Man jailed for murder bid foiled by ‘brave’ young victim

Craig McQuillian, 44, started a fire outside a flat in a 14-storey building in Edinburgh last November.

Craig McQuillian was sentenced to six years in prison for attempted murder at the High Court in Edinburgh
Craig McQuillian was sentenced to six years in prison for attempted murder at the High Court in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

A 44-year-old who tried to murder a man and a young boy by starting a fire outside their high-rise flat has been jailed for six years.

Craig McQuillian was caught on CCTV entering the 14-storey Fidra Court building in Edinburgh at around 11.30pm on November 12 last year, carrying a metal crowbar and a plastic bag with a container of petrol.

McQuillian, wearing a purple tracksuit and baseball cap, was then caught on camera using the petrol to set fire to the door of one of the flats before fleeing the scene in the lift.

One of the flat’s occupants, a young boy who was in bed at the time, smelt burning and raised the alarm by shouting “fire”, and the man was able to douse the flames with a wet towel before they had a chance to spread.

McQuillian pleaded guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday to one charge of wilful fire-raising, danger to life and attempted murder.

He admitted attempting to murder his two victims by wilfully setting fire to their front door, blocking their only escape route.

He was sentenced to six years in prison at the same court on Wednesday.

Moira Orr, who leads on homicide and major crime at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “This was an extremely reckless act that could have had devastating consequences had it not been for the brave and swift actions of his victims.

“Craig McQuillian carefully planned this targeted attack, which took place when most residents would have been asleep in bed.

“It was only by good fortune that the young child smelled burning and was able to raise the alarm in time.

“McQuillian will now have to face the consequences of his callous actions and I hope this conviction gives his victims some comfort.

“Our prosecutors will continue to do our utmost to prosecute those who carry out dangerous acts such as this to help keep the communities we serve safe.”

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service commander who attended the incident said the fire could have spread, creating a risk of additional casualties and damage to the flats above, below and on the same floor.

He added that even if all the resources needed for a high-rise rescue procedure were in place, it would have taken fire officers at least 15 minutes to reach the blaze before they would have been able to tackle it safely.

Police Scotland Detective Inspector Gordon Couper said: “This was a targeted attack which not only could have killed two innocent people, but also harmed many others in the building.

“McQuillian will now face the consequences of his deplorable actions.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their dedication and commitment throughout the investigation, as well as those members of the public who assisted with our inquiries.”