Police have arrested and charged a 39-year-old man in connection with alleged witness intimidation arising from the reinvestigation into the murder of Steven Brown in Tranent in 1999. He is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today.
Witnesses to the murder of the father-of-three 14 years ago had previously complained to police about suffering “sinister” intimidation as detectives re-investigate the unsolved killing.
Mr Brown, 35, was found lying dead in a field near Elphinstone, Tranent, on the morning of Sunday, February 21, 1999. He had been badly beaten and stabbed several times.
Reports of intimidation came as officers yesterday carried out door-to-door inquiries in the town in the hunt for fresh leads.
The operation was mounted after detectives received new information that a “large group” of people was involved in a disturbance before the killing.
Detectives working on the case have also located “forensic evidence” dating back to 1999 which has been sent away for re-examination.
Detective Inspector Gary Boyd, who is leading the inquiry, said: “During the 1999 investigation there were real concerns about witness intimidation. Now we have received a number of new complaints of people being intimidated not to speak to police. We are investigating these complaints.
“They were not physical in nature but people have been left really worried. They were extremely sinister.
“We want to reassure people that police will take immediate action to address concerns if they feel they have been threatened or pressured in any way.”
Officers believe they have made a breakthrough in the case after information emerged about the disturbance in the town’s Kerr Road the night before Mr Brown’s body was found.
Mr Brown was believed to have been involved in the incident, but new inquiries have revealed that a large group of people was seen entering nearby Kings Road in two vehicles beforehand.
Police now believe more people were involved in Mr Brown’s death than originally thought.
DI Boyd said: “These door-to-doors, which I expect to go on for another three or four days, have come about because of new information. That centres on Kings Road, which adjuncts Kerr Road, and concerns a major disturbance where two vehicles pulled up. We believe this disturbance ended with Steven being chased into a field and murdered.
“That stretch of Kings Road was not covered by door-to-doors at the time.
“With the forensic sample, it’s early days but we believe that the local community are the crucial element to solving Steven’s murder.”
DI Boyd added: “We would urge anyone with any information to come forward.
“Information can be passed on anonymously through a confidential telephone hotline direct to the police incident room, or by e-mail. I would also remind people that the charity Crimestoppers is offering a £5000 reward for anyone who can offer information leading to a prosecution, again on an anonymous basis.
“We would ask anyone who has information regarding his murder to ask themselves whether they can continue to deny Steven’s family the justice they deserve after 14 years.”
Three local men were charged with the murder of Mr Brown, of Kerry Road, Tranent, three days after his body was found, but they were released due to a lack of evidence. They have been questioned again by detectives as part of the inquiry.
Anyone with any information can contact the confidential hotline on 0131-311 5972, or e-mail OperationThermal@lbp.pnn.police.uk. Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111.