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Hebrides News


Two men socialising with an islander when he was engulfed in a “ball of flames” worked on the same fishing boat.

Iain Gillies of Barra suffered major burns and spent weeks in Glasgow Royal Infirmary after being airlifted in June 2014.

John Christie, 31, of Castlebay, is on trial at Lochmaddy Sheriff Court.


He denies spraying a flammable substance on Iain Gilles’ head and body, then igniting the substance which burnt him to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement.


Fishing skipper, Alexander Macneil, said John Christie and Thomas Barber were crew members on the MFV Boy Darren in 2014.

Mr Macneil’s statement he gave to police at the time was read out in court.

Procurator fiscal, Karen Smith, read out his account of conversations he had with the pair.

Mr Macneil had said: “John said Iain had gone over to the house in a burnt condition.

“Tom never saw anyone drink a bottle of whisky so fast - two or three gulps.”

The skipper picked them up in his vehicle and had another conversation with them which was referred to in court.

Mr Macneil told police: “At first they both denied it.

“John said he didn‘t want to lie to me.

“He said Tom and he done it and he would take the blame.

“John said they burnt Iain. I was really sick at the thought of it.

“Tommy never said anything in the van.”

He said they were later working on the boat at Ardveenish - a harbour in the north of Barra.

“At some point John mentioned they used a deodorant and started with Iain’s eyelashes and it was a joke which had gone horribly wrong.

“John asked me if he should go to the police station and own up.


“I said it wasn’t up to me but whoever did it should own up.”


Defence solicitor, Neil Allan asked: “John Christie told you he would take the blame.”


“Yes,” replied Mr Macneil.


The court heard Mr Barber faced the same charge until this week and he was called as a prosecution witness.


The solicitor said: “Barber gave evidence he heard John Christie talking about an accident or a game that went wrong.”


He queried: “The question is how would he know about that if it was not said” in his hearing?”


The lawyer reminded the skipper an earlier trial over the allegation was halted part way through.


The solicitor told the skipper: “One different thing at that trial was that Thomas Barber was sitting in the dock and he would have heard your evidence and that’s where he would get your story about a joke or a game which went horribly wrong.”


“It must have been,” replied Mr Macneil.


The trial before Sheriff Chris Dickson continues.



Lochmaddy Sheriff Court

Islanders’ burn injuries were “joke gone horribly wrong” court told

16 February 2017