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Paige Doherty killer handed life term for 'savage and frenzied' attack

Published 12/10/2016

John Leathem, 32, has been jailed for life for the murder (Police Scotland/PA)
John Leathem, 32, has been jailed for life for the murder (Police Scotland/PA)
Paige Doherty was murdered by John Leathem in March (Police Scotland/PA)

A shop owner has been jailed for at least 27 years for the "savage and frenzied" murder of 15-year-old customer Paige Doherty in his back office.

John Leathem, 32, stabbed the teenager 61 times and inflicted a total of more than 140 injuries when she stopped at his Delicious Deli in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, on March 19.

Despite claims he was in "a panic", he cleaned up his crime and dumped her body in bushes two days later.

The South Court at the High Court in Glasgow was packed with Paige's family and friends as the married father-of-two was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 27 years.

Leathem had admitted her murder at an earlier hearing and t here were shouts of "scum" and "monster" as he was led away to the cells.

Judge Lady Rae told the court the killing was "truly reprehensible and impossible to comprehend".

Paige's mother Pamela Munro said after the hearing that there was "no sentence high enough" to justify the crime.

First offender Leathem attacked Paige in the back office of his shop shortly after 8.20am, apparently after a short exchange about a job.

A post-mortem examination found Paige suffered 61 stab wounds, mainly to her head and neck, and 85 further cuts thought to have been sustained as she tried to fight off her attacker.

The only suggestion of motive was a claim that he was "frightened" at a perceived threat from Paige that she would say he "touched her inappropriately" if he did not give her a job.

Leathem's twin brother was previously convicted of a sexual offence.

In passing sentence, Lady Rae said: "You claim that... after discovering she was only 15 years of age, you told her that you could not employ her, as a result of which - you say - this child threatened to reveal that you had touched her inappropriately if you did not give her that job.

"At that stage, after you both stood up suddenly, the child started screaming and then, apparently recalling the consequences to your twin brother of his having been adjudged a sex offender, you immediately reacted by grabbing a knife lying on a shelf in the back office and proceeded to stab her repeatedly.

"No evidence has been placed before me to support your assertion.

"Having regard to your counsel's stance that, even if your assertions were true, your reaction to that alleged threat was in no way mitigatory of this appalling, wicked crime."

The judge added: "It is impossible to comprehend how an apparently happily married man, with a young child, who is running a successful business, is capable of such an horrific level of violence."

Leathem's lawyer Ian Duguid QC said reports showed his client had no anger management issues and was a "quite unexceptional individual".

He added: "This is an individual who is acting so out of character. There is no explanation that can be found."

The killer was captured on CCTV carrying Paige's body out of the shop in a bin bag and putting it in the boot of his car.

He is understood to have stored the body in a shed at his nearby home over the weekend before driving to a wooded area off the A82 and dumping her body on the morning of Monday March 21, where she was discovered by a member of the public.

Speaking outside court, Ms Munro said: "Today we see a monster put behind bars for the unthinkable, brutal crime he committed against our daughter Paige.

"There is no sentence high enough to justify what has happened but we can now see there is one less evil man in this world, which then makes the world that bit more safe for our kids to grow up in."

She went on: "All we can do as a family is take each day at a time. There is a huge piece missing in our family that can never be replaced.

"I am thankful for the 15 years we had with Paige, from the kind and generous wee soul she was, to the mature young woman she grew into.

"She may not be with us anymore but she will live on through her brothers and sister and all the memories that we share."

She thanked the police investigation team and officials who worked on the case, and the public for the support they have given the family over the last seven months.

Speaking after the sentencing, Nicky Patrick, procurator fiscal for homicide and major crime, said "After the frenzied attack, Leathem did his best to evade justice by attempting to clean the crime scene and hide behind his lies.

"The overwhelming evidence against him has ensured that he now has to answer for this appalling crime."

Press Association

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