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Who hired hitman to kill legal chief?

A HITMAN is facing a lengthy jail sentence after attempting to murder a senior legal official in a frenzied knife attack.

FRENZIED ATTACK: Robert Graham was found guilty of attempting to murder former deputy chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Leslie Cumming, right.
FRENZIED ATTACK: Robert Graham was found guilty of attempting to murder former deputy chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, Leslie Cumming, right.

Police believe Robert Graham was ordered to kill Leslie Cumming, former deputy chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, by someone who had been “disgruntled” by investigations into allegedly crooked lawyers.

The motive may form part of a further investigation into the attack.

Graham, 46, lay in wait for Mr Cumming to return home before launching the silent assault in a darkened lane in Edinburgh on January 23, 2006.

The “cowardly” knifeman fled the country as the net closed in on him but investigators followed him to Australia where he was arrested and extradited.

Mr Cumming is an accountant whose previous role with the solicitors’ professional body involved running a team of inspectors who checked the books of law firms.

He was also involved in dealing with disciplining lawyers and providing information to law enforcement authorities. The attack is thought to have been connected to this role.

After yesterday’s verdict, Mr Cumming, 68, said: “The actual event was horrific and bloody and having to explain to the court in such detail as we could recall at this time was traumatic for my wife and me. I hope now that this nightmare has ended for us and we can get back to a normal life.”

After the attack, Graham, who assumed a new identity after arriving in Britain 12 years ago and had previously gone by the name Paul Francis McGhee, confessed to a workmate he had “done a judge in” and was paid £10,000 by a man in a BMW to give the law official “a good working over”.

Last night Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie, who has worked on the inquiry for a number of years, said the verdict “sends out a clear message Lothian and Borders will quite literally pursue people to the other side of the world to bring them to court”.

He said: “Graham thought by putting some considerable distance between himself and the scene of this appalling, vicious attack, he had evaded justice. He had not reckoned on the tenacity of Lothian and Borders Police who refused to be deterred by the many hurdles they had to overcome in this investigation.”

Mr Cumming suffered knife wounds in the attack at a lane at the rear of his home in Murrayfield Drive. He was so badly injured he needed surgery but, before he went into theatre, a doctor took swabs from around his fingernails, providing crucial DNA evidence against his attacker.

Mr Cumming grasped the balaclava worn by his attacker as he made a bid to unmask his assailant. Further DNA evidence was recovered from the Barbour jacket he was wearing at the time.

It was linked to DNA evidence from a separate crime in England two years ago and led police to the attacker’s identity.

The international investigation involved Interpol and authorities in at least four countries. Graham was wanted in New Zealand for an earlier drugs charge.

Graham appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on a charge of assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement, danger of life and attempted murder “with a knife or similar instrument”.

He was convicted by a jury after a nine-day trial in which the prosecution was led by the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson, QC.

John Logue, area procurator-fiscal for Lothian and Borders, said: “I hope this successful prosecution will secure the confidence of the Scottish public that those who try to evade justice will be pursued and brought before the courts.”

Graham was remanded in custody and will appear for sentence on December 15.

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