‘Ac­cused was at scene of mur­der day be­fore death’

Wit­ness tells trial of sight­ing as po­lice ex­am­in­ers say it took a week to re­alise McKandie was killed

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS JAFFRAY

THE man ac­cused of mur­der­ing a north-east me­chanic at his ru­ral Aberdeen­shire cot­tage was spot­ted at the prop­erty the day be­fore he died, a court has heard.

Steven Side­bot­tom is on trial at the High Court in Ab­erdeen ac­cused of bat­ter­ing Brian McKandie to death and rob­bing him in March of 2016.

And yes­ter­day the ju­rors heard from a wit­ness who vis­ited Mr McKandie’s prop­erty the night be­fore his body was dis­cov­ered and saw the ac­cused loi­ter­ing out­side.

Jill Auch­nie, who was pick­ing up a car from the me­chanic, said she was there for over half an hour and found Side­bot­tom still out­side as she left. She re­called telling her hus­band she thought his be­hav­iour was “strange”.

The court also heard yes­ter­day from po­lice scene ex­am­in­ers who re­vealed it took them a week to re­alise Mr McKandie had been mur­dered and more than a month to dis­cover thou­sands of pounds in cash had been stored through­out his home. Julie Good­eve said the ini­tial “hy­poth­e­sis” was that he had tripped and hurt his head be­fore fall­ing to his death.

The court heard that meant in­ves­ti­ga­tors ne­glected to take cer­tain pre­cau­tions, such as wear­ing pro­tec­tive suits, when first vis­it­ing what they only later dis­cov­ered was a crime scene.

Side­bot­tom, 25, de­nies the charge against him.

The trial, be­fore Lord Uist, con­tin­ues.

A man ac­cused of blud­geon­ing a north-east me­chanic to death in­side his home was seen out­side the prop­erty the day be­fore.

Brian McKandie was found dead in Fairview Cot­tages in Baden­scoth in March of 2016.

Steven Side­bot­tom, 25, is on trial at the High Court in Ab­erdeen ac­cused of mur­der­ing him and steal­ing money from him.

Yes­ter­day, a friend of Mr McKandie said she and her chil­dren saw Side­bot­tom at the prop­erty the day be­fore he died.

The court also heard po­lice scene ex­am­in­ers did not re­alise there had been a mur­der for a week.

They ini­tially be­lieved Mr McKandie had died as a re­sult of an ac­ci­dent and did not take pre­cau­tions, such as wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear.

The court heard it also took in­ves­ti­ga­tors a month to dis­cover there were stacks of notes to­talling thou­sands of pounds in the home.

G i v i n g e v i d e n c e yes­ter­day, Jill Auch­nie told a jury that Mr McKandie had been un­der­tak­ing some work on her car and that she had gone to col­lect it on the evening of Thurs­day March 10.

She said when she ap­proached she saw a white van parked there and a man ex­it­ing the garage as she went in.

The 43-year-old said her son and daugh­ter had joined her as she spoke to Mr McKandie for 15 to 20 min­utes. When she came out the man was still there.

Ad­vo­cate de­pute Iain McS­por­ran QC asked her if she could see the man in court. She iden­ti­fied Side­bot­tom as the man she’d seen.

The wit­ness claimed there had been a brief con­ver­sa­tion in­volv­ing him and her daugh­ter while her son was still in the garage speak­ing to Mr McKandie, but could not re­call any de­tails.

When asked whether she thought any­thing of it, she said: “I re­mem­ber say­ing to my hus­band how strange it was that the per­son was still there.”

Ear­lier in the day, the court heard from nu­mer­ous scenes of crime ex­am­in­ers from the Scot­tish Po­lice Au­thor­ity.

The first of these, Julie Good­eve, was called to Fairview Cot­tages on Satur­day March 12.

She said the death was not ini­tially treated as sus­pi­cious and so pro­tec­tive gear was not in place.

She said “the gen­eral con­sen­sus was an ac­ci­dent has oc­curred” and the hy­poth­e­sis was that Mr McKandie had hit his head then fallen to his death.

Later in the day, the court heard from John Ding­wall who be­came in­volved at the scene when a post-mortem ex­am­i­na­tion re­vealed what had caused the in­juries.

He had al­ready made mul­ti­ple vis­its to what was now a crime scene when he was called to at­tend again.

Mr Ding­wall said: “It was April 28, the crime scene man­ager and other po­lice of­fi­cers had been search­ing the scene and had found money in tins.”

The court was shown pic­tures taken at the scene of bun­dles of notes, wrapped up, which had been stored in tins and else­where.

Side­bot­tom, of Crannabog Farm in Roth­ienor­man, de­nies the charge against him.

His de­fence team have launched two spe­cial de­fences; one that he was else­where at his home and at other lo­ca­tions when the crime took place and the sec­ond that an­other man, from Bridge of Don, was re­spon­si­ble.

The trial con­tin­ues.

“The gen­eral con­sen­sus was an ac­ci­dent had oc­curred”

KILLED: Brian McKandie was ini­tially thought to have died in an ac­ci­dent

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