Reformed gangland killer wants to take Edinburgh Zoo bosses to court over sculpture sale

A reformed gangland killer plans to take Edinburgh Zoo to court over the sale of two of his sculptures on a television programme.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 2:37 pm

The giant gorilla head stone sculptures, created by Hugh Collins, were sold to Salvage Hunters presenter and antique dealer Drew Pritchard for £1,200 on a visit to the zoo in 2016. The programme was broadcast in 2017 but the Daily Record reports that former gangster Mr Collins, who lives in the Borders, says he was not told about the sale.

The newspaper reports it was only after a repeat last year that Mr Collins discovered the fate of his artwork. He then contacted the zoo expecting an explanation for not seeking his permission and an apology - but feels he has been left without answers ever since.

Mr Collins, who has dementia, told the Record: “It’s not about money. I don’t need much and any share of £1200 is not going to change my life.

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Hugh Collins. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Hugh Collins. Pic: Ian Rutherford

“But I want to see the zoo’s management in court because of the way they’ve treated me.”

Mr Collins said he has instructed a lawyer to “look at options because I’ve been treated with absolute contempt.”

He said that zoo bosses have “taken a liberty with my work” and that they have failed to acknowledge it or apologise for it.

Ben Supple, director of engagement at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity which runs the zoo, said: “We discussed this matter with Mr Collins in June last year.

“Both gorilla head sculptures were sold in good faith by our charity, which protects endangered species in Scotland and around the world.”

Mr Collins was jailed for stabbing gang rival Willie Mooney to death outside a Glasgow pub in 1977 and served 16 years of a life sentence in prison before his release.

But he was transformed from one of Scotland’s most dangerous prisoners - after trying to kill three prison officers within months of his convictions - to a skilled sculptor while in Barlinnie’s Special Unit.

In a moving interview with Scotland on Sunday in 2011, Mr Collins revealed how his late wife’s death made him realise the devastation he had caused to Mr Mooney’s family. Caroline McNairn, also an artist, died aged 55 just a short time after the couple learnt she had cervical cancer.

Collins met his wife-to-be in 1990 when he was allowed out of prison once a week to work in a gallery. He gave Carolein all of the credit for his sanity and for keeping him out of trouble.

Collins and Mooney had a history, with Mooney once badly beating him up on a previous occasion. They knew they were going to fight and that both would have knives and that one or both of them would be badly hurt.

During the Scotland on Sunday interview, Mr Collins spoke about stabbing others in fights and attacking prison officers in jail but said he was “just a scared laddie,” adding: “When I struck with a blade, I always felt sick. I felt like a monster.”

He also said he was sorry for killing Willie Mooney and was sorry for it every day since it happened.

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