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Man who attacked dog walker in Moray woods cleared of murder

David Johnstone, left and Frank Kinnis, right
David Johnstone, left and Frank Kinnis, right

A stranger who brutally killed an 83-year-old dog walker after attacking another couple in Moray has been ordered to be detained in a high security psychiatric hospital.

David Johnstone’s spree of violence left Frank Kinnis dead and two other victims needing hospital treatment after assaults carried out 40 minutes apart, Edinburgh High Court heard.

First offender Johnstone, 36, was charged with murdering Mr Kinnis at Linkwood Farm, Barmuckity, Elgin, following the attack on him on October 21.

He was also charged with attempting to murder Morris and Janette Smith, both 70, on the same day at Birkenhill Woods, Elgin.

He was also accused of attacking two police officers.

Johnstone was today acquitted of the offences after pleading not guilty on the grounds that at the time he was unable, because of a mental disorder, to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness of his actions – a plea the Crown accepted.

Judge Lord Uist ordered that he be held at the State Hospital at Carstairs before a hearing in September, adding it was “an extremely sad and tragic case”.

Advocate depute Alan Cameron told the court that Johnston’s employment ended in June last year “due to repeated non-attendance”, adding: “His parents also had concerns about his mental health and he saw his GP on June 24. She referred him for an urgent psychiatric review but Mr Johnstone failed to attend the appointment.”

Johnstone approached Mr Smith, out walking his dog with his wife shortly before 9am, and shouted at him, asking if he was called Tom or Tim. He then hit him twice on the face.

The couple started to run.

Mr Cameron said: “The recollection of both complainers is somewhat hazy but Mr Smith was knocked to the ground by Mr Johnstone and recalls him kneeling down next to him and repeatedly punching and kicking him on the head, saying nothing as he did so.”

Police officers who responded to a call from Mrs Smith found the couple covered in blood. They were taken to Dr Gray’s Hospital where Mr Smith was found to have facial fractures and extensive head injuries. His wife also suffered head injuries.

Mr Cameron said the attack had “a significant impact” on the couple, leaving them “significantly anxious” in public or around strangers.

He added: “It has changed their way of life.”

Johnstone ran off and encountered father-of-three Mr Kinnis – a retired dairyman with an active lifestyle and part-time job – at about 9.40am.

The incident was seen by a worker who was on the roof of a building in the area, who described the two men coming together twice and then separating, and Mr Kinnis’s dog Sheeba running off.

Mr Cameron continued: “However, Mr Johnstone then turned and approached Mr Kinnis again. The worker saw them grappling and Mr Johnstone behind Mr Kinnis with his arm around his neck, apparently compressing it.”

As Johnstone ran away pursued by police, another dog walker found Mr Kinnis and called 999.

Mr Cameron said: “It was not possible, due to the extent of his facial injuries, to identify Mr Kinnis.

“However, officers were approached by his wife who had come looking for him when the dog arrived home without him. She was able to describe the clothing which he had been wearing.”

Mr Kinnis suffered face and jaw fractures and significant bleeding to his brain. He died later that day.

Johnstone, who lived alone in Elgin, was arrested by police at home after a short struggle.

Defence counsel Ian Duguid QC described his client, at one time a promising schoolboy footballer signed to Elgin City, as ”significantly mentally unwell”, adding: “His own parents had tried on two occasions to contact NHS 24 with a view to having him sectioned.

“He does wish his remorse and extreme regret to be expressed.”

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