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P&J Investigations

Dale Haslam: This was a case of horror, revulsion, sadness and sympathy, and one I will never forget

Court number one at Edinburgh High Court will be a room forever etched in the memory of those who have attended in recent days. reports.
Dale Haslam
Bennylyn Burke and her daughter Jellica
Bennylyn Burke and her daughter Jellica

Court number one at Edinburgh High Court will be a room forever etched in the memory of those who have attended in recent days.

Those present endured a range of emotions: horror and revulsion at the gruesome evidence, sympathy and sadness for the victims and their families and, finally, relief as justice was done.

It has been an unimaginably dreadful few days for everyone – not least the family of Bennylyn and Jellica Burke who travelled thousands of miles to witness proceedings.

At times it just became too much and the charity supporting the family shielded them from the truly shocking evidence as much as they could, guiding them out of court when the worst details of this hideous tale emerged.

The choice of courtroom itself did little to reduce the palpable tension in the room.

As courtrooms go, this one was small and space was at a premium. Everyone sat cheek by jowl as they listened to the evidence unfold.

The 12 jurors sat just a few feet from Innes in the dock.

Challenging moments

Flanked by two security staff, the killer arrived at court each day clad in a dark suit and white shirt with no tie.

Andrew Innes. Image: DC Thomson

His hair was swept back into a ponytail each day and he occasionally and furtively looked down to take notes.

Behind the dock was the public gallery – four rows of seating with no separate press bench for journalists.

It meant the eight or so reporters there were acutely aware at all times of the need for sensitivity and respect, with loved ones of both the accused and victim sitting close by.

One of the most challenging moments came when the jury heard the charges, which include explicit detail of sexual acts committed against children.

With each charge read to them, the detail became more harrowing and was only a precursor to the horror that would be described on later days.

On several occasions, I thought how brave the jurors were to maintain their composure while carefully listening to evidence that most people would never ever want to hear for fear it would never leave them.

Forever scarred

The most difficult moments of the trial were the two sessions in which a young girl, who was raped by Innes, told of her ordeal through a pre-recorded interview.

In the video specialist police staff used a delicate interview technique to record what she had endured.

As the little girl sat on the floor, using felt pens to colour in pictures in a book, two officers carefully asked her questions. The answers were heart-breaking.

Indeed, everything about this case is heart-breaking. A mum and child heading to Britain to start a new life before being murdered by an abomination. A young girl  forever scarred by this excuse for a human being.

Police have described this case as the most difficult officers have seen in 30 years of service. So challenging that some officers remain traumatised almost two years after visiting Innes’s house.

For me, personally, this case has dominated my thoughts for the last two years since I started work investigating the background to the events involved. Indeed, it will be forever seared in my memory.

The family of Bennylynn leaving court. Image: DC Thomson.

I was in direct contact with Bennylyn’s family as they were struggling to understand what was happening given the case was being handled by a legal system thousands of miles away from their home in the Philippines.

They were being helped by staff from a charity too. But while Kanlungan staff did sterling work, it is only a small charity with limited resources.

So often it was up to me to let Bennylyn’s family know what was happening with the case.

Back in 2021, six new charges were added to the indictment that revealed the allegations of sexual abuse. But the family were unaware of the development.

Kanlungan and another charity Migrante International, arranged a Zoom call for myself and Bennylyn’s sister Shela and father Benedicto to discuss the case.

I will never forget the awful feeling as I told them of the new charges.

Never sees the light of day

On another occasion, the family contacted me to say they were having problem getting an appointment for Benedicto to secure his visa, so he could travel to the trial.

The P&J and a Filipino national living in Italy named Patricia Valerio were able to contact several officials who ensured Benedicto got the right paperwork to travel.

The family were put at ease and could focus on the trial.

My thoughts today are with them – and with the brave little girl who courageously provided police with witness accounts that were articulate beyond her years.

I only hope she can live a long and healthy life not influenced by the trauma she has experienced.

And that Innes never sees the light of day.