‘Just a slap’ victim, 51, bled to death after Edinburgh flat attack

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A killer who claimed that a fatal blow he landed on a vulnerable man was a ‘slap’ has been jailed for six years.

David Ditchburn, 45, attacked John Ashwood in a city flat before abandoning the dying man in the street.

The High Court in Edinburgh

The High Court in Edinburgh

Mr Ashwood, described as vulnerable and weighing just 7 stone, was found bleeding heavily by paramedics.

Ditchburn was found guilty of culpable homicide at the High Court in Edinburgh after a jury heard he described the blow to Mr Ashwood, 51, as “just a slap”.

Jailing him, trial judge Lady Wise said: “You assaulted John Ashwood, who was a vulnerable man, and that assault contributed materially to his death.

“While it may have been a single blow, or as you put it a slap, the consequence of your actions was to end a man’s life.

“You left a dying man in the street and were untruthful to those to whom you eventually reported to his location.”

Lady Wise told Ditchburn that he had “an extensive and concerning criminal record” including a number of previous convictions for assault and weapon possession.

The judge said: “You are someone who has used violence when it suits you to do so.”

Ditchburn had denied killing Mr Ashwood on August 9 or 10 last year at a flat in Brunswick Road by striking him on the head to his injury, but was found guilty of the culpable homicide after a trial.

The jury also rejected that he had acted in the defence of another man following an argument between him and the victim at the flat they were all drinking.

Ditchburn was on bail at the time of the killing after being freed at Edinburgh Sheriff Court the previous month.

Lady Wise told jurors after she jailed Ditchburn that they may have found evidence in the case to have been “harrowing and unpleasant”.

The court heard that Mr Ashwood suffered a large tear on the inside of his cheek following the attack. He was found in a state of cardiac arrest with a large amount of blood in his mouth and more in his stomach and could not be saved.

Ditchburn was also convicted of a further two assaults. One attack was caught on camera when he punched an unknown victim on the head at a branch of Scotmid, in Leith Walk, on July 15 last year and knocked his glasses off his face before stamping on them.

In a further assault on the same date at the same place he tried to punch Gary Knox on the head. He was also found to be in unlawful possession of a a pair of scissors, on the same date at Middlefield.

After committing the attacks on July 15 he appeared in court when he was bailed and went on to kill his victim weeks later.