A FORMER prisoner who died protesting his innocence over the murder of a taxi driver is having his case reviewed by Scotland's miscarriage of justice body.

John McLay is thought to have taken his own life at home last year after he had spent nine years in prison for the drug-fuelled killing of Stephen McDermott, 27, in February 1992.

He had pledged to clear his name after another man had claimed to be the killer.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) is reviewing the case and could recommend to the High Court that McLay receives a posthumous pardon.

He was just 17 when he was sentenced to life for the attack outside his home in Glasgow.

Seven affidavits at the centre of his alleged miscarriage of justice, including one from a prison officer which states his co-accused Stephen Harkins had bragged about being the real murderer before his death.

McLay was found dead at his home on January 3, last year. It was believed he took his own life.

Before his body was found at home, the former prisoner told supporters on social media he had "felt let down by the (legal) system". His last words were: "The End."

Relatives had been looking at taking a case to the SCCRC with support from the Glasgow-based Miscarriages of Justice Organisation which said McLay's death was a scandal.


The SCCRC have now confirmed that they have been conducting a full review of the case.

Fewer than one in four applications to the SCCRC result in such a review.

They have the power to refer the case to the High Court if they believe there has been a miscarriage of justice. The court's judges will then decides whether to overturn the conviction.

Two years ago, at the age of 37, and with a 21-year-old son, McLay revealed he had attemptedto kill himself three times as a result of "the torment of what happened" and pledged to leave "no stone unturned" in fighting the case, including taking a lie detector test if necessary to prove his innocence.

The former shipping container industry worker and his co-accused blamed each other for the murder, with both said to have been using the drug temazepam at the time.

Lord Prosser, told the jury during the 1993 trial that there appeared to be substantial evidence against Harkins, who had already used his knife on another man that night. Only one person had stabbed Mr McDermott.

But there was also blood on a distinctive jacket said to have been worn by McLay.

The jury found the murder charge against Harkins – then 22 – not proven, while McLay was found guilty.

Subsequent sworn statements that Harkins had admitted sole responsibility for the murder before and after the trial were deemed "hearsay evidence", and McLay was

not allowed to use them in an appeal that subsequently failed.

In December, 1997, then Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar referred the case to the Court of Appeal in a landmark ruling that resulted in the statements being considered.

New laws allow evidence that comes to light after a conviction to be admitted as grounds for appeal.

That evidence included a statement from William Blake, a prison officer in Greenock Prison, who said Harkins told him McLay was serving life for a murder he had not committed.

Court papers say: "Blake had not been interested because it was raining and they were trying to get through the grill gate, but Harkins went on and said, 'I know who did it – I did it'."

It did not occur to him to tell senior officers immediately and he refused to give an affidavit at first as he feared harm would come to him, court papers show.

He eventually made a statement after Harkins died in January 1999.

Other evidence was provided by two convicted murderers and a robber serving eight years.

Appeal court judge Lord Coulsfield accepted the evidence may have led a jury to accept Mr Harkins did claim on several occasions that he had committed the murder, but that it was not of such significance to show a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

In April 2000, Lord Coulsfield, dismissing the appeal, questioned the admissions.

McLay, who had late adopted his father's name of McIntosh, said: "It hurts me that the Court of Appeal had the chance to put things right but chose to brush me off by simply saying Harkins was just boasting.

"It was just the easy way out.

A year after Lord Coulsfield's ruling, McLay was released on "interim liberation".