Thug guilty of killing former East Dunbartonshire council boss

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A thug who killed a popular ex-council leader after flooring him with a single punch is facing a lengthy jail-term.

Darren Murphy smashed John Morrison (50) in the face during a motiveless attack in Glasgow city centre last December.

Mr Morrison – who had been enjoying a works night out shortly before the assault – died almost instantly after striking his head on the ground.

Bank worker Murphy (26) left his stricken victim in the street – to go to a nightclub with friends.

Murphy told a jury that he had been acting in self defence – against man who was almost a foot smaller and double his age.

But his claims were rejected and he was found guilty of culpable homicide amid highly-emotional scenes at the High Court in Glasgow.

First offender Murphy cried at the verdict while at least two female jurors also broke down.

A large throng of Mr Morrison’s family – including his partner of five years David Evans – were seen sobbing with relief as the killer was convicted.

One said as she left the courtroom: “That’s justice for John.”

Murphy’s bail was continued until sentencing in January – but he is expected to be jailed for at least five years.

Mr Morrison – the former LibDem leader of East Dunbartonshire Council – was attacked in the early hours of December 22 last year.

The lawyer had earlier been on a festive night out with colleagues from Glasgow City Council, where he worked as a legal manager.

His friend and work-mate Jennifer McMartin told the jury: “He was in really good form that night.

“He said he was in a good place in his life both professionally and personally having met his partner David.”

The court was shown CCTV of footage of Mr Morrison later in the city’s Argyle Street close to the St Enoch Centre.

Murphy and his friends were in the same area heading to the Arches nightclub.

Pal Samantha Mulgrew claimed during the trial that Mr Morrison, of Milngavie, suddenly appeared next to her mumbling, which gave her a “fright”.

For some reason, Murphy and his group then turned on the solictor.

CCTV showed the booze-fuelled mob heading towards him before one pushed Mr Morrison as he appeared to be walking away.

Seconds later – and out of shot – six-foot one Murphy then pole-axed Mr Morrison by punching him in the face.

But, instead of checking how the dad-of-one was, Murphy carried on to the nightclub.

Mr Morrison died in the street despite medics coming to his aid. The ferocity of the blow had also broken his eye socket and nose.

Murphy’s friend Miss Mulgrew later told police that he had landed a “proper punch” on the ex-council leader.

But, during the trial, Murphy, of the city’s Bridgeton, denied he had punched Mr Morrison – instead claiming he had “hit him with a palm” to get him away.

Murphy insisted he had “felt threatened” by Mr Morrison that night – even though Mr Morison was just over five foot in height.

His QC Donald Findlay asked: “There was an implication that this was you being cowardly... that a fair reflection of events?” Murphy denied that.

Murphy then claimed he did not know Mr Morrison was seriously hurt at the time – but when he later discovered about the death he “felt sick”.

Prosecutor Paul Kearney said the killer had lied during evidence adding: “You went back to sort out Mr Morrison and punched him.” Murphy replied: “No.”

The court also heard Murphy demanded friend Graeme Thomson not to say to police he had punched the lawyer.

Murphy told the jury: “Those words did not cross my mouth.”

Murphy will sentenced next month after Judge Norman Ritchie QC adjourned for reports.

But he told the thug: “May I say at this stage that it is plain your character before this was a good one – but I have not been impressed with your conduct since this time.

“Your friends appeared to have tried to cover up for you and your lack of frankness continued in your evidence.”