Published: 21/03/2007 00:00 - Updated: 21/11/2011 21:15

Soldier strangled his best friend

A PORTSOY soldier was jailed for over 13 years on Friday after being found guilty of strangling his best friend with a rifle sling, and then pretending to revive him. Anthony Stewart (27), originally from Annan, Dumfriesshire, showed no emotion as a jury rejected his plea that he had killed Private Andrew Dobson (23) while he was mentally ill and not fully responsible. He was jailed for 13½ years. Stewart was only brought to book when he confessed to the crime – four years after it happened. He had only lived in Portsoy for several months and nearly lost his own life after spending 26 hours in a dinghy in the Moray Firth. The tiny boat was floating 10 miles off Macduff when it was found by a North-east fishing crew in June, 2005. He claimed that he had fallen into Portsoy harbour and managed to haul himself into the inflatable, which then drifted out to sea. Although the incident was investigated by police, he was not charged. Jailing Stewart for murder, Mr Justice Jack said he took account of the fact that the accused was suffering from a borderline personality disorder when he murdered Private Dobson, from Dumfries, even though the jury rejected the defence argument that this had amounted to diminished responsibility. The prison term is the minimum Stewart will serve before he is eligible for parole. Stewart was arrested at a flat in Portsoy's Culbert Street, in February, 2006 after calling Grampian Police to claim he had killed a friend and wanted to get it off his chest. The jury at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, heard that Stewart committed the murder on November 17, 2002, in the room he shared with Pte Dobson at an Army barracks near Southampton. After strangling him on a sofa, Stewart hauled his body across the room and dumped it by the victim's bed in a bid to make it look as if he had killed himself. Stewart then ran into other rooms in the barracks screaming that his best friend had tried to take his own life. He then returned with other soldiers and "took the lead role" in trying to resuscitate Pte Dobson, who was still alive. But witnesses claimed that Stewart, a trained first aider, was actually doing nothing to revive his victim. An ambulance rushed Pte Dobson to hospital from the McMullen Barracks in Marchwood, Hampshire, but he was pronounced dead on arrival. Stewart had denied the murder but admitted manslaughter through diminished responsibility. According to prosecutor Janice Brennan, the murder was so calculated that Stewart put on surgical gloves before moving behind his friend with the sling, and killing him as he ate. She previously told the court that Stewart may have killed Pte Dobson because his friend was being promoted while he was due to be discharged from the army because of his personality and his excessive drinking. Police arrested Stewart the day after on suspicion of murder, but he was released four days later without charge. He eventually confessed four years later when he phoned Banff police station, saying that he had "had enough".

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