Four years’ jail for chainsaw attack pathetic, says mother — (The Scotsman)

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The Scotsman

Published: 01:12 Wednesday 20 September 2006 Updated: 12:13 Friday 22 September 2006

A MOTHER yesterday described a four-year jail sentence given to a depressed gardener who terrorised her family with a chainsaw as “pathetic”. The High Court in Edinburgh heard that James Aitken, 33, was a decent family man who had run amok as a result of a cocktail of alcohol and the controversial medication Seroxat.

But Margaret Glen last night told how her family barricaded themselves in a bedroom as Aitken sliced through their home’s front window, cut up their furniture and sawed his way out again. She said: “He didn’t get his just deserts. No-one seems to have paid any consideration that my bairns believed they were going to see their mum and dad killed.” Mrs Glen said her sons Liam, 11, and Joseph, eight, suffered from “constant nightmares” and remained “agitated and angry” more than six months after the attack. When police were called to the scene, Aitken doused officers with petrol and threatened them by flicking his lighter before he was brought down by baton blows and CS gas. In 2000, Aitken escaped a jail sentence after admitting to several charges including attacking three policemen by trying to strike them with a knife and threatening to kill them. Mrs Glen, 35, and her husband Patrick had been sleeping at their home in Whitecraig, East Lothian, when her neighbour went on a rampage while searching for his wife at around 1:30am on 26 February this year. She initially believed the noise of the chainsaw was a motorbike revving. Mrs Glen said: “I heard shouting, ‘Mandy, Mandy, I’m going to kill you’ and thought I was dreaming.

“Then I heard breaking glass and the chainsaw never stopped so I put the football table, the punching bag and everything else we could against the door. We just trashed the room. “I told the kids if they see a chainsaw coming through the door I’d fling them out of the window and to just run.” At an earlier hearing Aitken admitted vandalism, culpable and reckless conduct, breach of the peace and assault. The court heard details of his rampage during which he sawed the wing mirror from a Ford Transit before torching the van. Alex Prentice, prosecuting, told how father-of-two Aitken and wife Mandy had been to a family function on 25 February and had about three or four drinks together – although Aitken may have had more. Aitken had been treated for depression and anxiety with Seroxat for eight years and should not have been drinking. Soon after they returned home, Mandy Aitken heard a noise and looked out to see her husband smoking and taking items from the boot of his car. When he would not come back into the house, or say what was wrong, Mrs Aitken ran to her parents’ house nearby and police were called. His father-in-law, James Keenan, went outside to see Aitken holding a running chainsaw above his head and saying he was looking for his wife. “He looked as if he
was on another planet,” Mr Keenan told police later.

Aitken then headed for Mrs Glen’s house and flung a slab through the window, showering their sons’ bunk bed with shards of glass. Jailing Aitken yesterday, judge Lord Brodie noted that even though experts had examined the possible part played by Seroxat, it did not excuse what Aitken had done. “It was a terrifying incident for all who were involved,” he said. Lord Brodie ordered that Aitken should be kept under strict supervision for two years after his prison sentence. The judge heard that drink and medication had also brought Aitken before the High Court in 2000 when he was put on probation and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work for assault and robbery, breach of the peace and vandalism. But Mrs Glen – whose family is in homeless accommodation in Musselburgh – said yesterday’s sentence left her “numb”. She added: “How am I going to explain to my sons he’s going to jail for just four years? They think he’s going to come and try to kill them again.”