A self-confessed heroin addict has been dramatically cleared of murdering a Fife man and robbing him of drugs and money.
A jury at the High Court at Livingston took just under three hours today to return a majority verdict finding the case against landscape gardener Steven Thomson, 29, not proven.
Judge Lady Rae told the father-of-three – who was facing a life sentence if he had been convicted of bludgeoning Duncan Banks to death – that he was free to leave the dock.
During the 14-day trial the jury heard that the murder weapon – thought to be a rusty claw hammer – was never found.
A spare key to Duncan’s flat and the heroin and cash the dead man had from selling drugs to addicts in the Abbeyview area of Dunfermline were also missing.
Thomson, the court heard, was one of a select few people who Duncan allowed into his council flat in Skye Road, Dunfermline.
The accused had even stayed over at Duncan’s flat in the week leading up to his death in September 2015.
Giving evidence in his own defence, he told the jury that he had been taking heroin in Duncan’s flat less than two hours before police reckon he was murdered.
Thomson’s DNA was found on cigarette ends in an ashtray in Duncan’s living room.
But he insisted that he was not guilty of murder and lodged a special defence blaming another man cross-dresser Jamie Curtis, 44, for the crime.
He said the large sum of money seen on CCTV stuffed in his wallet later that morning was the proceeds from his own heroin dealing.
And he said a fellow inmate at Perth Prison who claimed Thomson confessed to him and another drug user who gave evidence Thomson had told him he was going to “rob” Duncan, were both lying.
Duncan – described as a likeable character who “wouldn’t hurt a fly” – suffered horrific head injuries including “extensive fracturing” to his skull and deep cuts and tears in his scalp which caused “traumatic” damage to his brain.
The 39-year-old was pronounced dead at his home in Skye Road, Dunfermline, just after 17:00 on Monday 28 September 2015.
The jury was told that the formal cause of death was the result of seven “blunt force trauma” injuries to his skull.
Curtis, 44, Jamie Curtis, the man blamed by the accused for committing the murder, testified that he had phoned Duncan at 09.39am on Sunday and spoke with him for 10 secs.
That was last call the dead man answered. He also admitted that, based on information given to him by the detectives, he was probably the last person to see Duncan alive.
Mr. Curtis told how he went to Duncan’s flat in Skye Road, Dunfermline, at around 10am on Sunday 27 September to buy heroin.
He told the jury: “I banged on his door. Duncan came to the door. I think we just had a laugh – ‘How you doing, mate? – and that was it.”
When he was unable to contact Duncan by phone later that day he assumed he had been “busted” by police and sent a text saying as much to David Docherty, who he knew supplied Duncan with drugs.
Thomson showed no emotion as the verdict was returned and refused to comment as he left court with friend and family.
Duncan’s mother Dorothy Banks, 73, who told the jury her son had been in the grip of a drug habit for more than 20 years before his death, said heroin had changed his personality.
She said was being “threatened” over a drugs debt in the week before he was murdered and she last saw him four days before she learned he was dead.
She declined to comment on the jury’s verdict.