‘Callous murderers’ found guilty of Christopher McColm’s brutal killing

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A man convicted of murdering Hawick man Christopher McColm had arrived in the town just 24 hours before committing the brutal attack.

Russians Aleksandr Podgornoi, 25, and Vladimir Jakovlev, 24, were found guilty by an unanimous jury verdict at Edinburgh High Court of murdering Mr McColm on April 2 this year.

The court had heard that Jakovlev had arrived in Scotland from Estonia the day before he and Podgornoi carried out the attack in Mr McColm’s flat in Beattie Court.

Jakovlev had convictions relating to consumption of alcohol in a public place and aggravated public order offences using violence, and had served custodial sentences for convictions described as committed by a group and by intrusion.

Podgornoi, who was on bail at the time of the attack, had previous convictions both in Estonia and Scotland which included offences relating to the consumption of alcohol in a public place and having a knife in a public place.

Both accused had been drinking heavily when they forced their way into Mr McColm’s flat.

They repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped Mr McColm on his head and body and beat him with various implements, including a metal pole, a mirror, a portable heater and a clotheshorse.

Mr McColm was discovered by police when a neighbour called 999 after hearing a disturbance in the ground floor flat. He was covered in blood and had horrific injuries, including a fractured skull and fractured ribs. The 41-year-old died in the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, the following day.

Mr McColm’s family, mother Ann Turnbull, stepfather Steven Turnbull, sisters Carole Walker, Catherine Turnbull, and brother Colin Turnbull sat through every day of the three-week trial.

Immediately after the verdict, Colin Turnbull, 27, said: “Chris was a gentle giant of a man, who would go out of his way to help others.

“Chris stopped drinking on the advice of his doctor and for the sake of his family in October 2008. We were all so very proud of him. Then for his life to be so cruelly taken by two evil, cold-hearted animals, has left us devastated.

“They have shown absolutely no remorse for what they have done, even attempting to portray Chris as the aggressor and they were merely defending themselves.

“At one stage they claimed to have found Chris lying on the floor of his flat and that they were in fact trying to help him. This was in fact a story concocted to explain Chris’ blood being on their persons.

“The family can take some comfort from the fact that Chris’ organs were donated to save the lives of others.

“We would like to thank everyone involved in the successful conviction of these two brutal callous murderers.”

Temporary judge Michael O’Grady QC told Podgornoi and Jakovlev they had been convicted of a “dreadful” crime and would face a life sentence.

He will set the minimum term for them to serve when the case calls again on January 20 at the High Court in Livingston. He deferred the case for background reports and remanded the pair in custody.

Giving evidence, Jakovlev said he had been staying with his friend Podgornoi at Beattie Court and was hoping to find work.

He claimed the pair had gone into the flat because the door was open and that they saw Mr McColm lying on the floor, but left him there because they thought he was drunk or high on drugs.

The court previously heard Mr McColm had complained about noise in the flat above and that social workers were trying to arrange new accommodation for him.

Jakovlev and Podgornoi had denied the allegations against them and Podgornoi had lodged a special defence of self-defence. An allegation which accused them of previously evincing malice and ill will towards Mr McColm was deleted by the Crown.

A not-guilty plea by Podgornoi to a second charge of assault at Morrisons supermarket in Hawick against Andrew Nichols was accepted by the Crown.

Detective inspector Jim Robertson, who led the investigation, said he was “satisfied” with the guilty verdict.

He added: “Both Podgornoi and Jakovlev are callous individuals who carried out a sustained and extremely violent attack on a frail individual who had little chance of defending himself.”