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‘Justice’ for Gary

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By Euan Maxwell
Dumfries and West
'Justice' for Gary

THE devastated parents of murdered Stranraer man Gary Handling have said “justice has been served” after his killer was jailed for a minimum of 21 years. Gary, 33, was stabbed twice just yards from his home in John Simpson Drive shortly before midnight on June 6 2022.

Mark Allison, 25, from Stranraer, was sentenced at the High Court in Stirling this week, having been convicted in January by a jury who watched CCTV footage showing the murder, and who rejected Allison’s claim that he had acted in self-defence. Allison was ordered to serve a minimum 21 years before being eligible for parole. This also included time for attacking another man with a knife, causing him a permanent disfigurement, 48 hours before he killed Gary, pictured above.

The verdict was a “relief” for Gary’s parents Brendon and Marion but they have questioned why Allison – who had a host of other convictions including for carrying knives – had been previously let out of prison early.

Marion said: “It was a relief to hear the verdict. I was in tears, thankfully the jury saw right through his defence. “I was worried it would be not guilty but knowing the truth of what he did to my son, when I heard guilty, I couldn’t help being emotional. It was justice.

“At sentencing the judge was given written details of Allison’s previous convictions. The judge’s comment after seeing the two A4 sheets of his previous charges was ‘you’re telling me he was on licence?’.

“Why was he out? He had previous knife crimes and they let him out nine months early. Had this not happened our son would still be alive.”

The couple sat through the whole trial in order to get the truth about what actually happened that night. They had to watch their son being murdered over and over on CCTV footage, as the prosecution used the evidence to prove their point. Marion said: “It’s a horrible experience to go through. We kept being told that the scenes shown in court were going to be graphic, which included the murder on CCTV, and that I would maybe be best leaving the court. I said no, I’ve got to see it to make sure that Gary didn’t instigate this or provoke it in any way at all.

“I watched my son being murdered every day for four days, to make sure.

“They also played the 999 calls, I was in tears listening to them. You could hear Gary’s neighbour pleading with him to stay with us. It was hard.”

Brendan added: “The hardest part to hear was the post mortem because the talk of the town was that Gary was stabbed once. But Gary had got defensive stabbing wounds on the arm. My boy was defending himself.

“We had to be there to see what the truth was and to hopefully see justice done for our son.”

Gary – who has a son Thomas with partner Leah and two daughters Kaci and Keelie with ex-partner Kimberley – had been at his parents hours before his murder and had mentioned to his dad about being injured by Allison’s knife a couple of days earlier. He had referred to Allison and his friend as “two wee boys”. Later that night, Brendan received a panicked call from Gary’s partner that he had been stabbed.

Brendan recalled: “I was due to have my first session of home dialysis, but instead I jumped in the car. I could see the blue flashing lights from a distance, as I turned up the paramedics were working on somebody in the middle of the road.

“I was told that his neighbours were trying CPR. But we got told whatever they tried it wouldn’t matter. He had no chance.”

Marion added: “I phoned the hospital and got told to get there now. By the time I got there, I was told he had died.

“I wasn’t allowed to see him that night because it was classed as a crime scene. I never got the chance to say goodbye. I needed to say goodbye.”

Gary’s parents openly admit their son was ‘no angel’ but, nonetheless, didn’t deserve what happened to him. Brendan said: “Throughout his 33 years, Gary always faced his demons head on. Unfortunately, on this occasion, this “wee boy” of a demon was tooled up and ended Gary’s life instead.”

Gary was a popular man and that was evident by the support shown to the Handlings. His funeral was packed and people still look out for his family. Marion added: “Gary had a lot of friends and family. He loved his family, children and his dog Rocco, they were always side by side. The amount of people who have reached out to us and who attended his funeral was heartwarming.

“We would like to thank Shenagh and Jasmine from the Procurator Fiscals office, investigating Police Inspector SIO Graham Robertson and his second in command Gary Mitchell and Advocate Depute Chris McKenna, for prosecuting the case so well.

“The support our family has received from the community has been outstanding.”

It was the second family tragedy for Brendan and Marion, who lost Gary’s brother, Tom in April 2014. He died suddenly, aged 22, due to an unexpected medical condition – for which they still don’t have an answer. Brendan said: “No family should go through this kind of pain once, never mind twice. “Tam had come in, after taking his girlfriend home and went for a shower. After a while it was quiet and we thought it was strange as he always played music whilst he was in the bathroom.

“I opened the bathroom door and found him dead. We were told that it wouldn’t have mattered when we found him as it was as quick as a light going out.

“It was devastating, to lose a fit young man, that had notions of joining the Paras.”

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