£50k spent flying Webster witnesses to Scotland

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Malcolm Webster was found guilty of murdering his first wife and attempting to murder his second

PROSECUTORS were forced to spend almost £55,000 flying in witnesses from New Zealand to help convict wife killer Malcolm Webster.

Webster’s not guilty plea resulted in a bill of more than £36,000 for flights and a further £19,000 for lost wages and living costs.

The total bill for all witnesses’ travel and subsistence hit £97,000, according to official figures.

Webster this week launched a legal aid-funded bid for freedom as his lawyers complained his sentence was worse than the one handed down to the Lockerbie bomber.

The former nurse was given 30 years in jail for murdering his wife Claire in a staged car crash in Aberdeenshire in 1994.

Webster, originally from Guildford, Surrey, tried to kill his second wife in a car crash in New Zealand in 1999.

His ruthless determination to try to escape justice meant the Crown Office faced a huge bill for flying in witnesses from the other side of the world.

Figures released under Freedom of Information show the flights alone cost £36,683. New Zealand witnesses were paid £12,174 in lost wages, £4,350 for food and accommodation, and £1,760 for other expenses.

At the end of Scotland’s longest, single accused trial, it took jurors at the High Court in Glasgow just four hours to find Webster guilty.

Lyn Costello of victim support group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said the killer should not be allowed to waste more taxpayers’ money by appealing.

Disgusting

She said: “I think the money on witnesses has been well spent given that he has been convicted and taken off the streets.

“Because of what he has done, the fact he has put people through this trial and the fact it has cost this much money, he should never be let out of jail. I think he is disgusting.

“He should not be allowed to spend more money by appealing. Criminals should not be allowed to appeal unless new evidence comes to light.”

Expenses for UK witnesses were also substantial. It cost £20,323 for travel, £5,286 for lost earnings, £3,192 for subsistence and £13,429 for expert witnesses, courier services and video conferencing.

Officers from Grampian Police travelled to New Zealand to interview witnesses in 2008, including Webster’s second wife Felicity Drumm and her family, and worked with the FBI and Soca (Serious Organised Crime Agency) and police forces in England and Wales.

Officers contacted people in countries includingSierra Leone, New Zealand, America and France.

Detectives inScotlandwere first alerted when a sister of Webster’s second wife, while on a business trip to England in June 2006, contacted police to report her suspicions about him.

But further evidence was required to reopen the investigation into the death of Webster’s first wife in a car fire, after the vehicle veered off a road.

Webster claimed he had swerved to avoid a motorcyclist.

Later tests showed Claire Morris had traces of drugs in her system.

His second wife also suspected that he had been spiking her food in New Zealand.

Webster, of Guildford, was also found guilty of intending to bigamously marry Simone Banarjee, from Oban, Argyll, to gain access to her estate.

He pretended to have leukaemia, and during the deception he shaved his head and eyebrows.

But at a hearing earlier this week, lawyers for Webster claimed his sentence was “excessive” and should not have been longer than the 27 years handed down to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing.

Lawyers said the appeal against conviction related to a “misdirection or absence of direction from the judge”.

A crucial piece of forensic evidence from the trial is thought to feature in the appeal.

 

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