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Pair who murdered Shetland mum have sentences cut – but lose bid to overturn convictions

Ross MacDougall (left) and Dawn Smith (right) murdered Tracy Walker in Lerwick.

A man and a woman found guilty of murdering a Shetland mum have lost their conviction appeal  – but have had their minimum jail terms cut.

However, Ross MacDougall and Dawn Smith, who were found guilty of murdering Tracy Walker in Lerwick, had the appeal against their conviction refused.

Lawyers for MacDougall, 33, and  Smith,29, told judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal earlier this month the punishment part of the sentences imposed on the pair were too severe.

The pair were jailed at the High Court in Edinburgh last year for killing mum-of-two Tracy Walker in July 2019.

MacDougall was ordered to serve at least 23 years while his accomplice was told she’d have to serve at least 20 years.

Judges issue decision on appeal

Lawyers for the pair told judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Pentland and Lord Turnbull that sentences given to people convicted for similar crimes weren’t as lengthy as the ones given to their clients.

They said that the punishment parts should be reduced to bring them into line for people who have been convicted of similar offences.

In a written judgement issued at the court on Tuesday, the judges agreed with defence submissions on sentencing.

Ross MacDougall and Dawn Smith were convicted of murdering mum-of-two Tracy Walker. Supplied by Police.

They reduced MacDougall’s minimum term to 20 years and to 17 years and two months for Smith.

New jail terms for minimum they must serve

The new sentences are the terms the pair must serve before becoming eligible for parole.

Lady Dorrian wrote: “The reason for the different lengths of the sentences lay in the first appellant’s criminal record.

“We agree with senior counsel for the first appellant that only limited assistance can be gained from comparison with other cases but that those cases referred to by the trial judge were both of a more serious or sinister nature than the present one.

“We accept this was a case of extreme violence, and that it was aggravated by the purpose of robbery.

“Nevertheless we are persuaded that a sentence of more than 20 years for the first appellant was not merited, even having regard to his record.

Judge Lady Dorrian

“He has a conviction for assault to severe injury and danger of life by the use of a knife, for which a 16 month sentence was imposed, and another for possession of a knife which attracted 14 months.

“Although she too has prior convictions, those were not of the violent nature of those of the first appellant (although she does have convictions for possession of weapons).

“She has served a sentence of six months imprisonment for theft and bail charges. We will therefore quash the sentences and impose a sentence of life imprisonment with a punishment part of 20 years for the first appellant and a sentence of life imprisonment with a punishment part of 18 years for the second appellant.

“In the latter case the period will be reduced to 17 years and 2 months to reflect the period on remand.”

‘Miscarriage of justice’ claims

At a hearing held earlier this month, MacDougall’s advocate Brian McConnachie QC urged the judges to quash his client’s conviction.

He said MacDougall had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr McConnachie said Lord Uist ignored evidence which could show that Smith alone killed Ms Walker.

And Mr McConnachie said that by not talking about this possibility in his closing directions, Lord Uist deprived jurors of the ability to consider the possibility that it was Smith and not MacDougall who killed Ms Walker.

Advocate Paul Nelson for Dawn Smith said that Lord Uist failed to address the possibility that another person could have handed MacDougall the knife used in the attack against Ms Walker.

Conviction appeals refused

However, the appeal judges rejected the submissions made about why the two accused should have their convictions quashed.

Lady Dorrian wrote: “We are unable to reach the conclusion that the misdirection in this case amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

“In these circumstances the appeal against conviction for the first appellant must fail.

“The appeal against conviction for the second appellant must be refused.”

Pair stood trial last year

The pair stood trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The duo stood trial at  last year and denied striking Ms Walker on the head with a rock before strangling her and stabbing her in the throat.

During proceedings last year, jurors heard how the pair targeted her because they needed money to buy drugs and knew she had £100 on her.

A jury heard Smith handed MacDougall a fish filleting knife which she took from her stepfather’s home in the town.

The pair then confronted 40-year-old Ms Walker in Ladies Drive, Lerwick, and MacDougall struck her on the head with a rock before strangling her and stabbing her in the throat.

Jurors heard following the attack, Smith stood for ten minutes and watched her victim die before she and MacDougall left and took a ride in his car.

At a hearing held earlier this month, MacDougall’s advocate Brian McConnachie QC urged the judges to quash his client’s conviction.

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