NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Handyman Brian McKandie's murderer Steven Sidebottom jailed for life

Steven Sidebottom and Brian McKandie Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Steven Sidebottom was found guilty of murdering and robbing Brian McKandie

A man convicted of the brutal murder of a 67-year-old handyman who had £200,000 in cash hidden in his Aberdeenshire home has been jailed for life.

Brian McKandie was found dead in his cottage near Rothienorman in 2016.

Police initially treated his death as an accident but a post-mortem examination later found he had suffered at least 15 blows to the head.

Steven Sidebottom, 25, was told he would serve a minimum of 21 years for the murder and robbery.

It is understood he is considering appealing against both conviction and sentence.

Lord Uist told the father-of-one and first time offender he had been convicted of the murder of an "inoffensive and popular" man.

The judge said: "The degree of violence used was severe and extreme.

"This was in any view a very brutal murder.

"You have continued to deny your guilt since your conviction and shown no remorse."

He told Sidebottom: "I consider that the appropriate punishment part in your case should be 22 years. I shall take into account the period of one year which you have already spent in custody on remand by reducing that period to 21 years."

It is thought Sidebottom got away with a few thousand pounds - but police later found about £200,000 stashed away in tins and shoeboxes in Mr McKandie's home.

Image copyright McKandie family
Image caption Mr McKandie lived in his rural cottage most of his life

Sidebottom denied carrying out the attack in March 2016, but a jury at the High Court in Aberdeen returned a majority guilty verdict last month after an 18-day trial.

For many decades, Mr McKandie was known as someone who carried out cash-in-hand car repairs at the garage at his home, as well as fixing electrical items.

He would often joke with customers that the money would "top up" his "shoebox".

Seven weeks after his body was discovered in his rural cottage, police found numerous sweet and biscuit tins and shoeboxes filled with banknotes.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption Police found about £200,000 in notes in the cottage

Mr McKandie's death featured on Crimewatch and a £10,000 reward was offered.

Police attention turned to Sidebottom, who knew Mr McKandie and lived locally.

Officers saw discrepancies in the information he had given them about being outside the pensioner's home in the days before he died.

Lavished gifts

The main elements of the prosecution case included evidence of Sidebottom suddenly having what appeared to be "thousands" of pounds around the time of the murder, and that he had "lavished" gifts on his student girlfriend.

There was also evidence of Sidebottom offering a friend £500 to drive him so he could "do someone in" to get money.

However, Graeme Gray said he did not do the "job" as it sounded "too risky".

The court also heard evidence that Sidebottom's mobile phone could have been in the area of Mr McKandie's home around the time he was believed to have been killed.

Image caption The handyman worked in the garage next to his cottage

It all formed part of the circumstantial case presented by advocate depute Iain McSporran for the prosecution.

However, Sidebottom's defence counsel Ian Duguid QC argued that there was no evidence any money had been taken from Mr McKandie's home.

The judge also noted that no DNA was found linking the accused to the crime, nor any fingerprints.

Lord Uist told the jury that in order to convict Sidebottom, they would have to accept the "whole package" of the circumstantial case.

Some members of the jury - who spent almost 11 hours considering the verdict over three days - were visibly upset as the verdict was delivered. Sidebottom showed no emotion.

'Painstaking investigation'

Mr McKandie's relatives said in a statement after the conviction: "The reality is we will never understand why Brian - a complete gentleman - died in such a brutal and senseless way, and it is something we will never come to terms with."

Police Scotland welcomed Sidebottom's conviction for a "cold and calculated murder".

Det Supt Iain Smith said: "He killed Brian within the pensioner's own home in the most brutal of ways and a painstaking and thorough investigation was launched by Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team to bring this complex circumstantial case to court.

"The most important thing is that Brian's family now has the justice they deserve, as well as his friends who sat through every day of evidence in court and the vast amount of acquaintances he amassed during the decades spent working as a handyman in Rothienorman.

"I would once again like to thank Brian's family and in particular his brother Bill for their patience during the investigation and subsequent trial - they have all shown incredible dignity throughout."

Sidebottom was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh.

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