By PAUL RIDDELL
THE FATHER of Burra woman Mandy Horne confirmed this week what many people in the isles appear to have known but has never been made public until now – that his daughter was brutally murdered by her husband, the writer, cartoonist and musician Harry Horse, who then killed himself.
George Williamson spoke briefly to The Shetland Times after details were published in a Sunday Times magazine article which directly contradicted the original story that they had died in a suicide pact in January 2007.
Mr Williamson said he wanted it to be known how his daughter died: “This was no living suicide pact. It was murder. Mandy had arranged to go with her mother Grace to the dentist the morning they were found. She wasn’t planning on suicide.”
Mandy Williamson met Harry, whose real name was Richard Horne, when he came to Shetland from Edinburgh in 1989 to play a gig with his bluegrass/rock band Swamptrash.
They were married in Burra the following year and went to live in a flat in Edinburgh before financial difficulties forced them to accept the offer of a cottage in Warwickshire from his parents Derek and Jo.
They returned to Scotland in 2001, and in 2004, after Mandy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, they relocated to Shetland, moving into a house near her parents.
As Mandy’s condition deteriorated, she required a wheelchair and her speech became impaired. Harry is said to have been distraught and became prone to bouts of rage. According to The Sunday Times, he punched a hole in a wall at their home during a row with a social worker over Mandy’s right to disability benefits.
During a visit by Mandy’s two friends on the evening of the 9th January, Horse, 46, is said to have been in a demented state, going around their house in Papil proclaiming: “It’s a wonderful night for a killing.” Mandy is said to have been so distressed that she did not want her friends to leave.
The following morning the friends returned to pick up some clothes and found Mandy and Harry lying together on her bed. The walls, floor and windows were covered with blood.
According to the pathologist’s report, Harry had stabbed Mandy more than 30 times, and even fetched a second knife when the first broke. None of the wounds was fatal and she bled to death. She was 39. There were defensive wounds on her arms, which suggests she was not a willing party to what Horse did.
Harry then turned the knife on himself. The pathologist recorded 47 wounds. He also died of exsanguination, or blood loss. Harry also killed their chihuahua dog and their cat.
The question is why, despite the presence for several days of a police forensic team, such a horrific killing came to be portrayed in public as suicide pact. Jo Horne told The Sunday Times that the police in Shetland phoned her some days after the deaths to ask whether the two could be buried together.
She also said she received a phone call from the undertaker, who said the couple died “like Romeo and Juliet”. It was 15th January before a police liaison officer told them the truth.
Mrs Horne said: “She said: ‘I have to tell you that this was a horrific ending. The doctor who attended hasn’t returned to work – it’s the worst thing he has ever seen.’ “
The Northern Constabulary’s annual crime statistics for 2007 record that there was one murder in Shetland during the year.
Some of the national media coverage this week following The Sunday Times article has focused on why there was not a fatal accident inquiry into what happened. This is probably a result of reporters’ close familiarity with the English system of inquests which are routinely held in such cases. FAIs are seldom held in these sorts of circumstances in Scotland unless there is a justification “in the public interest”.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Office in Edinburgh said: “Both deaths were reported to the procurator fiscal by Northern Constabulary in January 2007. In July 2007, following full and careful consideration of all of the facts, Crown Counsel instructed that there was to be no FAI in this case.
“In general, the decision whether to hold an FAI is made following a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of the death. This includes consideration of what may be achieved in the public interest in the holding of an FAI.”
In The Sunday Times article, Mrs Horne also says some snobbishly offensive things about Mandy, firstly in relation to the wedding. She complained that the Williamsons had not arranged flowers for the church and did not invite her family back to the house after the ceremony to see the presents. “Her father shoved them all into the garage.” They were, she said, “really strange people, really strange”.
Mrs Horne also criticised Mandy’s attitude when she lived near them in Warwickshire: “She couldn’t make friends, she criticised everything: [Harry’s] cricket, his upbringing, going away to school. We had to be careful what we said . . . She would sulk. We had nothing in common. She wouldn’t wash his cricket whites. She didn’t like him playing cricket because she didn’t like the wives.”
Mrs Horne also alleged that her son had been consuming a “cocktail of drugs” and that he and Mandy were taking ecstasy to help relieve her symptoms.
The Williamson family clearly do not want to get into a slanging match with the Horne family, although legal issues remain unresolved as the couple died without leaving a will. For instance Mandy’s name does not yet appear at the grave, although there are plans for this to be rectified.
But friends of the family insist that Mrs Horne’s attitude towards Mandy was not shared by other members of the family, with others having been in touch to say how much they liked her.
Councillor for Burra Betty Fullerton said this week: “The deaths of these two lovely and talented people has been a tragedy and a loss for Burra Isle, Shetland and indeed the wider world, and family and friends will grieve for the rest of their lives.
“They need to be able to do so in peace. At this time our thoughts and prayers are with them all and the community wishes them to be left to do just that and a line drawn under the event.”
A spokesman for the police said: “Northern Constabulary conducted a full inquiry into two deaths in Shetland in January 2007, stating at the time that they were not looking for a third party in connection with the deaths. The full report was submitted to the procurator fiscal at the time.”
A senior police source in Shetland rejected the suggestion that the force had somehow been complicit in “covering up” details of what had actually happened, pointing out that the investigation was run, as it is in all such cases, by the procurator fiscal.
He said that circumstances at the time were particularly trying and that relations between the two families had been poor. He defended the actions of police officers at the time.