‘Moaning and groaning’ heard from bedroom window of murdered lecturer

DCI Gareth Blair outside the Merchiston Crescent property

By Kevin Duguid

MOANING and groaning sounds could be heard coming from the bedroom window of a murder victim in the hours before his death, it was claimed today.

A neighbour was so concerned about the noises coming from the home of stabbing victim Roger Gray that he thought about phoning the police.

John Brown, whose bedroom window is below that of the statistics lecturer, said the noises started at around 10pm on Friday.

Mr Gray’s body was found in the hallway of his Edinburgh home the following morning after a resident raised the alarm about a gas leak.

Mr Brown said: “I heard loud moaning and groaning and banging noises coming from his bedroom window. I could also hear footsteps. I could hear it over the sound of the television.

“It was that loud we thought about phoning the police. But we decided not to because it stopped after about half an hour.”

Asked if he thought the noises sounded sexual, Mr Brown replied: “Yes”.

He said he could hear only one voice making the sounds during the lengthy disturbance at the flat in the Merchiston area of the city.

The details come on the same day as police officially launched a murder investigation.

A post-mortem examination of the 64-year-old’s body was carried out yesterday and confirmed he had suffered multiple stab wounds.

A major incident team has been established at Leith Police Station, staffed by around 40 detectives and supported by specialists.

Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Blair, who is leading the investigation, said: “The post-mortem examination has confirmed that Mr Gray suffered extensive stabbing injuries, in what was clearly a sustained attack.

“At this time we are devoting extensive resources towards tracking down his killer, and we are appealing for help from the public to help us in our inquiries.

“We are asking anyone who was in the area of Merchiston Crescent overnight from Friday night into Saturday morning, who saw or heard any suspicious activity in the area, to contact us if they have not already done so.

“In particular, we want to speak to anyone who may have heard a disturbance from within Mr Gray’s flat around 10pm on Friday.

“We are also interested in speaking to any friends of Mr Gray who can help us build a fuller picture of his background.

“I would urge anyone who can assist to contact us on the confidential hotline number, or to email us on the dedicated address provided.”

It has emerged that Mr Gray’s flat in upmarket Merchiston Crescent had been locked from the inside in an apparent bid to foil rescuers.

Neighbour Bill Coventry, 77, revealed that he had keys to the flat but could not get in to help his friend.

He said: “I had a key to Roger’s flat because of a flood and because he didn’t have any family.”

“I couldn’t get into his flat. It was locked from the inside because it was like Fort Knox.”

Mr Coventry said that he hammered on the door and shouted: “Roger! Roger! Roger!”

He added: “I went up and got the keys to Roger’s door. A mortice and a Yale and it wouldn’t open – so there must have been an additional lock behind the door.”

The revelation raises the possibility that Mr Gray’s killer escaped by climbing out of a window in the first floor flat.

Mr Coventry also confirmed reports that his neighbour, who spent his entire working life at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, was gay.

He said: “He was just himself. He never said he was gay but he was. I mean everybody knew he was. But I mean he was courteous, he was a very intelligent man. He was utterly courteous and polite.

He added: “I didn’t go to all of Roger’s dos – he didn’t have a lot.

“I was at a party for his 64th birthday. They were informal and they were mostly Heriot-Watt faculty.

“There was a mixture of gay and straight people at them and they were all very nice people.”

He added that the parties were a very “Merchiston type of party”.

He said: “The party was people standing in wee groups chatting, having some nibbles and booze.

“It was the typical kind of party for older people. There were some younger students there but they were mature students, PHD students.

“There was background music playing but it wasn’t rock or heavy metal. It tended to be classical, Roger was a classical man.”

When asked about how he knew some of the people at the party were gay he said: “You just know. I’ve actually got gay friends. They are the nicest people you will ever meet in your life but you know they’re gay.

“They were not in your face they didn’t act gay, but the way they spoke and their mannerisms.

“I would say there was not more than 25 people and the parties and I would say most of them were straight.”

Mr Coventry said he was not aware of a “regular person” in his friend’s life.

He said: “There was a friend of his who was a surgeon and I met him several times. But I haven’t seen him for ages.”

And he revealed the tragic past of Mr Gray’s family.

He said: “I know that his brother committed suicide, because he told me.”

Mr Coventry lost his wife, Anna, and he remembers talking to Mr Gray about her death.

He said: “After Anna died I remember saying to him ‘God I wish I was dead’. Roger got very upset and said ‘Bill don’t say that, my brother committed suicide’.”

“And his sister died about a month ago. So I don’t think he’s got anybody.”

A death certificate for Mr Gray’s elder brother, William Morris Gray, reveals he was an architect and that he died after he was decapitated on a railway line near Stanley Place, Edinburgh, in 1987, aged 46.

Mr Gray’s sister, Sheila McNaughton McAra, died last October.

A death notice said she died peacefully in hospital, describing her as “much loved sister” of Roger and the late Morris. The notice suggested donations to cancer research.

Mr Coventry added that a large stone had been thrown through the window of Roger’s car when he was in China lecturing.

He added: “I went into his house and got the keys to his car.

“I drove the car into George’s driveway because it would have been vandalised and I left a wee note for Roger saying I hope you would do the same and he said yes he would.”

“This happened when a lot of reg plates in the area were stolen and they all happened at the same time but don’t think it was just an attack on him.”