Edinburgh murder victim’s family’s ‘relief’ as killer dies in custody and was never freed to harm others

A man who brutally murdered an Edinburgh woman in her own home has died in custody after spending nearly 22 years in prison.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 12:30 pm

John Reid tortured, sexually assaulted and then suffocated 46-year-old Elaine Collie during a robbery at her Muirhouse home in April 1999.

Her nephew, Jason Collie, told the Edinburgh Evening News on Monday he learned of Reid’s death from his father and Elaine’s brother, Fred Collie, who was contacted by the Victim Notification Scheme.

The circumstances surrounding Reid’s death are not yet known.

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Killer John Reid.

Jason, who works as a journalist in England, said: “For us it’s relief that it’s over, and relief that he was never free to be a threat to anyone else. That’s what we were always worried about.”

Reid was jailed for life at the High Court in Edinburgh in October 1999 after pleading guilty to Elaine’s murder and it was recommended he serve at least 15 years - but Elaine’s family believe the sentence was too lenient.

Jason and Fred carried out their own investigation into Reid’s past offences and compiled a dossier of statements from a number of his previous victims, as well as analyses from clinical psychologists. They believe this showed his earlier assault convictions were sexually motivated and part of a pattern of escalating violence that was not fully taken into account in sentencing.

Elaine’s family always maintained he should never be released until the parole board had a cast iron guarantee he was not a danger to society.

Elaine Collie.

Since 2014, Reid had been coming up for parole hearings every two years and Fred, as Elaine’s next of kin, was able to make a representation by sending the dossier to the parole board each time.

Jason continued: “Having uncovered his past and the times he managed to effectively evade justice, this was a very dangerous man.

“Unfortunately, Elaine was his victim but we did not want there to be any others.”

Asked if the family felt Reid could have ever been rehabilitated, Jason said: “It’s very difficult to make an informed judgement but we had been told he had not done a lot of the sexual offender programmes during his time in prison, and from what we know about his past, we never thought he would be safe to be released.

Jason's wedding picture from 1998. Pictured L-R: Jason Collie, his wife Sarah, his father Fred Collie, an uncle from the other side of the family and Elaine.

“We would imagine that many of his other victims would be relieved because they will never face the prospect of bumping into him, so that gives them some closure.”

Murder and previous offending

John Reid conned his way into his neighbour Elaine’s flat in Muirhouse in April 1999.

He hit her on the head with a weapon, tied her to a bed and gagged her with a towel before sexually assaulting her. He then tortured her with electric shocks from a blanket.

Reid also forced Elaine to reveal her PIN number and stole jewellery from her home and £350 from her bank account - then suffocated her.

The killer, who died in his early 60s, claimed he was drunk at the time and could remember nothing of the attack but said he felt remorse for his actions.

He was jailed for life in 1999 after pleading guilty to her murder.

But Jason claims an “untrue impression” of his previous offending was given through the defence lawyer’s plea in mitigation.

This led to Jason and his father tracking down and interviewing women who were attacked by Reid in 1975, 1985 and 1986. The first and last incidents resulted in him being locked up for three months and a year respectively after admitting assault.

And their investigations suggested both cases involved women being attacked from behind and had sexual elements.

The 1985 case, in which a 14-year-old girl who had been drinking was allegedly lured to his home and forced to undress at knifepoint, was not taken to court.

Details were also uncovered of an alleged assault on a man with learning difficulties in Edinburgh in 1987, which also never went to court.

Jason said previously that the family went to such lengths to investigate because the justice system had not been able to.

Scottish Prison Service has to ensure proper notification of next of kin takes place before publicly confirming details regarding deaths in custody.

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