June 2021

Paedophile left sick teenager for dead on Edinburgh bus

A convicted paedophile has been found guilty of failing to get medical attention for a runaway teenager who later died in hospital.

Derek McNeill abandoned 13-year-old Blake Ross on a bus as he became increasingly ill from type 1 diabetes.

The 52-year-old had not told anyone Blake was in his Edinburgh flat while police and members of his family searched for him.

The teenager was in the care of a council-run close support unit.

A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh heard Blake left the unit without his medication on Saturday 11 February, 2017.

McNeill, a complete stranger, approached him late at night as he walked through the city’s Wester Hailes area.

That chance meeting led to Blake spending two nights in the older man’s filthy home.

McNeill admitted that he carried out a sexual act in the presence of the teenager in the flat

The youngster’s health deteriorated over the course of the weekend.

On Monday 13 February, McNeill put him on a bus, paid his fare and left him to his fate.

Blake travelled on two buses and was seen slumping down at a bus stop.

A bus driver raised the alarm but despite desperate attempts to save his life, the teenager died in Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital.

Prosecutor Jane Farquharson QC told the court his criminal record included an attempted rape and an indecent assault on an 11-year-old boy.

McNeill was also convicted of indecent exposure in 1987 when he was caught masturbating in the direction of a children’s play park in Edinburgh.

The trial heard evidence he had committed a sexual act in Blake’s presence when he was in the flat. He was also convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice

McNeill will be sentenced at a later date and could face an order for lifelong restriction.

Under such an order, he would only be released from prison once the parole board considered it was safe to do so, and would remain under “intensive supervision” for the rest of his life.

Following Blake’s death, the actions of council workers and the police were examined in independent inquiries.

When Blake first went missing, the police appealed for information through the media and started to look for him. His case was subsequently upgraded from medium to high risk.

The death of a vulnerable teenager in the care of the state shocked many people, but it became clear that a man with a history of sex offences against children was central to what happened.

McNeill was convicted under the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act with “wilfully neglecting, exposing and abandoning Blake in a way likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health.”

He was not accused of causing Blake’s death.

The jury found him guilty without knowing about his string of previous convictions. Under Scots law, they could only be revealed after the verdict.