Alleged Shetland murder victim’s jugular vein had been cut with sharp weapon, pathologist tells court

A woman who was allegedly murdered in Shetland died after sustaining “sharp force injuries” to her neck, a court has heard. 

Forensic pathologist Leighanne Deboys, 34, told jurors on Friday that Tracy Walker’s jugular vein and carotid artery had been cut before her death. 

The High Court in Edinburgh also heard that Ms Walker’s neck was had been compressed and this too would have contributed to her death. 

Dr Deboys was giving evidence on the 12th day of proceedings against Ross MacDougall, 32, and Dawn Smith, 29.

The pair deny murdering Ms Walker on 30th July, 2019, at Ladies Drive in Lerwick.

On Friday, Dr Deboys told prosecution lawyer Steven Borthwick that she carried out a post mortem investigation on Ms Walker’s body in Aberdeen on 1st August, 2019. 

She told the court Ms Walker’s body had a number of bruises and lacerations. 

Dr Deboys told Mr Borthwick the lacerations had been caused by a weapon. 

Referring to one of the lacerations, Dr Deboys said: “This is a sharp force injury and it would have been inflicted by a sharp edged weapon.”

Dr Deboys said one wound track on Ms Walker’s body ended in her trachea.

When Mr Borthwick asked her what the consequence of the injury would have been for Ms Walker,  she replied: “It would have been very difficult for her to breathe.”

Dr Deboys told the court there had been a “complete transection” of Ms Walker’s right internal jugular vein.

Her carotid artery had also sustained a “complete transection.”

Speaking about the consequences of the these injuries, Dr Deboys said: “You got to be ready for immediate and skilled surgical intervention to deal with this issue.”

Mr Borthwick asked Dr Deboys to look at a knife which has been lodged as evidence with the Crown.

When he asked Dr Deboys whether the knife could have been the type of weapon to inflict the kind of injuries which Ms Walker had sustained, the medic replied: “Yes.”

The jury were also shown a report which Dr Deboys compiled with a colleague.

The cause of death for Ms Walker in the report is stated as being “sharp force injury of the neck and external compression of the neck.”

Prosecutors then closed their case against MacDougall and Smith. 

At the conclusion of the Crown case, MacDougall’s lawyer Brian McConnachie QC said his client was pleading guilty to a charge which stated that on July 30th 2019, at 103 Nederdale, in Lerwick, he took and drove a car without having the consent of its owner. 

Judge Lord Uist told MacDougall that he was deferring sentence on him for this charge until Tuesday 1st December 2020. 

Mr Borthwick also said he was withdrawing a charge against Smith which stated she and MacDougall assaulted a man called Gary Latham on 30th July 30 2019, at Ladies Drive.

Mr Borthwick said the Crown was continuing the prosecution agains MacDougall on this charge. 

Smith also no longer faces a charge alleging she and MacDougall asked Kyle Swannie to provide them with an alibi with ‘intent to impede, obstruct or hinder the course of justice’ on 30th July, 2019, at 18 Bakland, Lerwick, Shetland,

The charge also alleged the pair asked Mr Swannie for a “change of clothing and a bag”. 

It is claimed that they put clothing which they had been wearing into the bag and disposed of it by “means unknown”.

The indictment states they carried out the alleged action to “conceal and destroy evidence” in respect of the murder allegation.

Mr MacDougall also continues to stand trial on the allegation. 

Prosecutors claim that on July 30 2019 at Ladies Drive, Ms Smith had “without reasonable excuse or lawful authority” a knife.

It is stated that this was “contrary to the Criminal Law (Consolidation) Scotland Act 1995.”

The second charges alleges that on the same date at the same location, MacDougall and Smith assaulted Ms Walker and inflicted “blunt force trauma to her head by means unknown.”

It is also alleged the two accused compressed her neck with their hands and that they struck her repeatedly on the neck and hand with “a knife or similar instrument.”

Prosecutors claim the two accused attempted to rob her of money and that they “did murder her.”

The two accused have pleaded not guilty to the charges  remaining on the indictment. 

The trial continues on Tuesday. 


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