Killer laughed after brutal murder

A THUG battered a neighbour to death with a lump of concrete then laughed as he chanted: “Ha ha, Tam’s dead.”

John Graham, 21, was facing a life sentence today after a jury found him guilty of the brutal murder of joiner Tam Hart, 51.

He claimed he was acting in self defence when he brought the broken paving slab down again and again on the other man’s head.

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The jury rejected his story and, after their majority verdict, heard that Graham was already serving a five year sentence for a machete attack.

Paramedics were called to Mr Hart’s garden at West Pilton Lea on April 2 last year but could not save him as he choked on his own blood. A massive fracture had split his skull and shattered his nose, cheekbones and jaw.

Pathologist Juan Carlos Arango told the High Court at Edinburgh the injuries and associated brain damage were consistent with multiple forceful blows.

Earlier that day Mr Hart – although he was not a keen Hearts supporter – had been with pals to Hampden to watch the team beat Hibs in the Scottish Cup semi final.

They had gone back to Mr Hart’s home to celebrate the 4-0 victory when Graham appeared in the garden, throwing liquid from a container he was carrying.

Mr Hart went out of the house and Graham went away, before returning with the broken piece of paving stone.

Fork lift truck driver Scott Girdwood, 30, said: “When I turned round to face him John said, ‘Get back in the house or you will get what Tam is about to get.’

“At this stage I just turned my back. I heard a thud, turned round and Tam was on the ground unconscious, or seemed to be unconscious.”

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Graham was still beside Mr Hart at the garden gate, he told the trial.

“He then moved so he was over Tam’s face and hit him three or four times, full force, in the face.”

Mr Girdwood added: “Graham came back a couple of minutes later. He just walked across the grass and he was shouting: “Ha, ha, Tam’s dead.”

The trial heard of “bad blood” between Mr Hart and Graham over a 500 loan to Graham’s girlfriend, Nicola Ramsay, 22.

Father-of-two Graham of West Pilton told the trial he had “blacked out” and had no memory of striking the fatal blows.

He told defence QC Edgar Prais that he considered Mr Hart “a bad enemy”. He added: “I didn’t like him and I was afraid of him.”

Graham said the row had caused him stress, sleepless nights and he often went to stay with relatives to keep away from Mr Hart, rather than stay with Ms Ramsay, who lived in the same street.

Graham told the court he decided to go to the Hart home to try to make peace.

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He admitted: “I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking straight” but denied any intention of attacking or killing Mr Hart.

Graham claimed he thought the older man had a knife.

Advocate depute Simon Collins asked the jury to reject Graham’s version of events, telling them: “This was a brutal and merciless killing. The whole circumstances make it clear it was done with murderous intent.”

Last June Graham was jailed after taking revenge with a machete when a house was attacked by a mob armed with bricks.

A 21-year-old man was scarred for life by the assault in Ferry Road in March 2005.

Graham was accused of attempted murder but admitted a reduced charge of serious assault.

He is due back in court next month when judge Roger Craik QC will decide how long he must spend in jail before he can apply for parole.