Convicted killer allowed out for mum’s birthday

Philip Graham was  sentenced to ten years in jail. Picture: supplied

Philip Graham was sentenced to ten years in jail. Picture: supplied

THE family of a murder victim have told of their disgust after his killer was allowed out of prison to visit his mother on her birthday.

Philip Graham, who was jailed for life just seven years ago for stabbing his cousin’s partner Mark Johnston to death, was accompanied by guards on the trip to his mother’s house in Pilton last week.

Mark Johnston was stabbed to death in 2009. Picture: supplied

Mark Johnston was stabbed to death in 2009. Picture: supplied

The move has horrified the family of father-of-five Mr Johnston, who live nearby and had no warning the visit was taking place.

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Mr Johnston’s 39-year-old partner Pauline said they had been “kept in the dark” by the Scottish Prison Service and should have been warned of Graham’s release in case her children encountered their father’s murderer in the street.

Pauline, who adopted her partner’s surname after his death, said: “I am disgusted by the decision. I don’t want my bairns to be bumping into him.

I am disgusted by the decision. I don’t want my bairns to be bumping into him. A ten-year sentence wasn’t long enough as it is. Is there no justice?

Pauline Johnston

“A ten-year [minimum] sentence wasn’t long enough as it is. Is there no justice?

“The whole point of prison is that privileges are taken away.

“What are they actually losing if they are able to attend special occasions? Mark is not going to be able to celebrate anything with his kids.

“All they can do on his birthday is sit at his graveside.”

The family also revealed that one of Mr Johnston’s daughters, 18-year-old Geri, was due to have a baby in a few months.

“It’s a pity her father isn’t going to be around to meet his first grandchild,” added Ms Johnston.

Mr Johnston was stabbed by Graham after a row at a party in a Haddington Place flat in June 2009.

The victim, described as “a loving, family man”, collapsed in front of his children and later died in hospital after blood loss led to brain damage.

There were no witnesses to the fatal attack, but after it Graham ran towards a waiting vehicle and said: “I’ve just plugged him twice.”

Jailing him four months later, Lord Brailsford said he would have imposed a minimum period of 15 years had he not admitted his guilt.

Graham, 30, was escorted to West Pilton Terrace by security firm G4S on his mother’s birthday – Sunday, June 5 – not far from where his victim’s family live.

Kelly Graham, who was friends with the victim, said she “felt sick” after hearing of her estranged cousin’s release.

“Imagine if his daughter was walking about and saw him,” she added.

A spokesman for the SPS would not comment on an individual case but confirmed life sentence prisoners are allowed out of jail on escorted visits.

“A rigorous risk assessment is undertaken prior to any offender being granted escorted leave,” he said.

“The majority of escorted leaves take place without incident.”

Graham was previously housed in privately-run Addiewell prison in West Lothian but the Prison Service has declined to reveal his current location.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com