Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Five years for escape bid killer

Michael Ross, left, and Shamsuddin Mahmood
Ross, left, was jailed for the murder of Shamsudden Mahmood

A soldier who fled the dock after being convicted of murder has been jailed for five years for attempting to escape and having a weapons cache in a car park.

Sgt Michael Ross, 30, was just 15 when he shot 26-year-old Shamsuddin Mahmood in the head at close range in Orkney.

He fled from the dock at the High Court in Glasgow in June after a jury found him guilty, but was soon caught by a court official and police.

In October, Ross was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for the murder.

Ross, of Inverness, admitted attempting to defeat ends of justice and possessing firearms and ammunition.

This is one of the most desperately sad cases that I have ever encountered
Donald Findlay QC
Defence counsel
He will serve the additional five years after his murder sentence.

As the escape bid unfolded, defence advocate Donald Findlay QC ran after Ross shouting: "No Michael, no."

But just before Ross could escape into the streets, court official Gordon Morison pinned the soldier to the ground.

The court macer, who suffered facial injuries, was later praised for his actions by trial judge Lord Hardie.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that Black Watch sniper Ross had a cache of arms hidden in a hired car parked less than a mile away when he made his escape bid.

'Kill quickly'

Prosecutor Brian McConnachie QC told the court that a Scorpion machine pistol, a hand grenade and ammunition were found in a hired car he had parked in a Tesco car park at St Rollox in Springburn.

Mr McConnachie said: "The grenade was an anti-personnel grenade which throws out fragments of metal at high velocity with the sole purpose of causing death or serious injury. It is lethal up to 30 metres."

The machine pistol discovered in the car was fully loaded and ready to fire.

Machine pistol found in car
The machine pistol was found in a car nearby
An expert described it as an automatic weapon "designed to kill numerous people quickly".

Both the Strathclyde Police firearms unit and the bomb disposal unit were called to the blue Ford Fiesta and the area was cordoned off to the public.

They found the grenade, machine pistol and 542 rounds of ammunition, along with an army-style rucksack containing a sleeping bag, tent and survival equipment.

Ross claimed that when he made his attempt to escape from court three of the High Court in Glasgow he was heading for the hills, and that he intended to use the weapons to catch fish and game.

But a weapons expert said the machine pistol and the grenade were military rather than hunting weapons.

Appeal plan

The court heard that Ross hired the Fiesta at Glasgow Airport on Tuesday, 16 June and failed to return it on 19 June.

Mr McConnachie said: "The duty manager of Avis Rent a Car made enquiries to trace the car and subsequently learned the accused had been found guilty of murder and was in Barlinnie Prison."

The court heard that staff from Avis went to collect the car from the Tesco car park, but called in the police when they found a hand grenade in the glove compartment.


How Ross fled the court room

Defence counsel Mr Findlay told the court he blamed himself for not noticing the strain that Ross was under during the murder trial.

He said: "I am appalled that I did not see the strain the young man was under. I feel that I let him down badly.

"This is one of the most desperately sad cases that I have ever encountered."

He added that he could have "cheerfully" throttled Ross for fleeing from the dock.

Mr Findlay said it was not certain that Ross would have gone to the car and that he had thrown the keys away, and that he would be appealing the conviction and sentence for the murder.

Gordon Morison
Gordon Morison tackled Michael Ross as he escaped

Judge Lord Brailsford told Ross: "These are extremely serious offences and I have been given no adequate explanation for the reasons that these offences were committed.

"I will not indulge in speculation as to what drove you to commit these offences. You had a distinguished career and served this country well for a period of years, but despite that you committed these shocking crimes."

Mr Mahmood, born in Bangladesh, was shot in full view of a room full of diners, including families with children, by a masked gunman in 1994.

A woman recently came forward to claim that she was with Ross on the night the waiter was killed at a Kirkwall restaurant.

And a 100,000 reward has been offered by an anonymous businessman for information which might prove Ross's innocence.

Ross's father - police officer Eddie Ross, who was called to the scene of the shooting - was previously jailed for four years for trying to defeat the ends of justice.

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