RONNIE Simpson was a quiet and unassuming man with a “routine you could set your watch by”.
Born only a few hundred metres from the house where he was brutally murdered, the 67-year-old seldom ventured outside the orbit of his favourite pub and the bookmakers next door.
A frail man who walked with a crutch, his death has shocked the tight-knit community of Armadale, with residents baffled that the “harmless” pensioner has become an unlikely murder victim.
Regarded as someone with “no enemies”, the discovery of his battered body in his house in Mayfield Drive has sparked a massive police hunt but – 11 days on – no arrests have been made.
After his daughter made the grim discovery at about 9pm on Saturday, 6 October, rumours quickly circulated on Facebook in the West Lothian town that Mr Simpson knew his attacker, and these theories still persist.
Other have speculated that an alleged £1000 win at the bookies had made him a target for a robbery gone wrong – but his local Scotbet shop said that a check of its records indicated the retired plasterer had no big windfalls that week.
But most residents seem to believe the answer does lie within the local community, with police chiefs hoping that a £5000 reward for information will compel someone who knows the identity of Mr Simpson’s killer to break their silence.
The murder has left some in Armadale fearing for their safety, while more than a dozen floral tributes have been left on the black metal gate outside Mr Simpson’s home.
The tributes included flowers left by his son and daughter, Ross and Kay, with a message which read: “Dad, you will be missed so much. Taken before your time. We love you and always will. Thinking of you every minute of every day. You live on in my heart.”
Another tribute read: “You were a lovely man and didn’t deserve this, from Nora” while another message said simply, “RIP Ronnie. Sleep tight”.
Denise Robb, 49, a full-time mum who lives in Mayfield Avenue, said: “Ronnie would always stop and say hello.
“He never went far, though. You’d usually see him outside the bookies or the pub. He was a nice person and the last person you would expect this to happen to.
“The £5000 reward might make a difference. Someone must know something. But whoever did it, I hope the police find them quickly.”
On most days, Mr Simpson would take the short walk to South Street where he would enjoy an afternoon drink at Coppies bar, having a chat with whoever might be in, or doing a newspaper crossword quietly in the corner.
The afternoon would be broken up by occasional visits to the bookmakers next door to place a bet on the horseracing.
An assistant at the Scotbet bookmakers said that staff had been asked to check Mr Simpson’s bets for any big wins. She said: “We had a look through the books and couldn’t find anything like that. There’s two other bookmakers in Armadale but he would always come here because he was at the pub.”
John Watson, owner of Coppies bar, said: “There’s been rumours going around. It’s a subject people have been talking about in here most days.
“I don’t believe that Ronnie won a lot of money. He only placed small bets. Winning £30 would be a big deal for Ronnie.
“I hope someone comes forward with information soon. It’s been a high-profile case and the police seem to be putting a lot of resources into the case. Hopefully that will make the difference.”
Gordon Bentt, 69, a retired carpet-fitter, said he had know Mr Simpson since they were schoolboys. He said: “I’d known Ronnie since we were both at Armadale Junior School.
“He was a quiet unassuming guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Ronnie was someone who would be happy to sit in the corner of the pub on his own and drink his pint. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out what happened.”
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “Ronnie had a routine you could set your watch by.
“He never went much further than the bookies and the pub. Nobody can think why someone would want to kill him but most people agree that Ronnie probably knew them. How else did they get in the house?
“I can’t think why anyone would go after Ronnie because he didn’t have an enemy in the world. He was harmless.”
Mr Simpson’s son Ross, 31, was attacked in Polbeth where he lives less than 24 hours before his father was found dead. Two men from West Calder, aged 24 and 28, appeared in court charged with assault, but made no plea or declaration. Detectives are probing whether the attack on Mr Simpson’s son is linked to the murder.
Police officers had knocked on Mr Simpson’s door in Mayfield Drive at about 11pm on Friday, October 5, following reports of a disturbance, but they left without speaking to him after he failed to answer. Police now believe the pensioner may have already been dead.
Allan Lees, 32, owner of The Blether Inn in South Street, said that Mr Simpson’s ex-wife had been in his pub on Sunday, the day after his body was found.
He said: “She was very upset and I had to comfort her at the bar. She was crying and I was trying to calm her down.”
Older members of the community have been particularly shocked at the attack.
Alexander Hossack 68, said: “I didn’t know the man but it was terrible what happened. There are a lot of older people who are worried by this.”
‘Armadale is a safe place to live’
WITH the murder of Ronnie Simpson still unsolved, police have moved to reassure worried members of the community as the investigation continues.
Police officers carried out searches of gardens in Mayfield Drive yesterday afternoon while uniformed colleagues conducted door-to-door inquiries in the street, as well as nearby shops and homes.
The windows of Mr Simpson’s council property have been boarded up.
A police van with two officers was stationed outside while other police vehicles made regulars sweeps of the area.
Chief Inspector Stephen Elliot said: “We’re working to reassure the wider community in and around the Mayfield area of Armadale where Mr Simpson lived.
“Uniformed officers have been carrying out house-to-house inquiries to appeal for information and to provide reassurance to members of the public with concerns. This was a tragic incident but I would reiterate that Armadale is a safe place to live.”