THE Agutters seemed a perfectly ordinary couple in the East Lothian

village of Athelstaneford. Locals thought he was a doctor, a notion he

did nothing to dispel, although he is a doctor of philosophy rather than

a medical practitioner.

Alex Agutter 39, is also a PhD. She taught Scots in the

English-language department of Edinburgh University before leaving in


Paul Agutter 48, had been married before. His married his first wife

Jennifer in 1970 and, after a fairly stormy relationship, they divorced

five years later.

Born in Glossop, Derbyshire, Paul Agutter first arrived in Edinburgh

in 1964 to study medicine, but he switched courses after two years. He

gained a first class BSc in 1968 and worked as demonstrator in

biochemistry at Edinburgh University between 1971 and 1974 during which

time he gained a PhD in molecular biology.

Paul and Alex were married in 1976 and he joined the staff of Napier

College as a lecturer the following year. Promotion followed as it

changed first into a polytechnic and then into a university. His

position at the time of his arrest was reader in cell biology, carrying

a salary of more than #31,000.

Few doubted the couple's intellectual glitter. Impromptu limericks and

clever puns, sometimes self-mocking, were features of the banter around

their dinner table at Kilduff Lodge. In 1983 they co-wrote a paper

entiled Aspects of Fuzziness in the Semantics and Pragmatics of English.

Less clear was the emotional integrity of the marriage. Over the last

five years they continued to live under the same roof while both had

affairs with other partners. There were deeper undercurrents of emotive

turmoil beneath this outwardly civilised arrangement.

Alex has a direct manner and friends also spoke of a manic side to

Paul Agutter.

In the months leading to the poisoning, he was said to have been

suffering from depression linked to financial pressures of maintaining

the family home and a relationship he had developed with a former

student, Carole Bonsall.

At the police press conference after discovery of the bottles,

Geoffrey Sharwood-Smith was clear of what he thought of the poisoner:

''It was the work an evil and twisted mind.''

Interviewed by The Herald later that day, Agutter played the part of

victim well, but some of his comments did not ring wholly true. He knew

then that the police had figured out atropine had been used.

''It has been very stressful, quite ghastly, but I am becoming more


Asked what he thought of the person who did it, he was more flustered:

''I really cannot imagine. I simply cannot understand that question at

all because it is beyond me to imagine what type of person could do


Agutter also seemed intrigued to learn that the other victims had been

in a doctor's family and, the following week before his arrest, he made

contact with the Sharwood-Smiths.

''To us at the time, this was just another family which had been

poisoned,'' recalls Geoffrey Sharwood-Smith. ''He told us he was

medically qualified and not practising. That was lie. He also said this

to other people. ''He appeared to know how much atropine could go into

tonic water before it could be detected by taste.

''I was astonished by this. Even though he was a biochemist, it was an

odd thing to know. He definitely had expert knowledge about atropine and

seemed to want to show it off.''

While on remand in Saughton Prison, Agutter was visited by his wife,

who was still apparently convinced of his innocence.

Two days after his arrest, he also wrote an extraordinary letter to

Geoffrey Sharwood-Smith, insisting that it was the work of a supermarket

poisoner, and expressing hope that he would be caught soon, ''hopefully

without any fatalities''.

Agutter said he had faith in the judicial system and was confident he

would not be convicted. He emphasised his liking and respect for his

wife, but said he loved Carole and he definitely wanted to marry her.

But for some people who knew Agutter, his conviction came as no


''I could believe he cooked this up simply to see if he could get away

with it,'' said one former acquaintance. ''He was someone who took pride

in his cunning.''

Agutter's conviction means that life for the Sharwood-Smiths and other

victims can now return to normal. ''It was something of a miracle that

has no-one was killed. But for some extraordinary chances, he could have

got away with it,'' says Dr Sharwood-Smith. ''It was so clever and

convenient. But he was just too clever.''