Family anguish as state of body heard in court

West Cairns Farm. Picture: Vic Rodrick

West Cairns Farm. Picture: Vic Rodrick

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THE family of a man killed by his brother-in-law and buried at a farm had to leave court as the jury was shown images of the injuries he sustained.

Shocking photographs showed farm owner Alex Cameron being exhumed from a shallow grave outside horse stables then being examined on a mortuary slab.

Forensic bioarchaeologist Dr Jennifer Miller uncovered the trussed body of Alex Cameron in a shallow grave on his farm. Picture: Vic Rodrick

Forensic bioarchaeologist Dr Jennifer Miller uncovered the trussed body of Alex Cameron in a shallow grave on his farm. Picture: Vic Rodrick

His wrists and ankles had been bound together with electrical flex and blue polypropylene rope and his head and face were covered in blood from blunt force trauma caused by being hit with a sledgehammer and an axe.

Mr Cameron, 67, was found buried at West Cairns Farm near Kirknewton, West Lothian, on January 24.

The discovery of his body followed a major police search when his family had reported him missing after he failed to attend an aunt’s funeral.

At the High Court in Livingston, his brother-in-law Jimmy Smith, 58, who rented the farm from him, has confessed to killing him with the weapons, but denies murdering him.

Members of the dead man’s family left the court during the evidence of two separate witnesses yesterday after being warned that the images were likely to cause them distress.

Forensic bio-archaeologist Dr Jennifer Miller, 52, told the jury that the bucket of a small excavator found next to Mr Cameron’s burial site contained traces of mixed compost, fresh grass and subsoil which matched the material used to fill in the grave.

She narrated a time-lapse video of the exhumation, explaining how the body had been covered after being dumped in the metre-deep hole in the ground. She said “teeth marks” on the wall of the hole matched the pattern on the 
digger’s spade-bucket.

Mr Cameron’s corpse was covered in a mixture of fresh and well-rotted manure before being weighed down with breeze blocks and several heavy concrete paving slabs.

As the body was exposed in the video, Dr Miller pointed out how the left arm was tightly flexed with the wrist tied to the left ankle with ligatures.

Similar electrical cabling and ropes were attached to his right wrist and ankle, but not tied together.

She said his clothing had ridden up exposing his abdomen and his anorak and right arm had covered his head, leaving the dreadful nature of injuries to the back of his skull clean and apparent when exposed.

His right foot, when uncovered, was “at a strange angle”, indicating it might have been broken.

Detective Constable Neil Bain, 41, productions officer for the case, said he searched what he called kennel block number one uphill from the main farm building and the stables where the grave was located.

He recovered electrical flex and rope similar to those used to bind Mr Cameron.

He said there were signs of apparent blood-staining on some vinyl floor covering and on the concrete floor and walls of the kennels. These had been marked and sampled by forensic officers for later examination on the police laboratory.

The jury yesterday heard police describe a confession letter written by Mr Smith in which he said he had battered Mr Cameron to death with a hammer after being attacked with a chainsaw.

Smith denies murder and has lodged a special plea of self defence, claiming the deceased attacked him first. The trial, before Lord Matthews, continues.