This year marks 25 years since the battered and mutilated body of 19-year-old Amanda Duffy was found on a patch of wasteland in Hamilton, just outside Glasgow. She had been beaten and strangled in a horrific murder that shocked Scotland. The autopsy report highlighted just what had happened to this young girl in the last moments of her life with a deep bite wound on her chest, both her nose and jaw broken and twigs forced into her mouth and nose with such force they fractured her skull and penetrated her brain.
In July 2017, the forensic scientist in charge of the crime scene forensics in this case, Jim Govan, publicly stated he believed that the prime suspect, Francis Auld, got away with murder.
Francis Auld was 20-years-old in 1992 and knew Amanda from their school days in Hamilton and recent college courses they were both taking at Motherwell college. On 30 May 1992, Amanda had been out with friends and while waiting at a taxi rank she had bumped into Auld. Her friends left the pair to chat, expecting Amanda to rejoin them when she was ready for a taxi home. Amanda, however, didn’t meet back up with her friends and that was the last time she was seen alive.
When questioned after Amanda’s body was found, Francis Auld told police the pair had walked away from the taxi rank together and had ‘kissed and cuddled’ in shop doorways before a man who Amanda referred to as ‘Mark’ had shouted for her and she had left with him. Police were suspicious of Francis Auld’s story and he was arrested for murder.
When his trial began in November 1992 at the High Court in Glasgow, the jury heard how Amanda Duffy’s body had been mutilated by her killer with a bite mark on her chest and twigs and branches used to sexually assault her as well as pushed into her mouth and her nostrils. She had been punched and kicked repeatedly leaving her swollen and bruised.
Francis Auld admitted he had inflicted the bite mark on her chest that evening but claimed it was part of consensual light petting between them before she had left with the man known only as Mark. This man who Auld claimed Amanda had left with has never been found and Francis Auld continued to deny having anything to do with her death. As the trial drew to a close, the jury retired to consider their verdict and the prosecution, the police who had investigated the murder, and Amanda Duffy’s parents were confident in a conviction.
The jury, however, returned a verdict of ‘not proven’. A somewhat controversial verdict that is unique to Scotland. Not proven is very much the same legally as a not guilty verdict. Whereas in the US a not guilty verdict covers both scenarios where a jury feels a defendant is innocent of the crime they are accused of or they feel there is not enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, in Scotland the two are separate. With a not proven verdict a defendant is acquitted of charges and is innocent of the crime in question in the eyes of the law as with not guilty, however, a jury who thinks the defendant is innocent would likely vote not guilty, a jury who entertains the possibility of guilty but feels the prosecution has not proven the case against a defendant would likely vote not proven.
A not proven verdict legally acquits a defendant but the stigma of being found ‘not proven’ rather than ‘not guilty’ does indeed hover. Furthermore, the families of victims can be left in a state of unknown feeling the case against the defendant in question is somewhere in-between a guilty and not guilty outcome without the possibility of the defendant being retried even if fresh evidence is unearthed.
The nation was as horrified at the verdict as Amanda Duffy’s parents and supported their petition to have the ‘not proven’ verdict in Scotland abolished, which was unsuccessful. In 1995 they filed and won a civil suit against Francis Auld where the judge ruled that Auld was responsible for the death of their daughter and they were awarded damages.
The forensic evidence against Francis Auld consisted of 20 hairs that were found on broken branches less than 2 feet above the ground nearby where Amanda’s body was found. These hairs were the same colour and length as Francis Auld’s and were a strong match microscopically. “…one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in my career.” Jim Govan said. The location of the hairs so close to the ground led police to believe unless an individual was lying down it would be almost impossible for such hair to get caught in those branches from someone walking past for example.
“I don’t know exactly what went wrong in court – perhaps it was me. Perhaps I didn’t get it across to the jury properly. Perhaps. I don’t think they understood the implications of the DNA, blood and hair evidence.”
There was also the bite mark found on Amanda’s chest which Auld admitted was due to him but claimed it was during consensual activity between himself and Amanda and not as part of her murder. A pathologist and consultant doctor disagreed with his account, however, telling the court the mark was actually a bite carried out during violence which would have caused Amanda severe pain and certainly not any form of pleasure.
It was also highlighted that if Auld’s account was accurate on what had happened that night, after their brief encounter in shop doorways, Amanda would have needed to fix her clothing and put her bra back on before she went off with ‘Mark’. If she had done this the bleeding from the bite wound would have stained the inside of her bra, however, when her body was found, no blood was found on her bra at all. This case was presented in court as a sexual murder with ritualistic aspects due to the bite mark and the use of twigs and branches to assault and abuse Amanda Duffy before, during, and after her death. It was suggested that the person who carried out this murder was a disturbed individual, a point the defence used to try and show that Francis Auld was not the man responsible.
A psychiatrist testifying in defence of Francis Auld highlighted he had found no evidence of any mental health conditions or personality disorders when he examined him. Auld’s defence team focused on the previous good character of Francis Auld claiming that he did not change from ‘an ordinary young man into a monster and then back again’ in the space of 12 hours.
This line of defence, however, did not convince scientist Jim Govan. “It was a horrific killing. Somebody clearly did it and I think it was him,” he has said.
In 2016 the Crown Prosecution Service tried to secure a retrial against Francis Auld over Amanda Duffy’s murder. The CPS submitted new evidence to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh hoping for a retrial, however, judges ruled the evidence was not admissible. The new evidence involved a number of statements allegedly made by Auld to various different witnesses.
They included conversations a prison officer told police about in 2012 which he claimed he had with Francis Auld around June 1992. He claimed while Auld was on remand at HMP Longriggend in Lanarkshire, Francis Auld told him, “We were just fooling about and things got out of hand,” in regards to the death of Amanda Duffy. The prison officer, Alexander McCartney, said he reported this to his supervisors in 1992 but was told it was hearsay and there was nothing he could do about it so he did not report it to the police at the time. The appeal bid was also rejected on the basis that the original DNA evidence in the case had been destroyed so Mr. Auld could not be tried based on that evidence for a second time.
Francis Auld was fully acquitted of the murder of Amanda Duffy and no further charges were ever filed against him. He died on 8 July 2017 in a hospice at the age of 46-years-old after suffering from pancreatic cancer. With his death, many believe the truth about Amanda Duffy’s murder will never be known and for some Francis Auld is a man who got away with murder.