Thug Who Robbed War Hero Medals From Sheriff Is Jailed


By Michael MacLeod

A THUG who attacked and robbed a retired sheriff of his wartime medals has been jailed for 38 months.

Michael MacKinnon, 26, burst into 91 year-old William Hook’s Edinburgh townhouse and covered the ex-sheriff’s head with a towel before ransacking his home.

The pensioner bravely fought back and gave the intruder a black eye, forcing him out his back door where he got stuck in a river and was arrested by police.

Today (TUESDAY) sentencing Sheriff Derrick McIntyre told MacKinnon that the fact his victim was also a sheriff was “irrelevant.”

He said: “The point is that this was a 91 year-old man living alone and you assaulted and robbed him.

“Elderly citizens are entitled to feel safe in their own homes from people like you.”

MacKinnon, a former builder and dad-of-one, claimed he was drunk at the time and could not remember what happened but still pled guilty to assault and robbery at the ex-sheriff’s mansion in Edinburgh’s Moray Place in January.

Speaking after his ordeal Sheriff Hook said: “The chap didn’t scare me in the slightest – in fact I like a bit of fisticuffs.”

ROBBED: Sheriff William Hook

His reputation on the bench at Greenock Sheriff Court in the 1950s and 60s earned him the nickname “Hang ‘em Hook.”

But he confessed he was “perhaps naive” to leave his front door unlocked when MacKinnon walked in and burgled his huge townhouse in January.

Mr Hook feared he would never see his medals – gained for service with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers – again, after MacKinnon escaped his grasp.

But firefighters had already found MacKinnon stranded in the Water of Leith at the foot of his garden, and he has remained in custody ever since.

Mr Hook said: “I was perhaps naive sitting there watching television with the door unlocked, but the chap walked in and stuck this thing over my face.

“He didn’t scare me in the slightest – in fact I like a bit of fisticuffs.

“He gave me a black eye so I gave home one back.

“He probably thought he had got lucky when he saw me but there’s life in me yet and I thumped him as hard as I could.

“He was probably more scared than me.

“The police couldn’t bring him in for me to identify because he was soaking wet, poor chap.

“I’ve come through worse things in my life that is for sure.

“I had a tough time as a POW and came back showing nothing but rag and bone.

“Nevertheless, I survived and here I am today, still fighting off what the world throws at me.”

After serving for the entire length of WWII in France and Germany, Mr Hook studied law and was appointed to the bar as a QC in 1948.

He began his career as a sheriff as a resident Sheriff in Greenock in 1956 before moving to work in West Lothian and finally Edinburgh Sheriff Court until retiring in 1986.


He had left his front door unlocked because he “regarded himself to be living in a good area,” according to fiscal depute Ruth Ross-Davie.

She told Edinburgh Sheriff Court previously: “MacKinnon entered the house by the front door, which was shut but not locked.

“It was left open because Sheriff Hook regarded himself to be living in a good area and wouldn’t require to lock his door.

“MacKinnon entered a bedroom and went through all the drawers and cupboards, stealing a number of items including cufflinks, two medals, some gold buttons and tie pins.

“He then approached Sheriff Hook, who was in the sitting room and covered his head with a cloth and indicated he wanted him to give him all his money.

“He gave MacKinnon the £5 note which had been in his pocket at the time before the accused made his escape out the back door.”

But the crook struggled to get away, as the ex-sheriff’s New Town residence backs onto the Water of Leith.

Defence agent Cameron Tait said MacKinnon, of Edinburgh, had spiralled into a drinking habit after losing his job on a building site.

He said: “It was the loss of his employment which resulted in this sad situation he finds himself in today.

“He has a seven year-old child and has never served in custody before.

“He lost his job in the summer of 2009 due to the economic downturn and struggled to cope.

“He started drinking to excess and accepts that his drinking got out of control.

“On the day in question he was in a drunken stupor looking for somewhere to urinate.

“Desperate for money to buy drink, he wondered in and took a number of items.

“As he has already served the equivalent of an eight month sentence, the punitive element has already been served and the public interest would be best served by the imposition of a community service order.”

Sheriff MacIntyre told him: “What aggravates this offence isn’t the fact that the victim was a retired sheriff.

“That is irrelevant.

“The point is that this was a 91 year-old man living alone and you assaulted and robbed him at three in the afternoon.

“You struggled with him and demanded money from him and he was injured during the assault.

“You are classed as a moderate risk of re-offending.


“Elderly citizens are entitled to feel safe in their own homes from people like you.

“You have not been in custody before but such is the nature of this offence that in my view no other sentence is appropriate than to impose a substantial period in custody.

“I will ask for prison authorities to be advised that you may be a suicide risk.”

MacKinnon’s sentence was backdated to January when he was first arrested.