Man given life sentence after stabbing victim's head

Jonathan Bell took James Johnstone’s life during an attack at his victim’s home in West Lothian in 2021.

Man given life sentence after stabbing victim’s head in Bo’Ness Police Scotland

A killer caught on CCTV showing how he repeatedly stabbed a man in the head has been given a life sentence for murder.

Jonathan Bell, 37, took 39-year-old James Johnstone’s life during an attack at his victim’s home in Drumpark Avenue, Bo’Ness, West Lothian, on April 17, 2021.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how Bell repeatedly struck Mr Johnstone on his head and body with a bladed weapon.

Bell claimed he acted in self defence. He struck Mr Johnstone after the pair became involved in a struggle.

He said Mr Johnstone struck him in the hand with a knife and that he hit him after trying to get the weapon away from him.

Bell told jurors: “I don’t like speaking about it. If he got it near me, he would have killed me. It was awful. I think about it everyday.”

However, jurors rejected Bell’s claims that he acted in self defence and convicted him of murder.

On Monday, judge Lord Scott told Bell he would have to serve a minimum of 18 years for taking Mr Johnstone’s life.

Lord Scott told Bell, who observed proceedings via video link, that he would have to serve the term before he could become eligible for parole.

He added: “You have been convicted of the brutal murder of James Johnstone. In convicting you the jury reject any suggestion that you acted in self defence.

“I am aware that members of Mr Johnstone’s family have attended here today. I’m grateful for the information which they have provided to the court.

“There is no sentence that I can impose which will help Mr Johnstone’s family for their loss. Mr Johnstone was a much loved son, brother and father.

“I sentence you to life imprisonment. I must also specify a punishment part. I will set that at 18 years.”

During proceedings earlier this year, Bell, of Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, denied murder and claimed he acted in self defence.

A former shop worker told the Court that on the day of the attack she was working in premises in Grangemouth when a man came in who appeared “a bit agitated”.

She said: “I thought that he had maybe taken drugs. I wasn’t sure, I thought he had taken something.”

She said the customer asked for cigarettes and told her he had killed someone.

“He just said he had knifed someone in the head. Three times, I think he said,” she told the court.

She said: “I said ‘no you didn’t’. You just don’t believe somebody that comes in and says things like that.”

Bell was caught on camera from the shop making stabbing motions towards his head.

The witness said he had also shown her his jeans which appeared to have bloodstains on them.

When Bell was detained by police he said: “Is he dead? I am not a murderer.”

Bell gave evidence in his own defence during the trial.

He told the jury that he had been taking drugs for three days and had smoked heroin on the morning of the day of the fatal attack.

He said he had gone to Mr Johnstone’s home to obtain more narcotics.

He told jurors that he had became involved in a confrontation with Mr Johnstone during the visit and said his victim accused him of being a “grass” during the confrontation.

Bell told the jurors that Mr Johnstone suddenly produced a blade and thrust it towards him. He said he put one of his hands up to block the knife and it injured him.

Bell added: “I used my uninjured hand to push the knife away from me and towards him. It struck his head maybe two or three times.

“I only realised there was blood when I saw it coming from his head. He was shouting I was a grass, I had grassed his boy in.”

Bell said that Mr Johnstone fell back onto the couch during the attack.

He told Mr Ross that he was “anxious” when speaking about the incident.

He added: “I don’t like to talk about it.”

On Monday, defence advocate Thomas Ross KC said his client had “adverse childhood experiences” and mental health issues.

He added: “There now seems to be a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia.”

Lord Scott also told Bell that there was no guarantee that he would be released at the end of his 18 year term and that his release was conditional on other external factors.

He added: “It will be a matter for the parole board.”

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