By Paul Thornton
A SCHIZOPHRENIC ex paratrooper has been jailed for an unprovoked knife attack on two pensioners during broad daylight in a busy street in Edinburgh.
The random assaults on two OAPs aged 79 and 82 happened within minutes of each other in Easter Road in Leith on February 4.
Francis McGeachie, 82, was left with a 15cm slash and will be scarred for the rest of her life while 79-year-old Elizabeth Essien is now afraid to go outside on her own and now forced to take taxis everywhere.
The two were attacked by Robert Murphy, 39, who went on a rampage with a Stanley knife he had bought from a nearby B&Q shortly before.
The former Territorial Army paratrooper – who suffers from schizophrenia – was high on drink and drugs at the time and claims he has not recollection of the attacks.
His illness was not a factor.
Police used the CCTV from the hardware shop to identify Murphy and DNA taken from the blade was later used to link him to the attacks.
And today at Edinburgh Sheriff Court he was jailed for four years after he had earlier admitted two charges of assault, including one charge of endangering Mr McGeachie’s life.
Murphy will also be put on licence for three years following his release after Sheriff Kathrine Mackie said she had to protect the public from him.
Sheriff Mackie said psychiatric reports had shown that Murphy’s illness had nothing to do with the attacks and slammed him for deliberately singling out pensioners.
She said: “The consequences of these assaults, despite the fortitude of the complainers go far beyond the physical injuries.
“There is little or no connection between the commission of these offences and any health difficulties from which you suffer.
“I have very serious concerns about the deliberate manner in which you purchased this weapon and the manner in which you selected your victims.”
Fiscal depute John Kirk had told the court how Murphy had bought the blade from the DIY giant just before 1pm that day.
Mr Kirk said: “Shortly after 1pm the Ms Essien was making her way on Easter Road to catch a bus when she became aware of a male approaching her.
“She felt uneasy about this and made to cross the road. The accused came up and struck her on the face.”
Mr Kirk said that while Murphy had been holding the knife at this point, fortunately the blade had not made contact with Ms Essien’s face and she was left shaken but not badly injured and did not need medical treatment.
Murphy continued in a straight line from the B&Q and where he attacked Ms Essien when he came across Mr McGeachie.
Mr Kirk said: “Mr McGeachie was going about his daily business and he was on his way to buy a newspaper.
“He was aware of a man passing on his left hand side and as he passed buy he shouted something.
“Mr McGeachie thought that the man had tried to knock off his hat and as he passed he had run his finger down the left side of his face.”
But as the elderly man made his way down the street he soon became aware of the blood pouring from his face and had to be raced to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
There he was treated for a 15cm gash running from his mouth to his ear. Doctors said if the slash had been one inch lower, the attack could have been fatal.
Mr McGeachie will be scarred for life and can no longer use a razor blade.
But despite his ordeal, Mr McGeachie has vowed to continue to enjoy his life and said he went out the very next day after he was attacked.
The blade linking Murphy to the attacks was found discarded with Mr McGeachie’s blood still on it. DNA also on the weapon matched that of Murphy’s and he was arrested three days later.
Mr Kirk said that following the ordeal Ms Essien has been left shaken by the incident and is wary of people when she goes out.
But he added: “Mr McGeachie said despite the unpleasantness he is not going to let it effect his enjoying a pleasant life and even went out the day after.”
Murphy’s solicitor, Paul Sweeney said his client had been using alcohol since as young as 10 years old and was to this day an alcoholic and had been drinking heavily on the day of the offence and had blacked out.
Mr Sweeney said Murphy – the youngest of five brothers – had asked the court to consider a fine over the offences and added that his family had hoped his treatment at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital would continue rather than a prison sentence being imposed.
But Sheriff Mackie pointed out that his violent behaviour had continued during his time at the hospital, adding that he had improvised a weapon while in custody.
Sheriff Mackie said she had reduced the custodial part of the extended sentence from five years because of Murphy’s guilty plea.