Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Appeal over 250-year-old murder

Appin murder scene
A cairn between Ballachulish and Duror marks where the murder took place

A lawyer is attempting to have an 18th Century murder case, which inspired the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel "Kidnapped", to be reopened.

Glasgow solicitor John Macauley has asked the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to look into the case of James Stewart.

He was hanged after being convicted of shooting dead Colin Campbell in Argyll Wood in May 1752.

Mr Macauley said Mr Stewart's trial was a "farce" and "needs to be quashed".

Campbell was shot dead in the woods near where the Ballachulish Bridge now stands in Argyllshire.

At the time, he was travelling by horse to evict tenants, Stewarts of Appin, and replace them with his own relatives.

'A farce'

The murder outraged the British establishment and came in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The defeat of the Jacobites effectively ended their hopes of replacing the Hanoverian dynasty on the British throne with the Stuarts.

Stewart, a Jacobite, was tried for the murder in a court held in Inveraray in September 1752.

Eleven of the 15 jurors were Campbells, a clan which had fought against the Jacobites at Culloden.

Robert Louis Stevenson
The Appin murder inspired RL Stevenson to write "Kidnapped"
The senior of the three judges at the trial was the Duke of Argyll, a staunchly Hanoverian chief of Clan Campbell.

During his trial, Stewart presented an alibi that he had been several miles away on the day of the murder.

No evidence was presented that he had been involved in a conspiracy to murder.

The main witness saw a man with a gun some distance away but was unable to identify who he was.

Mr Macaulay, who has researched the case, believes the lack of identification was fatal to Stewart's conviction in what amounted to a kangaroo court.

"It went through what they termed due process at the time but the whole thing from start to finish was a farce," he said.

"The conviction just doesn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny and needs to be quashed."

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said it would look at Mr Macauley's submission and rule in due course.

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