Murder accused visited funfair while body of teacher was at home, court told

A man accused of murdering a retired Fettes College teacher suggested a trip to a funfair while the elderly man’s body was hidden under a bed, a court has heard.

Paul Black, 65, is accused of killing Peter Coshan, 75, in August 2022 as part of a catfishing plot with his flatmate to steal thousands of pounds.

Black is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh and denies two charges – murder and defeating the ends of justice – after 16 additional charges were dropped by the prosecution.

Paul McNaughton, 29, pleaded guilty last year to murdering Mr Coshan and perverting the course of justice.

McNaughton previously gave evidence blaming Black for suffocating Mr Coshan, claiming his own role was luring his former lover Mr Coshan to a flat in Leith, Edinburgh, after creating a fake profile on dating app Gaydar, before the pair went on a spending spree with the victim’s cash.

Giving evidence on Thursday, Black said he met McNaughton in 2014 when they worked in a gay bar and admitted he was “infatuated” but also “frightened” of the younger man, telling the court: “I treated him like a son.”

Black, a father-of-one, told the court he found out McNaughton was expecting a “meet-up” 20 minutes before Mr Coshan arrived and believed the elderly man was there to have sex via a hook-up app.

High Court in Edinburgh
Paul Black denies murder at the High Court in Edinburgh (PA)

Giving evidence, he said: “I went into the sitting room and had my telly on. He went into the bedroom. I don’t know what happened, I think they were just in there talking. I had my telly on and didn’t want to get involved in that kind of thing.

“I thought he was going to have sex with the man. Paul’s known for that. I knew he liked to go out and have a bit of fun.”

Black said he believed Mr Coshan had left, but went into the bedroom and saw the elderly man “face down”, and said he checked his pulse.

He said: “I heard the front door shut and thought he was away. He was lying on top of the bed face down, in the bedroom. I knew something had happened as Paul was sitting beside the bed, agitated. Shaking with fear. He says ‘I have to get out of here and go up to his house and you have to go with me’. He says ‘I’ve killed him’.”

Black claimed he wanted to call emergency services but McNaughton told him not to and the pair went for a walk around Edinburgh, including going to Mr Coshan’s house, and also McDonald’s to eat chips.

Mr Coshan’s body was hidden under the bed while the pair went on a trip to a funfair in Burntisland, Fife, which Black admitted he suggested, the court heard.

Black insisted he did not benefit financially although he changed euros worth £5,000 the next day, and said he was “scared” and “traumatised”, the court heard.

He added: “I says to Paul, did you want a trip over to Burntisland. It was a nice day, just have a break from Edinburgh, it seemed like a nice thing to do.”

Defending, Tony Lenehan said: “You’ve got a dead body in your flat.”

Black said: “I just wanted to get away for a while.”

He admitted driving a Vauxhall Vectra to Northumberland on two occasions to dispose of Mr Coshan’s body, and also lying to police who visited the flat as part of the investigation into the disappearance on two occasions.

Mr Lenehan said: “All the things you did in terms of moving body, driving to Northumberland, did you know you were covering up a crime?”

Black said: “Paul said we had to cover everything up. I didn’t give it any thought at the time and I realise that now.”

Cross-examining, prosecutor John Keenan KC said: “You knew he was being lured with a fake Gaydar profile to your house.”

Black said: “I didn’t know.”

Mr Keenan said: “And then you murdered him.”

Black said: “I didn’t murder anybody.”

The prosecutor added: “Then you persisted in trying to cover it up. It was your crime as well.”

Black said: “It wasn’t my crime.”

Mr Keenan said: “Do you remember saying ‘I apologise to the family’, or something like that?”

Black said: “Not that I can remember.”

The prosecutor added: “Were you apologising for your involvement in what happened to Mr Coshan?”

Black said: “I never had any involvement whatsoever.”

Black’s defence later urged the jury to acquit him of murder.

Mr Lenehan said a murder conviction would be “unsafe”, but added: “A conviction on charge 7 (defeating the ends of justice) is a serious one as Black will learn in due course from his Lordship.”

He said Black was an “uncomplaining puppy dog”, in a relationship where McNaughton was “the boss”.

Mr Lenehan said: “You would need to buy that bubbly Paul Black would be capable of the execution of a stranger, even though the person who had had enough of that person was Paul McNaughton.”

Describing the events of August 11 2022, he said: “Mr Coshan comes to the door. Who kills him? Is it Paul Black, docile, bubbly, follower of wherever McNaughton leads him? One-and-a-half fully working arms, who has never met Mr Coshan, who is well into his 60s?

“Is it really Paul Black who is the killer here, or is it young, fit and healthy Paul McNaughton, who was angry with Mr Coshan and who pleases himself?

“Who killed Mr Coshan? The only sensible answer is McNaughton.”

The jury in the trial is expected to be sent out to consider its verdicts by judge Lord Scott on Friday.