Murderer to serve at least 18 years

Derek Kinghorn
Derek Kinghorn

A man who murdered his friend of ten years in a savage knife attack after he claimed he had made a bad joke about his mother has been jailed for life and told the minimum period he would serve before any possibility of release would be 18 years.

Derek Kinghorn, 44, was found guilty after an eight-day trial at the High Court in Livingston last month of repeatedly striking Brian Mair, 45, on the head and body with a knife and murdering him in his Howegate home on November 1 last year. Sentence had been deferred until Wednesday for background reports.

During the trial the jury heard Kinghorn had drunk 10 cans of beer and smoked several cannabis joints with his friend prior to the attack. Kinghorn claimed Mr Mair had made an offensive joke about his mother.

He told the court: “He didn’t know my mother and I found it disrespectful to talk about someone else’s mother. I love and respect my mother and I don’t like someone saying anything about her.”

Kinghorn got an eight-inch knife from the kitchen and launched the attack on his friend. One stab wound pierced Mr Mair’s shoulder blade, passing through his lung and severing the main artery leading to the heart.

At the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Kinghorn’s defence counsel, Neil Murray QC, said the attack had been an appalling act on behalf of his client, who recognised the obvious distress it had had on relatives and friends of both families. This, he admitted, was totally inadequate as far as Mr Mair’s relatives were concerned.

Kinghorn, he added, had been devastated by the outcome of his actions. “Whatever he did, it was totally and thoroughly out of character,” said Mr Murray.

Kinghorn, the QC went on, had had difficulties in his life with drugs. Seeking to distance himself from the lifestyle he had been leading previously, he had become a hermit, not wishing to go out and get involved. In shutting himself off, he suffered from hydrophobia and paranoia.

Mr Murray said that unusually for an accused in a crime of this nature, the risk assessment report stated it was highly unlikely he would act in this manner in the future.

Mr Murray added: “Drink, of course, was involved in this incident. He does not see drink in any way as a mitigating factor and certainly does not use it as an excuse.”

Sentencing Kinghorn, temporary judge Michael O’Grady QC told him: “There is, of course, only one sentence which I can impose and that is a life sentence. The question is when, if ever, you are released.

“However, the law says it is up to me to fix the punishment period, the minimum period before any release. That has to reflect the circumstances and consequences of your crime.

“This was a dreadful crime. A brutal, cowardly attack on your friend. There was no provocation. You took the life of a young man who could expect many years of life before him.

“You killed him in the presence of his partner and she has been deeply traumatised.”

Judge O’Grady told Kinghorn the punishment period would be backdated to November 3 last year and would be for 18 years.

As Kinghorn was led from the dock he gave a thumbs-up sign to friends in court.