The news has been gratefully received by Claire’s brother Peter Morris who has been campaigning to have the old gravestone removed against opposition by Claire’s convicted killer husband Malcolm Webster. The original stone was placed by Webster, who is serving a 30 year sentence.
Peter Morris spoke on behalf of the family: “We are delighted that common sense has prevailed. We are grateful to Aberdeenshire Council for allowing us to erect a memorial to Claire. They had to go out on a limb for us and take legal risks.
“This will bring partial closure for myself and my family and the headstone will represent the truth rather than the lies of the person who murdered my sister. The news has come relatively quickly, it is something that I thought would drag on for years. We aim to place the stone on May 27, which is the 18th anniversary of Claire’s death and I hope that Reverend James Falconer will be available to give a blessing.”
Reverend Falconer, who is a chaplain at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, conducted the funeral service for Claire and later gave a blessing as Peter Morris embarked on his epic walk from Tarves to Edinburgh to gain support for the Claire Foundation which he set up to help families of the victims of crime.
Reverend Falconer said: “I offered to do this and would be delighted to do so. I can only echo the decision of the court in respect of Webster’s guilt and I feel the council’s decision to grant permission is the right and fitting thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Malcolm Webster has been seeking legal aid to contest the move, but it emerged last week that his request had been refused.
A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board explained why: “We have refused to grant an application for civil legal aid by Malcolm Webster because it did not meet the statutory merits test.
Mr Morris also expressed gratitude to the student led Aberdeen Law Project, which after discussion with Aberdeenshire Council, led to permission being granted without Webster’s consent. He said: “I would like to thank them for giving us free legal aid. It is a wonderful project - they do a fantastic job which goes towards their degree.”
A spokesman for the project commented: “Client confidentiality precludes us from commenting on the content of meetings between The Aberdeen Law Project and Aberdeenshire Council. I can only confirm that our Ryan Whelan met with the Council on behalf of our client, Peter Morris, on a number of occasions in relation to the grave of Claire Morris.”
Responding to the news that Malcolm Webster had been granted leave to appeal his sentence, Peter said: “That is extremely disappointing. Now he is trying to put his guilt into question, which is ridiculous.
“I sat through the longest ever single accused trial which lasted nearly four months in Glasgow. Webster had a robust defence but he was found unanimously guilty.
“For me there is no question of his guilt. The evidence was conclusive and he is a dangerous psychopathic criminal and if he is released he will be a massive danger to society. He is evil but clever in that he knows how to create doubt.”