Mourners watched in horror as violence erupted at a Perth cemetery when a remand prisoner, released on compassionate grounds for his brother’s funeral, attacked three security guards.
Fifty-one-year-old serial offender Michael McLellan lost the plot and caused mayhem at the committal service at Jeanfield Cemetery after he tried to take a cigarette from a family member.
He had been reminded by GeoAmey staff, who provide escort duties for prison inmates, that he was banned from having physical contact with any person at the funeral - or taking any item from them.
The accused had been on remand at the time for a brutal assault on his long-term partner and childhood sweetheart.
He was subsequently given three years behind bars in September after he struck her with a metal vacuum handle at a Perth city centre flat in May of this year.
And he was given a further 14 months, to be served consecutive to that jail term, when he appeared at Perth Sheriff Court this week.
He admitted assaulting guards Adam Plenderleith (51), 26-year-old Aiden Campbell and Cheryl Barrie (25) at the Jeanfield Road burial ground on July 4, 2019.
Depute fiscal Eilidh Robertson told the court that McLellan had been given permission by the Perth Prison governor to attend the funeral of his brother James that morning.
He was escorted there in a car by the three staff members and was chained to one of them during the burial.
The fiscal explained: “During the service the accused’s partner tried to hold his hand and kissed him on the lips - and he was warned that physical contact wasn’t permitted.
“After the service the custody officers tried to take the accused back towards the car.”
As they did so, he tried to take a cigarette from a family member and then became “agitated and aggressive” when told that was not allowed.
The fiscal added: “He punched Mr Plenderleith on the body, at which point the officers told him to calm down, aware that the funeral congregation were present. Not wanting the situation to escalate, they moved him towards the car.”
As they did so, however, McLellan punched Mr Campbell once on the head.
His colleague, Ms Barrie, stood between the two men - and she was struck on the arm with a second punch the accused had intended for Mr Campbell.
As the accused was put in the car to be returned to the Edinburgh Road jail, he pushed Mr Plenderleith on the body.
Solicitor John McLaughlin said his client had suffered a series of recent close family bereavements, including his mother, sister and another brother, all from cancer.
The latest funeral was “an emotional time” for him and when the family hearse pulled up, his partner, aunt and cousin came out and hugged and kissed him.
Mr McLaughlin admitted his client snapped when his security chain was yanked and the cigarette fell to the ground.
“He accepts responsibility for what happened,” added the lawyer.
“There was a lot going on in his head and he felt personally responsible for his brother’s passing.”
The accused, who was allowed to briefly address the court, said he had “pleaded” with prison staff to allow him out after his brother died on June 20 but that was refused.
“I was under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure - I can’t emphasise enough the state of my mind,” he said.
Pointing out that only a custodial sentence was appropriate, Sheriff William Wood told McLellan: “You decided, for whatever reason, you were not going to follow the staff’s advice, guidance or rules.”