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Man convicted over role in brutal gang killing died in prison from lung condition, inquiry finds

James Connor.
James Connor.

A convicted murderer died as a result of a lung condition, and nothing could have been done to prevent it, an inquiry has found.

James Connor died on May 2 last year while a serving prisoner at HMP Grampian.

The 55-year-old was serving a life sentence, with a punishment part of 14 years and 11 months, after being found guilty of taking part in a brutal gang killing in Fraserburgh.

Gary Clampett was killed in a frenzied attack involving a machete, a sword and a hammer in the middle of the street on June 18, 2017.

Six men were convicted following his death, including Connor.

During a High Court trial, Connor was found guilty of murder alongside John Henderson, Gary Martin, Thomas Martin and Dean Leech.

A sixth man, Joseph Martin, was convicted of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

In total, the group were jailed for more than 100 years.

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HMP Grampian.

Mr Clampett bled to death after he was stabbed in the chest following a brawl in front of his home on Fernie Place.

During the trial, the jury heard the violence had stemmed from a long-running dispute between the Clampett and Martin families.

Connor was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by ambulance on April 30 2020 after feeling unwell during the night and suffering low oxygen levels.

It had been suspected Connor may have had Covid-19, but a test came back negative and he was diagnosed as having progressive type 2 respiratory failure and respiratory acidosis.

He was intubated and given critical care but was found dead at 10.50am on May 2.

An inquiry was carried out and, in his findings, Sheriff Robert Frazer noted: “From the agreed evidence it was clear that the deceased had long term health conditions, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), from which he had suffered prior to his incarceration.

“The autopsy report makes clear that this was the cause of death.

“The deceased was a heavy smoker with a history of illicit drug abuse.

“At the time of his admission to hospital, he was on a methadone prescription programme of 480ml per day. In addition, he had a previous history of episodes of breathlessness.

Connor was suspected of having Covid-19

“Whilst there was an initial suspicion that the deceased may have contracted
the Covid-19 virus in April 2020 the appropriate tests showed this to be negative.

“I am also satisfied from Scottish Prison Service (SPS) productions that the appropriate procedures for dealing with a suspected Covid-19 case were followed and the deceased required to self-isolate for the requisite period of time.

“I am therefore satisfied that, based on all of the above, the deceased’s death
was solely attributable to COPD as recorded in the death certificate.”

Inquiry documents also state: “That there are no precautions which could reasonably have been taken that might realistically have resulted in the death being avoided.

“That there were no defects in any system of working which contributed to the
death.”

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