• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Cheers as murderer gets life for hammer attack which left boy's skull in fragments Mystery of child killer's motive

CHILD killer James Reid was jailed for life yesterday, the motive for his brutal murder of four-year-old James Ward still a mystery. Police believe that the horror of what Reid did made him forget the details of his crime.

Loading article content

The small, bespectacled alcoholic stood in the dock of the High Court in Glasgow, branded a murderer. Traces of James's blood were found throughout his house in Castlemilk, in his garden, and on his clothes. Even 59-year-old Reid's spectacles were smeared with blood. He struck so many blows on the child's head with a slater's hammer that his skull was smashed into fragments, like a jigsaw. Yet when interviewed by police and his legal team, and when he gave evidence in court, an indignant Reid claimed to have no recollection of his actions. He said that while he was out walking his dog someone else must have gained access to his flat with keys which he had lost some time before, and murdered James. Reid's defence counsel Mr Donald Findlay QC suggested that the bloodstains on his trousers and spectacles could have got on to him when his dogs, Ben and Sasha, got covered in the boy's blood and brushed up against him. Yesterday, at the end of a four-day trial, Reid, of Ardencraig Quadrant, Castlemilk, was found unanimously guilty of murdering James, who lived nearby at Tormusk Gardens, on February 11. Reid showed little emotion at the verdict, resting his chin on his hand and slowly shaking his head at the jury. Members of James's family, and Castlemilk people sitting in the public benches, cheered and clapped as the verdict was announced Sentencing him Lord Kirkwood said Reid's crime was ''brutal and savage''. Earlier Mr Findlay told Lord Kirkwood: ''There is nothing more tragic in the world than the death of a child in circumstances such as this. ''This matter has been fully investigated from every conceivable angle and the accused's position is, as he said before the trial and in the witness box, that he is innocent. ''There is one thing the jury will want answered and that is why a man of 59 with a blameless record should have committed such a crime as this. ''I regret that this is a question I cannot answer here today. It is a question that may never be answered.'' During the trial the jury heard how James disappeared virtually in the blink of an eye as his great grandmother Grace Boyle, 62, who looked after him while his parents were working, watched him walk to her sister's house in Castlemilk. Reid occupied the flat next door to Mrs Boyle's sister, Margaret Stewart. Twenty minutes later when Mrs Boyle went to pick up the little boy she discovered he had never arrived at his great aunt's. The two distraught women toured the area calling his name and asking locals if they had seen him. They found James's body in a back court just over the wall from Reid's back garden. As ambulance men tried in vain to revive the child police followed a trail of blood over the garden wall and across Reid's lawn to his back steps. Inside the flat - they had to use torches because there were no bulbs in some of the light fittings - they found Reid covered in blood. He had been watching television and the floor was strewn with empty sherry bottles and strong lager cans. In his bedroom, where he had repeatedly struck the boy with his slater's hammer, they found a blood-soaked pillow. There was blood on the walls, blood on the bath, blood on damp clothing in the bath which he had tried to wash clean, and blood in the kitchen. Police also found blood on Reid's hammer, although he had tried to clean it off with a newspaper and water. A heavily stained polythene bag has been used to cover James's head in an vain effort to prevent his blood from spilling everywhere. Reid had also hidden one of the child's trainers in a tea chest in his bedroom cupboard. Witnesses put Reid in the street outside coming home with a carry-out from walking his dog and drunkenly flailing his arms about at the same time as little James was heading to see his great aunt. Despite the evidence against him Reid, who had lived for 40 years in the house where the murder occurred, maintained his innocence throughout. The jury heard a tape recording of him indignantly denying any knowledge of James or the killing in a police interview. He also went into the witness box to claim he would never hurt a dumb animal, far less a child whose parents were known to him. A detective who investigated the case said later: ''There is absolutely no explanation why he killed this little boy. ''It is possible that the sheer horror of the crime has either blanked out his memory or made him too horrified himself to admit what he did.''

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

PARCH1.386053