Mrs Margaret Irvine lived in Galston, Ayrshire.
She was 91 years old and had been a widow for over 30 years.
Mrs Irvine had lived alone for over 25 years and had been housebound for the last seven years of her life.
Physically Mrs Irvine was infirm and needed to use an electric stair life and a zimmer-frame.
However, she was a very independent old lady.
She lived alone in her semi detached villa. Her kitchen and living room was downstairs and she had two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
Her carers supplied her with meals but she was able to dress herself and move about with the aid of the zimmer-frame and her stair lift.
Around the 4th July 2003, someone broke into her house during the night and had taken purses and money totalling about £1000.
Due to her age, this had been the subject of publicity and village gossip.
It would be fair to say that this break in had traumatised the old lady.
Carers would come to the house sometime between and 9.30 am.
The carer had a key to the side door to gain access to the house.
The carer would provide breakfast for Mrs Irvine.
Her normal breakfast was half a bread roll with butter and jam.
The carer would spend between 20 minutes to half an hour with Mrs Irvine.
After the carer left, Mrs Irvine would get up, dress herself and go downstairs.
Lunch was provided by the Social Work Department and another carer would call in, in the evening.
Different carers provided care at weekends from those who provided care during the week.
In 2003, Mrs Mary McQuarrie who had been a care assistant for three years. She provided the early mornings for the weekend shifts.
It was she who had provided care on
Mrs McQuarrie arrived that morning at .
She used the key to get into the house. She went upstairs and spoke to Mrs Irvine and asked what she wanted for breakfast.
She gave Mrs Irvine her breakfast and said she put on a lamp next to the bed.
She sat with her until Mrs Irvine ate her half of bread roll and a cup of tea. Mrs McQuarrie said that Mrs Irvine seemed fine that morning and Mrs Irvine had told her that she intended to, “have a lie in”.
Mrs Irvine’s instructions to Mrs McQuarrie were to leave the house unlocked to allow others to come in.
Mrs Violet Connell had been a home help for 29 years
After her retirement she had continued at Mrs Irvine’s request to continue to provide care for her
Each Wednesday Mrs Connell provided one hour of care and she did the housework also
On Saturdays and Sundays, Mrs McConnell would go into see Mrs Irvine for half an hour and give her tea.
The rest of the week, Mrs Irvine received some assistance from Social Services.
Mrs McConnell said that Mrs Irvine was alert mentally and a strong willed woman, but was housebound.
Normally Mrs Irvine would be sitting on a chair waiting on Mrs McQuarrie but this day she was not.
Mrs McQuarrie shouted upstairs to alert Mrs Irvine that she was there but received no reply.
She went upstairs and saw Mrs Irvine slumped on her bed on her front. She was lying across the bed with her feet still on the ground.She was wearing her nightdress and pants
Mrs McQuarrie saw something sticking up from her hands which were behind Mrs Irvine’s back and thought it was the strap from her watch.
She thought Mrs Irvine had taken a heart attack or stroke and it appeared to her that Mrs Irvine was dead.
She did not touch her and went to get help.
The police and ambulance arrived and confirmed that Mrs Irvine was dead and that her hands were bound behind her back with a leather belt.
She had one plate of her dentures in one hand and the other plate was found on the bed beneath her. Her face was covered with a sheet and when that was removed it was noted that a household duster had been forced into her mouth. Mrs Irvine suffocated due to the duster.
She had 23 external injuries, which indicated she had been hit in the face when her dentures had been in place.
The fact that her dentures were found lying on her bed and in her hand indicates that she probably removed them after the initial assault.
There where injuries to her mouth, defensive injuries to her left arm. She also had bruising to her scalp and there was bruising of the neck muscles consistent with her neck being gripped.
She also had a fractured rib and bleeding at the site
After an examination of the scene by police officers, forensic scientists and the pathologist it was discovered that the electricity had been switched off at the main switch located in the kitchen cupboard.
The kitchen was the first point of access after who ever entered the unlocked door.
The telephone had also been disconnected.
The Zimmer which was always at the foot of the stairs so that Mrs Irvine could use it when she came off the stair life had been moved too
.Every room showed signs of an intruder.
Drawers had been opened, jewellery boxes opened and items had been moved.
In the spare room was a locked wardrobe. This showed no signs of being forced. Police found the key .When they opened the wardrobe they found a pink make up bag, an envelope and a cardboard holder, each of which had money in them. In total there was £8,150.
The evidence does suggest that this was a premeditated attempt to rob this elderly lady of her life savings
Mrs Irvine was subjected to a prolonged attack before her death.
From the contents of Mrs Irvine’s stomach she had been dead for a few hours at least. The pathologist could not give an exact time of death because she would have died within ten to fifteen minutes of being gagged.
The prosecution made out that the time of death was around give or take two hours.