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A Barra man has been cleared of severely injuring a friend following a three day jury trial.


Fisherman, John Christie, 31, denied spraying a flammable substance on Iain Gilles’ head and body, then igniting the substance and burning him to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement in Castlebay in June 2014.


It was suggested a can of deodorant spray and a lighter was used in the incident which happened after the men had been drinking.


Mr Gillies was said to have down nearly one litre of whisky - if he had been sober and fully conscious he would have suffered much pain when he was engulfed in what was described as a “big ball of flames,” Lochmaddy Sheriff Court heard.


The 49-year-old was airlifted to Glasgow Royal Infirmary for weeks of treatment.


Another man, Thomas Barber, a shipmate of Mr Christie, faced the same serious charge over the last three years - including during a trial in September which was later deserted - until this week.


Defence lawyer, Neil Allan, said there was “very considerable doubt” against Christie who aided Mr Gillies by “calling for helping and treating his burns.”


Then the fiscal produces Thomas Barber who was an accused in the case until Monday and then became a prosecution witness said the solicitor.


He pointed out six aerosol canisters were recovered and the jury was asked to believe one of them was used in the incident yet none were tested to see if they were full or empty.


Neither, was there evidence that Christie had touched any of the cans, he said.


The lawyer asked if “some bizarre accident” could be an explanation rather than blaming Christie.


This was a “particularly sadistic assault” on an “inebriated and vulnerable” man, stressed procurator fiscal Karen Smith.


The victim was unhurt when he arrived at the house in St Brendan’s Road, Castlebay but left in an ambulance with “severe injuries” after being burnt with a naked flame which burned and charred his skin.


“The only scenario consistent with all the evidence” points to John Christie, suggested the fiscal.


Thomas Barber observed a big ball of flames” when Christie had a can of deodorant spray and a lighter next to Mr Gillies, she said.


Ms Smith told the jury: “You saw the scarring on his body - he is permanently disfigured.”


Christie was “making all the explanations and the admissions” to people.


Earlier, 49-year-old Iain Gillies, gave evidence saying he could not remember what happened.


He had memory problems following a motorbike crash, he said.

He told the fiscal: “I remember going into the house - after that it’s a blank.”


He was “OK” when he arrived but “seemingly not” OK when he left he said.


The jury of eleven woman and four men returned a verdict of not proven.

Jury returns verdict on “ball of flames” court case

17 February 2017

The case against John Christie was not proven

Iain Gillies, who suffered major burns, with his sister, Catherine Beaton, who also gave evidence during the trial