Gunman loses appeal against life sentence for attempted murder

Lee Connors pulled his trigger three times at Grant MacBeth in a property at Barn park in Wester Hailes in 2014. Picture: TSPL
Lee Connors pulled his trigger three times at Grant MacBeth in a property at Barn park in Wester Hailes in 2014. Picture: TSPL

A GUNMAN who pulled the trigger on his weapon three times in an attempted murder but failed to fire a bullet, has lost an appeal against his life sentence.

Lee Connors pointed a handgun at Grant MacBeth’s face and repeatedly tried to discharge the weapon but fled after it malfunctioned.

The incident occurred in the Barn Park area of Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, in 2014.

Police found there were three bullets in the six chambers of the revolver when they later recovered it and that it was capable of firing, but was erratic.

A judge imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) on Connors (32) last year and said it appeared to be “mere luck” that resulted in the firearm not discharging.

Lord Ericht ordered that Connors must serve at least five years in prison but warned the gunman: “You must not assume that you will be automatically released at the end of that period.”

“You will be released only when it is considered no longer necessary for the protection of the public that you continue to be confined in prison,” said the judge.

Lord Ericht said the OLR “constitutes a sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period”.

Connors appealed against the decision to impose an OLR on him with his counsel Andrew Brown QC arguing that his case could have been dealt with by an extended sentence _ a determinate prison term followed by a period of supervision.

But the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, said: “We consider that the sentencing judge was entitled to make the order he did. We will refuse the appeal.”

Lady Dorrian, who sat with Lord Brodie and Lord Turnbull at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, said they would give full reasons in writing for their decision at a later date.

Connors had originally denied attempting to murder Mr MacBeth on October 25 in 2014 at Barn Park, in Edinburgh, by presenting the revolver at him and trying to fire it during a trial at the High Court in the city, but was convicted of the offence.

He had lodged a special defence of alibi claiming he had been first at his mother’s home and then at a girlfriend’s in Tranent, in East Lothian.

The trial judge, Lord Uist, said: “This case is about as near to murder as you can possibly get _ pointing a loaded revolver at someone’s head and trying to fire.”

A woman who also had the gun pointed at her by Connors during the murder bid told his trial: “He pulled the trigger three times at Grant.”

Kimberley Dow said at the time: “I heard the clicks. Click, click, click. I can still hear the clicking in my head today.”

She said that prior to the attempted murder Connors had contacted her and said he needed help. He told her that there were people after him.

She said she had seen the gun and Connors asked if he could stash it in her house but she told him no. She said he went to hide the weapon in the Juniper Green area of the city.

Connors did not stay at her home that night but Mr MacBeth arrived the following day, before Connors appeared at the window.

She said he was “foaming, raging” and was not happy to see the other man. He drove off but returned screeching round the corner as he went towards Mr MacBeth’s car.

She said he had the gun pointed at her as was coming round the corner but then turned the weapon on Mr MacBeth who told him: “Do what you have to do.”

Connors, who was given a five year sentence for a further firearms offence, was assessed as posing a high risk to the safety of the public at large.