beyond the comprehension of all decent people".

Docherty's defence QC Gordon Jackson told the Court of Criminal Appeal that the trial four years ago might have had a different outcome if the jury had known about the sighting of a tattooed man in Mrs Irvine's garden on the day of the murder.

He said the man, Peter Fraser, had a history of violence and drug abuse.

'Tactical value'

Mr Jackson also said restaurant worker Sheena Orr, who had been passing the house, was not called as a witness at the trial.

Docherty's legal team said that since the trial it had emerged that there was a 16-hour gap in the alibi offered by Mr Fraser when he was interviewed by police and eliminated from the murder hunt.

Mr Jackson told judges Lady Paton, sitting with Lords Mackay of Drumadoon and Carloway that police had not turned over all their material about the sighting to the defence.

"I would find that tactically of value in defending this man before a jury and I would have used it," said the lawyer.

"There has been a miscarriage of justice because that evidence was not placed before the jury."

Both men also claim that the prosecution's circumstantial case in which there was no DNA link and no confessions should not have led to guilty verdicts.

They also criticise remarks made by Lord Hardie when directing the jury on points of law.

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