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One of Britain’s top criminal lawyers, Scotland’s Paul McBride QC, has been found dead in a Pakistan hotel room while handling a parcel bomb case involving two men accused of sending him a parcel bomb.

Paul McBride, one of Scotland’s best-known criminal lawyers, has been found dead in a hotel in Pakistan midway through the trial of two men accused of sending him a parcel bomb.

A prominent and outspoken QC, McBride was allegedly sent a device along with Neil Lennon, the Celtic football club manager, a senior Labour politician and an Irish republican group by Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie, from Ayrshire.

Their trial in Glasgow heard last week that McBride, 46, had been sent what appeared to be a petrol-based parcel bomb. Muirhead and McKenzie have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to murder.

McBride, 46, who was understood to be advising Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief, about the phone hacking scandal, was found dead in his hotel room in Lahore on Sunday morning by his close friend and colleague Aamer Anwar.

McBride’s unexpected death stunned the Scottish legal profession and senior political figures. Scotland’s two senior law officers, Frank Mulholland QC, the lord advocate, and Lesley Thomson, the solicitor advocate, said he would be “sorely missed.” It must have been “devastating news” for McBride’s partner Gary, they added.

“Paul was in the prime of his life,” they said. “He lived life to the full and had contributed so much to the legal profession, the media and public life in Scotland. He had a fabulous intellect and was interested in so many things. He was a fearless advocate who was not afraid to speak out about injustice and intolerance.”

Friends said he was very compassionate and generous, yet was “lethal” cross-examining witnesses. David McKie, a solicitor who often instructed McBride and last spoke to him on Friday, said: “He would take on the establishment and he did it fearlessly, even without considering the impact on his popularity and reputation.”

Anwar had last seen McBride at a wedding where the pair had met Pakistani government ministers and senior police officers. McBride had flown to Lahore for several days after taking a brief break from a holiday with his parents in Abu Dhabi.

Speaking from Lahore, Anwar said McBride had been feeling unwell and queasy for several days, and had gone back to the hotel early on Saturday to rest. Anwar raised the alarm with hotel security guards on Sunday morning after failing to reach McBride by phone several times.

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