Court acquits man over deaths

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A mentally ill man charged with murdering two elderly neighbours in a row over bins has been acquitted.

Today at the High Court in Glasgow, Rancevs, 33, was found not guilty of murdering 73-year-old ex-SAS soldier Martyn Smith and killing 75-year-old John Whyte at Columba Court, Castle Road, Oban, on October 1 last year because he was mentally ill at the time.

Judge Lady Rae formally acquitted him of the charges and sent him to the state hospital on an interim compulsion order.

Rancevs came to the UK with his family from his native Latvia in 2015 and found accommodation at Columba Court.

In the lead up to the killings a number of people expressed concerns about Rancevs. He had behaved erratically in a church, a public house and at a cinema, and his step-feather Stephen Paterson, who was out the country at the time, contacted the local mental health services and the police with his worries.

The court heard that Mr Smith had previously complained about Rancevs putting the wrong rubbish in the bin.

At 9.30am on October 1 last year, Rancevs approached Mr Smith as he stood outside the block of flats talking to Mr Whyte.

He began to throw rubbish from a bin bag at Mr Smith, then walked away before turning back and pushing him on the chest three times.

Mr Smith fell to the ground and as he tried to get back up, Rancevs, who is 6ft 1in and of muscular build, kicked and jumped on him.

The court heard that the violent attack was captured on mobile phone by another neighbour. The images were not shown in court.

Mr Whyte, who was kicked  twice, dialled 999 and went back into his flat.

Mr Nelson said the conversation with the 999 operator carried on briefly until she did not receive any further response.

‘It appears that although a message was relayed to police that a Mr Whyte had called to report an ongoing assault, the officers on the scene remained unaware of the condition of Mr Whyte or how the call from him had ended,’ added Mr Nelson.

The court heard it was not until 8.10pm that police forced entry to his house after not being able to contact him by phone and found him dead.

Mr Whyte, who had long-standing heart disease and high blood pressure, died from cardiac arrest caused by stress, the court heard.

Prosecutor Derick  Nelson said Rancevs was a professional dancer and was employed on a reality television dancing programme. He also worked as a dancer on transatlantic cruises but began to suffer from episodes of mental illness.

The prosecutor added: ‘As he (Rancevs) was led away from his flat the accused told police “this is the best day I’ve ever had”. At Oban police station he stated he was having the best birthday ever and began tap dancing’.

Psychiatrists believe Rancevs was suffering from bipolar affective disorder with a manic episode.

Lady Rae said: ‘This is a very tragic case. The prosecution has accepted a plea of not guilty on the basis the accused was suffering from a mental disorder to such a degree he was unable to realise the nature of the wrongfulness of his actions. It is clear from the reports that at the time Mr Rancevs was very seriously mentally ill.’

Rancevs will be detained meantime at the state hospital and the case will call again in February next year.