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Schoolgirl Paige Doherty, 15, murdered in 'frenzied' attack by deli owner

Published 05/09/2016

The body of Paige Doherty, 15, was found in Clydebank in March (PA/Police Scotland)
The body of Paige Doherty, 15, was found in Clydebank in March (PA/Police Scotland)

A sandwich shop owner is facing a life sentence after carrying out a "frenzied" knife attack on a teenage customer.

Paige Doherty, 15, had stopped for a breakfast roll on the way to her hairdressing job when she was stabbed repeatedly by John Leathem in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, on March 19.

First offender Leathem, 32, carried out the attack in the back office of Delicious Deli on the town's Fleming Avenue, apparently after a short exchange about a job.

CCTV footage showed him carrying Paige's body out of the shop in a bin bag and putting it in the boot of his car. Two days later a member of the public discovered her remains dumped in nearby woodland.

A post-mortem examination recorded 61 stab wounds, mainly to her head and neck, and 85 further cuts the teenager is thought to have suffered as she tried to fight off her attacker.

Leathem admitted murder at the High Court in Glasgow, where judge Lady Rae told the married father-of-two: "This was a savage, frenzied attack on a child."

Paige, described by her grandmother as a "kind and selfless person and all-round good girl", was employed part-time at a hairdressers in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire.

She was last seen entering Delicious Deli at 8.21am, where a friend she stayed with the night before said she planned to pick up a roll before getting the bus to work.

Ten minutes later neighbouring business owners noticed the shop's shutters were down - something they described as "highly unusual".

Leathem was later captured on CCTV leaving his shop to buy anti-bacterial wipes, bin bags and bleach, and collect his car from his nearby home, in a bid to cover up the crime.

He is understood to have stored Paige's 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.

The shop owner said he knew of Paige through her mother, who had told him that her daughter was unhappy with her work placement at the hairdresser's.

Leathem claims he told the teenager that he was looking for an assistant to help in the shop and the pair went into the office so he could take some details from her.

Because she was a month shy of her 16th birthday, he said he told her he would have to speak to her mother, and also explained there were other candidates for the job.

Leathem claims Paige responded: "I thought I was getting a job" before adding "I'll just say you touched me", the court heard.

Defence counsel Ian Duguid QC, setting out the shop owner's version of events, said he stood up suddenly and knocked the chair he was sitting on backwards to the floor.

Paige is said to have stood up and started screaming, and the shop owner responded by grabbing a knife from the top of a nearby cabinet and stabbing her.

The killing was described as a " spontaneous, gross overreaction" by Mr Duguid, who said there had been some discussion about whether it could be linked to events involving a close relative of Leathem.

The court heard the relation had faced difficulties such as finding a job after being convicted of a sexual offence a number of years ago.

Before Paige's murder, Mr Duguid said Leathem had been "an ordinary member of the community".

Paige's family said they will never get over what happened to the teenager.

The court heard how her mother Pamela Munro hears her daughter's screams in her nightmares and s tepfather Andrew said they could not get out of their heads "the terror that she must have experienced".

Detective Superintendent Duncan Sloan said: " Paige's untimely death shocked a community to its core, particularly as the man responsible was one of them.

"The support from the local community has been much appreciated and I hope that Paige's family can take some comfort from the result of the court proceedings."

Leathem will be sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on October 12.

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