15 August 2002
A man who was convicted of the murder of a Kilmarnock woman has had his sentence quashed by appeal court judges.
David Asbury, who was jailed five years ago, was freed after the judges accepted that fingerprint evidence against him was unreliable.
Scotland's second most senior judge voiced "considerable concern" over the case as Mr Asbury's conviction for the murder of Marion Ross was quashed.
The Crown told the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh that after independent experts analysed the key evidence it was satisfied it could not be relied on to sustain a conviction.
The case sheds more doubt on the reliability of fingerprint evidence provided by the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO).
Its fingerprint bureau has come under fire in the case of former policewoman Shirley McKie, who was wrongly accused of perjury after denying she had left a thumb print at the scene of Miss Ross' murder.
Mr Asbury's solicitor George More said: "It is worrying and obvious that the Scottish Criminal Records Office got it wrong."
Mr Asbury, who spent three and a half years in prison, said: "I want the Scottish Criminal Records Office to admit it has made a mistake."
The 26-year-old said he was bitter about his experience and added: "I cannot describe it in words. It is beyond description."
His mother, Amelia Crisp, who has stood by her son, said: "I am angry he was charged. I am angry he was convicted, but today I am glad."
Mr Asbury, a joiner, from Kilbirnie, in Ayrshire, was convicted of the murder at the High Court in Glasgow after a 13-day trial.
He had denied murdering Miss Ross at her home in Kilmarnock in January 1997 and stealing a biscuit tin containing £1,400.
He maintained that a tin found at his home contained his life savings.
Miss Ross, a 51-year-old former bank clerk, was subjected to a horrific attack in which her ribs were crushed and she was stabbed in the eye with scissors. The scissors were left embedded in her throat.
At his trial expert witnesses from the SCRO gave evidence that a fingerprint found on the tin in Mr Asbury's bedroom was that of Miss Ross.
It was considered crucial evidence for the prosecution as Mr Asbury could offer no explanation as to why a tin with the victim's print on it should have been found in his home.
But after Detective Constable McKie was charged with perjury evidence began to emerge about the fingerprint evidence and she was acquitted.
An independent expert from America said that a print found at the scene was not hers and backed her claim that she had never been inside the murder house.
Mr Asbury's lawyers argued that the evidence of SCRO experts had been "substantially discredited".
They said that Mr Asbury, who was released on interim liberation in 2000 pending a full hearing of his appeal, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
For the Crown, advocate depute Gerry Hanretty QC accepted that there was fresh evidence in the case.
"It is accepted also that the evidence is significant and accordingly the conviction does fall to be quashed," he said.
Lord Gill said: "Plainly it is a matter of considerable concern for the court that the administration of justice has got into this position."