Man held at psychiatric hospital after dog walker killed

A judge ordered that David Johnstone should be held at the State Hospital at Carstairs

Man held at psychiatric hospital after dog walker killed STV News
High Court in Edinburgh.

A schizophrenic who killed an 83-year-old dog walker after brutally assaulting a couple out exercising their pet will be held indefinitely at a psychiatric hospital.

On Thursday, a judge ordered that David Johnstone should be held at the State Hospital at Carstairs without limit of time.

Johnstone’s spree of violence left Frank Kinnis dead and two other victims needing hospital treatment after attacks 40 minutes apart.

His parents had twice contacted NHS 24 in a bid to have their son sectioned because of concerns about his well-being. A family doctor had also made an urgent referral to a psychiatrist for him, but he did not attend the meeting and a letter of appointment went unopened.

A psychiatrist told the High Court in Edinburgh today that the 36-year-old had psychotic symptoms for about three years before the attacks.

Dr Natasha Billcliff said that although his family and his GP recognised that Johnstone had an illness, he did not.

She said that Johnstone, who formerly lived alone in Elgin, in M orayshire, was “paranoid and edgy with other people” and was a cannabis smoker from the age of 14, if not younger. 

She said that he has been treated with antipsychotic medication and shown a “remarkable” improvement.

Defence counsel Ian Duguid QC said: “Now that he realises the consequences of his actions he is full of regret and remorse for what took place, without ever having appreciated it at the time it was happening.”

Johnstone, a design technician, was originally charged with murdering Mr Kinnis on October 21 last year at Linkwood Farm, Barmuckity, Elgin, by grabbing him, putting an arm around his neck and compressing his throat, causing him to fall to the ground, repeatedly punching and kicking him on the head and stamping on his head.

He was also charged with attempting to murder Morris and Janette Smith, both then aged 70, on the same day at Birkenhill Woods at Elgin.   

Mr Smith was repeatedly struck and punched on the head and kicked and stamped on and his wife was repeatedly punched and kicked to the head.

Johnstone was also charged with assaulting police constables Mitchell Dickson and Iain Meggat at Birkenhill, Elgin, on October 21. PC Dickson was repeatedly punched on the head and an attempt was made to punch PC Meggat.

Johnstone pleaded not guilty to the offences on the basis that he was not criminally responsible for his conduct because of a mental disorder and the Crown accepted the plea. He was acquitted of the offences.

A judge told Johnstone today: “I am satisfied having regard to the offences with which you were charged, the psychiatric evidence presented to me, the mental health officer’s report and all the circumstances that a compulsion order in respect of you is necessary.”

Lord Uist said: “I therefore make such an order authorising your detention in the State Hospital as I am satisfied that you require to be detained in hospital under conditions of special security.” 

The judge added that because of the nature of the offences with which he was charged, his antecedents and the risk that he would commit further offences if set at large that it was necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm to impose a restriction order without limit of time.

The court earlier heard that on the day of the attacks Mr and Mrs Smith were out exercising their dog at Birkenhill Woods, which is popular with dog walkers, shortly before 9 am. 

Johnstone, who was unknown to them, approached Mr Smith and shouted at him, asking if he was called ‘Tom’ or ‘Tim’. He then hit him twice on the face.

Mrs Smith said she was going to call the police and her husband suggested they should run.

Advocate depute Alan Cameron said: “The recollection of both complainers is somewhat hazy but Mr Smith was knocked to the ground by Mr Johnstone and recalls him kneeling down next to him and repeatedly punching and kicking him on the head, saying nothing as did so.”

The prosecutor said: “It is not clear how many times Mr Johnstone struck Mr Smith but he did repeatedly punch, kick and stamp on his head, acts which rendered Mr Smith unconscious.”

“Mrs Smith does not recall the assault on her, but does recall seeing Mr Johnstone attacking her husband. She did telephone police at 8.59 am but has no recollection of anything further until she was in hospital. From the injuries that she suffered it is clear Mr Johnstone also attacked her by repeatedly punching and kicking her on the head and body,” said Mr Cameron.

The couple sustained head injuries and were taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin for treatment after police responding to the call found them injured and covered in blood. Both were kept under observation until October 25.

The prosecutor said the attack has had “a significant impact” on the couple who felt anxious about being in public or around strangers afterwards. 

Johnstone ran off after the assault and encountered Mr Kinnis, who was walking his dog, on a path between fields about 9.40 am.

Mr Cameron said: “He was a retired dairyman with an active lifestyle who lived with his wife, He still worked as a handyman on a local farm two days per week and kept generally good health.”

After the attack he was also taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital and was found to have complex multiple face and jaw fractures and bleeding to the brain. He died later that day.

Mr Cameron said: “The cause of death was given as blunt force head and facial injuries. Mr Johnstone inflicted these injuries on Mr Kinnis during the attack.”

Mr Duguid earlier told the court that Johnstone had previously been a well-regarded employee and active sportsman and a promising footballer signed with Elgin City as a schoolboy.