Billy Middleton was cleared of murdering his nine-month-old baby daughter Annalise on Friday when a jury returned a not proven verdict against him.
Middleton, 33, had been accused of setting fire to his bedroom and the hallway of the family home at Burgadale, Brae, in the early hours of September 20 last year after a row with his wife Kareen. Annalise, who had been sleeping in an upstairs room, died in the blaze.
But the jury of 10 women and five men at the High Court in Aberdeen delivered a not proven verdict on the murder charge.
They also found two charges of attempting to murder two children, aged three and six, and a charge of indecent assault against a woman at another address in Shetland not proven.
The jury deliberated for just over two hours and reached their decision by majority on all four charges.
Middleton did not flinch as the not proven verdicts were read out in court.
Sitting behind him in court, Middleton’s family wept and embraced as the jury spokesman delivered their decision.
Afterwards, Middleton said: “I’m very relieved it’s all over and that’s all I have to say.”
But in a statement his wife Kareen said: “I would like to say how disappointed we are by the fact that justice has not been done for Annalise.
“The fire investigators explained how there were two fires deliberately set in our house. One of those fires took my daughter’s life. I was not at the house when this happened and for that I will never forgive myself.”
During the 10 day trial, the court heard he had been drinking at his home with his wife and three teenage girls.
Kareen Middleton, 24, claimed he had argued with her and she had stormed out of the house to find it on fire when she returned.
Police later found a note scrawled in crayon in the garden. Handwriting experts later found it was “highly probable” that Middleton had written the letter.
The note said: “I kept trying to tell you about you’re (sic) uncle Andi. Lying b******!!!”.
A 15-year-old girl, who cannot be named, claimed Kareen had fallen out with her husband because she overheard her husband flirting with the girls.
She said Middleton, who had been drinking whisky, had told them: “I wish I had met you two before I met my wife”.
And she claimed the mussel farmer started blaming the teenager for causing problems in his relationship with his wife.
The girls left the property after the argument, leaving three young children sleeping in the house with Middleton.
Fire crews were called to the scene. But by the time they battled with thick smoke to get to the child’s bedroom upstairs, the baby was motionless.
Paramedic Jason Redfern told the jury he had given the baby mouth to mouth resuscitation but pronounced the baby dead.
The court also heard that Middleton had blamed his wife for trying to kill his child while he was in the back of the ambulance on the way to hospital.
Middleton broke down in tears as the medic was giving evidence.
The court then heard a taped police interview taken at Lerwick Police Station two weeks after the blaze.
Middleton consistently maintained his innocence throughout saying “I didn’t do it”.
A spokesman for Northern Constabulary said: “We note the decision of the High Court today. Officers carried out a full and thorough investigation into the death of Annalise Middleton.
“It was a committed and professional investigation by a team who explored all possible lines of enquiry.
“This is a particularly tragic case given the age of the child and our thoughts are clearly with Annalise’s family.”