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HMA v David Barnes


Dec 13, 2023

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Mulholland sentenced David Barnes to life in prison for the murder of Ian Coutts. Barnes must serve a minimum of 23 years before being eligible for parole.

On sentencing, Lord Mulholland told Barnes:

“David Barnes, you have been convicted of the murder of Ian Coutts and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by concealing and burning his body.  This you did for financial gain as you used his name and bank and credit cards to enrich yourself.

You thought that you would get away with these appalling crimes.  You lied about Ian Coutts whereabouts, pretending to neighbours and friends of the deceased that he had an extended holiday in Morrocco or was with his sister in England.  Neither were true.

You even contacted his family on the day of his daughter’s wedding pretending to be him and looking for money, an act of deception and arrogance.

The finding of Ian Coutts’ decomposed body by James Fenton an urban explorer started the unravelling of your lies and exposed your despicable crimes and you as a murderer.

The evidence of the transportation of the body of Ian Coutts in a wheely bin in your then girlfriend’s car on the day that he disappeared, the finding of flakes of red industrial paint in the carpet of the car used by you which matched control samples taken at the deposition site, the finding of soil and leaf fragments consistent with the deposition site, your mendacious text messages to your ex‑partner, the evidence of the entomologist explaining to the jury the significance of the colony of insects at the deposition site, the extensive use by you of Ian Coutts’ name and the dishonest use of his bank and credit cards, this evidence and other evidence, led to your downfall and the revelation that Ian Coutts had been murdered and that you were his murderer.

What you did was despicable and callous, the murder of a man who did you no harm, to the contrary he gave you work. The disposal of his remains in the hope that they would never be found and then stealing his identity and money are acts which are despicable and deceitful. You have displayed no remorse or responsibility for the crimes.

With regard to risk, you are assessed as a high risk of reoffending and a considerable risk of harm to the public.

There is only one sentence prescribed by law, for murder, that is life imprisonment and I hereby sentence you to life imprisonment on charge 4.

I am also required by law to fix a punishment part which is the period of time you must spend in prison before you are eligible to apply for parole.  I stress apply for parole as there is no guarantee that you will ever be granted parole.  Whether or not you are ever granted parole is a matter entirely for the parole board who will determine the issue on the risk that you pose to the public. 

I will fix the punishment part at 23 years. This takes into account your post mortem actions.

You will be sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment on charge 8, which will run concurrently with the life sentence for charge 4.

I will order that the sentence should run from 16 December 2021, the date you were first ordered into custody by the court for this matter.”