BELLSHILL man Garry Smith has been jailed for 18 years for the murder of Graeme Ferry.
Smith (34) was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow today (Tuesday).
He admitted murdering Mr Ferry (24) and burying his body in April last year.
Andrew Shilliday (38) had his not guilty plea to murder accepted, but was jailed for five years for helping to dispose of Mr Ferry’s body and hindering the police investigation.
The judge, Lady Stacey, blasted the pair for pretending for several months that they knew nothing about the victim’s sudden disappearance.
She told Smith, of John Bowman Gardens, Bellshill: “You allowed his family and friends to go through the mental anguish of thinking of him as a missing person who might come home.
“It was only after painstaking police work leading to your detention that you admitted your part in this terrible sequence of events.”
Mr Ferry, a landscape gardener, of Hooper Place, Bellshill, went missing after a party at Smith’s home nearby.
Smith and Shilliday claimed he had left the party in the early hours of the morning to meet someone in Coatbridge.
But police were sceptical from the start. They knew that Mr Ferry used his mobile phone almost constantly yet his calls and texts had stopped abruptly.
Using tracking devices, they established that he was in the vicinity of Smith’s home several hours after Smith and Shilliday claimed he had left.
While the police investigation continued, Smith called Mr Ferry’s mum, Janette, to ask if Graeme had returned home.
This was, said prosecutor Iain McSporran, a ‘cruel trick’ as he knew full well that her son was dead.
A breakthrough came when tiny traces of Mr Ferry’s blood were found in Shilliday’s car. The vehicle had been sold after the murder and police who bugged his phone heard him talk about how he had cleaned it extensively before selling it.
Smith finally confessed in September after he and his girlfriend were arrested.
He claimed the killing had not been planned but happened after a row in Shilliday’s car while they were on their way to buy drugs in Plains, near Airdrie.
Smith said they fought outside and he got the better of it.
When he realised Mr Ferry was dead he hid his body in bushes at Kirk o’Shotts, near Salsburgh, but later moved the body in Shilliday’s car to a landfill site between Carfin and Cleland where he buried it.
Smith took detectives to the Chapelknowe Road site and after several days Mr Ferry’s body was found.
The cause of death was unknown, but fractures to the victim’s face and body had been caused after his death by a concrete slab being dropped on top of him before the makeshift grave was covered up.
Smith has a record for violence, having twice been jailed for six years for serious assault.
Ten years ago he walked free from the High Court in Glasgow after being cleared of murdering Bellshill teenager David Ferguson.
Defence advocate Tony Graham described his background as ‘unfortunate’, but asked that he be given some credit for eventually admitting his guilt in this case.
Mr Graham told the court: “These are matters that will be considered gruesome by decent-minded individuals.
“However, my client has allowed the victim’s family some form of closure, removing the uncertainty and accepting responsibility.
“In this case there were no skeletal injuries and no puncture wounds to suggest the use of a blade.
“Mr Smith took a man’s life through the use of blunt force.
“Essentially it was a situation where two individuals well acquainted with each other came to blows and the excess blows led to a death.
“And although the background reports show my client has had an unfortunate life, he has a partner and children, and has pleaded guilty knowing he will get a considerable sentence and the impact tht will have on his own life.”
Solicitor-advocate Charles Ferguson, representing Shilliday, said his client was ‘repulsed and ashamed’ by his behaviour.
He described Shilliday as a hard-working family man who had at an early stage indicated he would plead guilty to helping cover up the murder.
Lady Stacey gave Smith the mandatory life sentence for murder and ordered him to serve 18 years before he can be considered for parole.
She told him: “You killed Graeme Ferry and instead of trying to get help for him you moved his body then moved it again and buried it.
“I accept that in September you told the police what you had done and assisted them in finding the body.
“That avoided the need for a trial and I reduce the sentence from 20 years because of your guilty plea.”
The judge told Shilliday: “You assisted in concealing the body and let Mr Ferry’s family and friends wonder what had happened to him for several months.
“By saying nothing you increased the terrible stress they were suffering.”
Shilliday’s jail stretch was cut from six years to five because of his guilty plea.
Both sentences were backdated to September as the pair have been in jail since then.
After the case John Dunn, procurator fiscal for the West of Scotland, said: “Graeme Ferry was violently murdered by Garry Smith who was then assisted by Andrew Shilliday in a futile attempt to cover up this heinous act.
“Taking the life of another is the most serious crime and must come with the most serious consequences as today’s sentences demonstrate.
“I would like to express my sincere condolences to Mr Ferry’s family and friends, and especially to his mother. I cannot imagine the mental anguish she has suffered because of the actions of these two men.”