THE family of murder victim Lee Duncan have been left distraught after a drug addict was cleared of killing him in a savage hammer attack.
Gary Parker, 45, was found not guilty after a three-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh of beating his friend and neighbour to death.
A man who answered the door at the Wester Hailes home of Mr Duncan’s mother, Bernadette, said she was “awful upset” by the verdict and would be unable to comment.
Neighbours at the Lauriston Place flats in Tollcross, where both 31-year-old Mr Duncan and Parker lived, also expressed their shock over the jury’s decision.
One friend of Mr Duncan’s said he remained “very sad” over the death, but would have to accept the verdict. The trial had heard a claim from a witness that Parker boasted of “smashing the life” out of Mr Duncan during a “frenzied” assault.
Parker made the alleged confession 16 months after the body of Mr Duncan was found on February 25, 2011 to a cell mate at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Fellow prisoner Gordon Wilson, 35, told the trial that Parker had admitted killing Mr Duncan to steal his drugs.
Advocate depute Andrew Stewart QC, prosecuting, had told the jury they should acquit Parker if they did not believe Wilson’s account. As he left the dock yesterday, Parker, who now lives in Guardwell Glen, Gilmerton, thanked judge Lord Uist and the jurors. Parker had claimed that two other men, John Dowling and Kevin Grieve, were responsible for the murder. Witnesses gave evidence that Dowling and Grieve had confessed their guilt to them, claims the men denied from the witness box.
Last night, a friend and neighbour of Mr Duncan said: “We’re still very sad that Lee is gone. We were good friends. But there’s been a three-week trial and we just have to accept the decision.”
Following the verdict, a Police Scotland spokesman said: “Following the death of Lee Duncan in February 2011, police in Edinburgh prepared a comprehensive report to the procurator fiscal at the conclusion of our investigation.”
A post-mortem revealed 15 injuries to Mr Duncan’s head and face consistent with blows from a hammer – some of them inflicted with the claw end. Mr Duncan, known to deal in heroin and Valium, was terrified of attack and kept a hammer beside his bed for protection.
His body was found by his girlfriend, Kirsty Nelson, 33, who ran downstairs to tell Parker. It was Parker who made the 999 call for an ambulance. Blood from Mr Duncan was found on the tread of Parker’s new boots, and his fingerprint was on a plastic box in the victim’s bedroom. Police believed the box had been moved after the murder.
During the long police investigation, Mr Duncan’s sister, Melanie Purdie, 39, had appealed through the Evening News for help in finding her brother’s killer and spoke of the family’s devastation.
She said that there were “hundreds of unanswered questions” about her brother’s death and the family yearned to know what really happened that night.