The Investigation

Crime Files

The Investigation

"a cold-blooded assassination" Advocate Depute Brian McConnachie, BBC, 17 June 2008

It was the kind of crime that nobody ever thought could happen in Orkney and put the island in the national news headlines.Police investing the seemingly random killing – the first murder on the Orkneys for 25 years - are hampered by a lack of evidence, as well as by a member of the investigation team itself. Eddie Ross, Kirkwell policeman and Michael’s father, fails to tell his colleagues he owns a box of bullets of the type used in the shooting.

As the local firearms expert, Eddie Ross is given the task of checking all 9mm guns on the island but he concludes that none were capable of firing the bullet and nowhere could he find the same type of ammunition.A range of motives are examined for the murder - is it racially motivated, drug related, a crime of passion, or a contract killing?

The police have one other line of enquiry - the sighting on the afternoon of 19 May 1994 of a male in Papdale Woods, Kirkwall, wearing a balaclava and dressed similarly to the killer in the restaurant. A schoolgirl, Lynn Railston, and a friend, notice this individual crouching behind a wall by the wood as they walk home. When she reaches home she mentions it to her mother, Margaret Railston. They watch the individual from their home for about twenty five minutes. Lynn Railston watches him through binoculars.

They observe him removing some of his clothing, including the balaclava and a distinctively patterned white coloured T-shirt. The subsequent E-FIT bears a striking similarity to the killer as described by the witnesses in the restaurant.

On 8 September 1994 Lynn Railston sees the same male from the wood. She is able to point him out in the street and he is identified as15-year-old Michael Ross.

Investigating officer, DI Chisholm, interviews Michael several times over the following months, trying to pin-point his movements on the day of the murder.Michael’s explanation is that he is in the wood lying in wait for another youth, Jamie Weatherill, who, he had been told, had been physically abusing an ex-girlfriend of Michael’s. He was "going to give him a fright to...stop him from hurting her again". Jamie Weatherill had in the event not come that way that day. Michael admits to wearing a white top with blue and red stripes and a blue tracksuit top with a hood. He had disposed of the balaclava by putting a stone in it and throwing it into the sea.

After the end of exhausting rounds of interviews with Ross the evidence is purely circumstantial and no prosecution is instigated. The enquiry into the murder stalls.

All police can do is put Eddie Ross on trial in 1997 for attempting to pervert the course of justice by hiding his knowledge of the opened box of bullets in his home. He receives a four-year jail sentence after the ex-soldier who gave him the bullets comes forward to police.

But Eddie Ross is not the gunman.