Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Contempt witness spared jail term

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

A witness in the trial of a soldier jailed for murdering a waiter in Orkney in 1994 has been spared a jail sentence for contempt of court.

Sgt Michael Ross, 30, was 15 when Shamsuddin Mahmood, 26, was shot. He was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years.

A judge ruled Cator Moyes, 33, was in contempt for his manner of evidence.

At the High Court in Edinburgh Moyes, now of Edinburgh, was placed on probation for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Moyes gave evidence about Ross - who is appealing his conviction - expressing racist views.

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 Kirkwall.

'Close to tears'

Black Watch sniper Ross, of Inverness, fled from the dock at the High Court in Glasgow last June after a jury found him guilty, but was caught by a court official and police.

Months after the murder, Moyes told detectives that teenager Ross had racist views, but no more than anyone else. He later signed a second statement confirming that the first statement was true.

Mumutaz Restaurant after the shooting in 1994
The Mumutaz restaurant was the scene of the killing

However, when giving evidence against Ross, he told the trial: "It is a very long time ago. I don't remember."

Lord Hardie said racist views were "a significant part" of the case.

Moyes had been "ducking and diving" and trying to avoid the question, added the judge.

On Monday, the court heard that the strain of giving evidence almost wrecked his life.

Moyes was "sweating, shaking and close to tears" before he went into the witness box.

Solicitor advocate David Taylor, defending, said that since the trial, the electrician's labourer had been unable to work because of depression and anxiety.

Lord Hardie spared Moyes from jail after hearing the plea for leniency.

He said: "It does appear in this case that you have some health difficulties which may be made worse if you are sentenced to a period of imprisonment."

Reward offered

The judge stressed that it was "an unusual course".

Ross later admitted attempting to defeat ends of justice and possessing firearms and ammunition, and was jailed for a further five years.

He had a cache of arms hidden in a hired car parked less than a mile away when he made his escape bid.

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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