THE man convicted of the racist murder of an Orkney waiter 20 years ago has spoken for the first time about the devastating effect the case has had on his family.
Former Black Watch sniper Michael Ross, 35, was jailed for 25 years for shooting Shamsuddin Mahmood in the head in 1994.
Now, in a letter from his prison cell, Ross has again denied the murder at the Mumutaz Restaurant in Kirkwall and voiced his hopes that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) will refer the case back to the High Court.
The SCCRC is expected to rule on Ross’s appeal in the next few weeks after his legal team lodged a detailed submission over discrepancies in the evidence.
Ross’s first appeal failed but now the SCCRC will decide whether the case should be sent back to the High Court as a potential miscarriage of justice.
But Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said last night: “This man appears to have no compelling evidence or something substantial pointing to his innocence for him to make this appeal.”
In his letter, Ross, who was living in Inverness when he was arrested, said: “I did not kill Shamsuddin Mahmood and had nothing to do with his murder.
“Before finding out that Shamsuddin had been murdered, I had no knowledge of him and had never encountered him. I sympathise with his family.
“It would be terrible to lose a loved one in this way and I feel for Shamsuddin and his family as they have still not had justice.”
He described his arrest for the murder in 2007 as a “shock to the system” and denied he was a racist, saying that the allegation was “ridiculous and offensive”.
But he said the worst effects of the case had been on his family.
Ross said: “My wife has been forced to become a single mother with all of the hardships that go with that.
“My children and my wife miss me dreadfully and I them. It’s really hard for us to be apart all the time. We talk on the phone daily but it’s not the same as having normal family contact.
“We have tried to keep a lot from my girls just to protect them from all the upset. My oldest girl has lots of questions for me and I have been answering them as best I can.
“We only get to see each other several times a year at visits and it’s hard with the expense and distance to travel, not to mention the stress on my wife and kids coming into the prison.
“It’s also hard not seeing my parents as much as I’d like. I have simple hopes for the future. All I want is to be back home with my wife and children, to spend time with my family and get a job and work for a living.”
He added: “I pass my days now by keeping myself fit and reading. I’ve been privileged to have a mass of support from people at home, good friends and my family. I am so grateful for all the support that people have given me and I would be in a darker place without that support.
“I hope the SCCRC can bring my case back to court to be looked at properly. So far we have had nothing but false hope from the legal system. I want my case to be taken back to trial to be examined by unbiased eyes and this should allow me to go free and help in getting closer to justice for Shamsuddin and his family.”
The murder of Mr Mahmood remained unsolved for 12 years until new evidence emerged in 2007.
Ross, who was 15 at the time of the killing, was jailed in 2008 following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow. His sentence was later extended by five years after he tried to escape from court to a car containing guns and a grenade.
Commenting on the appeal, Mrs Mitchell said: “While he is fully entitled to do so, you have to question why he is doing it now since he has had plenty of time in prison to think about his crime.
“It is also significant that he did not give evidence at the trial, but is speaking out now.
“No doubt this appeal will be having a major effect on the victim’s family and causing them a lot of unnecessary upset.”
A spokesman for Victim Support Scotland said the organisation did not comment on specific cases.
However, he added: “Once a court has determined a sentence and the option for appeal has been exhausted, it would be our hope that process would allow some form of closure for victims of crime and their families.
“We recognise that is not always the case and clearly any further publicity will have an impact on the victim’s families.”
Ross’s supporters, including his father, Eddy, claim the former soldier has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and are fighting to clear his name.
They say there are discrepancies over the height of the killer, who was described as being up to 6ft. Ross is understood to have been about 5ft 6in at the time of the murder, and his supporters released a family video taken just weeks before in order to prove his short stature.