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Father and son who murdered and mutilated men with blowtorch in Edinburgh flat jailed for life

In Europe
April 08, 2024

A father and son who murdered and mutilated two men with a blowtorch and forced nails into the eyes of one of their victims have been jailed for at least 34 years.

Warning: This story contains graphic content

Ian MacLeod, 66, and Dean MacLeod, 42, killed Derek Johnston, 37, and Desmond Rowlings, 66, at a flat in Edinburgh in 2022.

The city’s high court was told that a hammer was left embedded in Mr Johnston’s head and the letters “YLT” were burned into his forehead with a blowtorch.

The killers severed one of his ears and part of his nose and forced nails into his eyes.

Mr Johnston suffered at least 28 separate injuries to his head, neck and limbs.

His body was found in the bath covered with a rug.

Mr Rowlings also had “VT”, “YT” and “YLT” burned onto his body. The killers severed parts of his nose and upper lip and cut off his ears.

Mr Rowlings had 136 distinct injuries to his head, neck, chest, back and limbs. The court was told some of these were groups of injuries so the total number inflicted was considerably greater.

His body was found in the living room covered with a blanket.

During a search of the flat, police recovered two blood-stained machetes, a Stanley knife and two hammers.

Judge Lord Arthurson stated: “This is, on any view, one of the worst cases of murder to come before the high court.”

The murders occurred at Ian MacLeod’s flat in Greendykes House between 30 October and 1 November 2022.

The court heard Mr Johnston arrived at the flat at around 6.15pm on 30 October, while neighbour Mr Rowlings was invited over on 31 October.

The alarm was raised over Mr Rowlings’ disappearance after his partner tried to wish him a happy birthday the following day.

Dean MacLeod, nicknamed Denim, was said to have bought two hammers, forensic suits, plastic overshoes and goggles in the lead-up to the murders.

Following the fatal attacks, the MacLeods drove away from the scene and consumed methadone in an attempt to take their own lives.

The pair eventually ended up at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where police recovered body parts belonging to each of the victims from a rucksack in their possession.

On Monday, the MacLeods pleaded guilty to murder and were handed a life sentence with at least 34 years behind bars before being eligible for parole.

Lord Arthurson endorsed the words of a bereaved family member who described it as “the cowardly actions of monsters”.

‘We no longer see the world the same as we did before’

Mr Johnston’s sister, Pamela Johnston, and mum, Angela Couzens, described him as a “courageous, kind and caring soul” who loved animals, especially his dogs.

Ms Johnston added: “We love him beyond measure and he will continue to live on in our hearts and do good for others in all we do.

“We no longer see the world the same as we did before, and we never will.

“Our hearts and minds are filled with pain, devastation, heartbreak and trauma where happiness, hopes and dreams once existed. Our faith in humanity is shattered.

“In our opinion – in the absence of capital punishment – there is no justifiable sentence that fits this cruel, calculated, callous and horrific crime.

“But today, we saw those monsters put behind bars for good.”

The court heard Ian MacLeod has a number of health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, while Dean MacLeod has suffered mental health issues for several years.

After the murders, police found a note in the flat reportedly written by Dean MacLeod which said: “What we done was evil and sadistic but I have pleaded for help for decades.”

Dean MacLeod was said to have told a psychiatrist that his dad was a “narcissist and a sociopath”, adding: “The voice in my head say to do this and do that.”

Read more from Sky News:
Mum-of-four’s body found in car after police search
Father faked own death to avoid paying child support

Moira Orr, procurator fiscal for homicide and major crime at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said the “brutal and senseless” murders “inflicted untold distress on the victims’ families”.

She added: “The savage nature of these attacks sent shockwaves through the local community.

“While the families of Derek and Desmond will never recover from the murders inflicted upon their loved ones, I hope these guilty pleas bring them some comfort that justice has been served.”

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