Edinburgh's sugar water killer dies while serving life sentence

The sugar and water combination – known in criminal circles as “sticky water” and “scheme napalm” – causes permanent scarring

Monday, 25th May 2020, 6:22 pm
Updated Monday, 25th May 2020, 7:13 pm

A killer who subjected his neighbour to an agonising death has died in a Scottish prison where he was serving a life sentence for the murder.

Rene Howieson, 39, stabbed Colin Skilbeck in his Edinburgh flat before pouring boiling water and sugar over him.

At the High Court in Glasgow Howieson was ordered to spend at least 14 years in jail.

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Victim Colin Skilbeck was stabbed and had boiling sugar water poured over him

He died at Shotts Prison in North Lanarkshire. It is understood that his death is not related to coronavirus.

The fatal attack on Mr Skilbeck happened in Gibson Terrace in March 2017 and Howieson’s wife, Kathleen Downey, 35, admitted culpable homicide and was jailed for five years and three months.

The High Court in Livingston heard in January that the couple were neighbours of the victim. Downey, who lived in the flat beneath, threw water with sugar over Mr Skilbeck in the doorway of his flat following an earlier disagreement over noise before stabbing him.

Mr Skilbeck, 41, suffered nine knife wounds in the attack in March 2017, with one penetrating his heart.

The sugar and water combination – known in criminal circles as “sticky water” and “scheme napalm” – causes permanent scarring.

Emergency services were called to the scene by a flatmate of the victim and Police Scotland officers performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Despite their efforts, Mr Skilbeck was pronounced dead at the scene.

Howieson pled guilty to murder at the High Court in Glasgow at an earlier hearing and admitted to stabbing their victim in the torso following Downey’s attack.

Following the case, Detective Inspector Susan Balfour of Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team said: “Howieson and Downey have both admitted to being responsible for causing Colin’s death in what was a shockingly brutal attack.

“Our thoughts very much remain with Colin’s family at this difficult time. Although nothing can undo their actions, I hope this conviction helps provide Colin’s family with some sense of justice.”

Paula Russell, prosecuting, said guards found a prison fork with the middle prong missing during a search of Howieson’s cell.

A toothbrush with a sharpened end was also recovered from his stash, hidden in a box under his bed.

Defence agent Kevin Connor said Howieson had found it “very difficult” to adjust to his life sentence.

He added: “This serious further offending is something the parole board must take into account when deliberating when he should be released.”

Sheriff Vincent Smith jailed Howieson for eight months.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) will be held to determine the circumstances of Howieson’s death.