‘Soft-touch’ system blamed for bailing sex offender who murdered grandmother

Kevin Rooney, who was jailed for at least 21 years yesterday
Kevin Rooney, who was jailed for at least 21 years yesterday
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SCOTLAND’S “soft-touch” justice system came under attack today after it emerged that a convicted sex offender who raped and murdered a frail grandmother had been jailed 22 times before.

Kevin Rooney, who was given bail just seven weeks before he raped and murdered Rosina Sutherland, was yesterday imprisoned for at least 21 years.

Rooney was convicted of murdering the 74-year-old in her sheltered housing bungalow in Longstone Park on October 29 before going out on a drinking spree and playing pool.

The 26-year-old, who had previously carried out sex attacks against young boys, was picked up drunk in the street by police hours after the killing and confessed to the murder, asking officers: “I’m not going to get bail for murder, am I?”

The decision to free repeat offender Rooney on bail on September 7 was today condemned for “failing” Mrs Sutherland and her family.

Rooney was given a life sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday and ordered to serve a minimum of 21 years and four months before he can apply for parole.

Rooney, who stuck his fingers in his ears as the court heard details of the sickening attack on the pensioner, had also been subject to a sexual offences prevention order (Sopo). But he had been repeatedly jailed for breaking the order which is only given to the worst sex offenders in a bid to control their behaviour.

Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said: “It is no wonder people think Scotland is soft on justice when cases like this come to light.

“This woman and her family have been failed.

“People will wonder why someone with so many convictions, not least a serious sex conviction, was free to commit such a horrific attack.”

“There is certainly an argument he should never be let out again.”

The court heard that unemployed Rooney had been staying in temporary accommodation in Longstone Guest House and had wandered the streets in a daze of drugs and alcohol before trying Mrs Sutherland’s door and finding it unlocked.

Rooney pushed the pensioner, who suffered from health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes, to the floor before raping her.

Advocate depute Alison Di Rollo, prosecuting, told the court: “In the course of the assault he struck her repeatedly on the face. He placed his hand over her mouth and nose and compressed her throat, preventing her from breathing. As a result, she died.”

Medics who examined her body were later unable to decide whether Rooney suffocated his victim during the horror attack or whether her heart simply gave out.

As Mrs Sutherland’s partly clothed body lay on the floor, Rooney carefully covered her face with a neatly folded towel before ransacking her home, tipping out drawers, throwing “treasured personal possessions” to the ground, and pulling out the telephone card.

Rooney’s footprint was found on the broken glass of a framed photograph of the deceased’s grandchildren.

He left the house, taking hundreds of pounds in cash and the pensioner’s walking stick, and went to the nearby Longstone Inn at 11.42pm. Rooney bought drinks for strangers, chatted to staff and customers, and pretended he needed the stick because he had been shot while in the army.

After leaving the pub at 1am, Rooney boarded a bus in Clerk Street but was so drunk that he had to be helped to pay his fare.

When he fell over getting off the bus in Lasswade Road, the bus driver called police and when officers arrived to take him to St Leonard’s station, Rooney told them: “I’ve murdered someone. If you gie us a fag I’ll show you the body.”

Rooney also told the officers: “I hit her a few times and suffocated her.”

Over the next few hours, he made a variety of comments to police, including: “I asked her for the time and pushed her. She was cold. I didn’t mean it”, and “I went to an old dear’s house. I just wanted somewhere to stay. I killed her. I hit her a few times and suffocated her”.

Police drove Rooney round the streets in an unsuccessful attempt to find the house, which Rooney believed may have been in “Morningside”. In the car he added: “My DNA will be all over the house. She had grandbairns. There was pictures of them,” before he made a throttling gesture with his hands.

Just before noon that day, an alarm went indicating that there had been no movement in Mrs Sutherland’s sheltered home for 12 hours.

Her family were contacted and son-in-law Robert Ianelli, 45, found Mrs Sutherland’s body and the police were alerted.

At 3pm Rooney told police: “Hopefully I’ll die cos I’m not doing 15 years for murder. I’m not going to get bail for murder, am I? It was an accident.”

Only 45 minutes later, detectives informed Rooney that the body of Mrs Sutherland had been found. When confronted with the allegation that he had raped Mrs Sutherland, Rooney laughed and told police: “I’ve got two personalities. I can’t help it.”

Interviewed by officers the following day, Rooney claimed he did not recall making comments about the murder, telling them: “I was out of it with alcohol and drugs that I got off the internet” before adding, “Maybe it was just the alcohol talking. I say a lot of things when I’m drunk”.

After hearing of Mrs Sutherland’s injuries, Rooney told police: “Don’t try and even say I raped her. I didn’t touch her. I wasn’t even there.”

Rooney’s DNA was later found on swabs taken from the pensioner’s body. He had left behind a pair of black tracksuit bottoms and a hooded tracksuit top which contained his mobile phone and library card.

A postmortem examination found Mrs Sutherland had blunt-force head injuries, suggesting she was punched repeatedly before death.

Mr Ianelli and other members of Mrs Sutherland’s family had to give evidence at the trial at the High Court in Aberdeen before Rooney admitted charges of murder, rape and robbery on Wednesday.

Ms Di Rollo said they were “devastated” and told the court yesterday: “Not knowing exactly how much she suffered and imagining what she went through in her final moments has been almost impossible for them to bear.”

Members of the Sutherland family were in court yesterday to listen to the horrific details of the pensioner’s ordeal.

David Sinclair, from Victim Support Scotland, said: “Victim Support Scotland does not comment on individual cases.

“However, as an organisation which deals with almost 200,000 victims and witnesses of crime each year, our total sympathies in such cases lie with the victim and their family and friends.

“It’s not the first time where the perpetrator of a crime has been released on bail and gone on to commit very serious acts. This case was clearly in that category.”

Detective Superintendent Alan Crawford, who led the murder inquiry, said: “This was a shocking and depraved crime, and my thoughts at this time are with Rosina Sutherland’s family.”