Remorseless killer faces life in jail for brutal murder in rural Aberdeenshire

Steven Sidebottom was convicted of murder at the High Court in Aberdeen
Steven Sidebottom was convicted of murder at the High Court in Aberdeen
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A remorseless killer was facing life in jail after he was convicted of murdering and robbing a mechanic at his rural cottage to “fund a lifestyle he couldn’t afford”.

Steven Sidebottom had denied murdering and robbing Brian McKandie, 67, at his home in Badenscoth, near Rothienorman, on 11 March 2016.

A jury deliberated for 11-and-a-half hours over three days before finding him guilty on Friday.

Judge Lord Uist told Sidebottom he was guilty of a “brutal murder” and that he faces life in prison when he returns for sentence next month.

Speaking outside court, police said Sidebottom had carried out the “cold and calculated” murder and robbery to “fund a lifestyle he couldn’t afford” – and had “spun a web of lies” in the aftermath.

The High Court in Aberdeen heard that Mr McKandie’s body was found at his home on 12 March 2016.

He had died the night before in a savage attack that started outside his house and continued in the front hall, but his body wasn’t discovered until customers came calling the next day.

Police initially believed his death an accident and didn’t begin a full forensic examination of the scene for six days.

Yesterday officers said they had apologised to Mr McKandie’s family for those ­blunders and added that an internal review had been carried out.

It wasn’t until a pathologist carrying out a post-mortem examination saw the horrific injuries – which he said had come from 15 separate blows to the head – that a murder inquiry was launched.

Seven weeks later, a huge amount of cash was discovered in the house, totalling more than £200,000. Mr McKandie’s estate was later valued at more than £800,000.

In the time between the death and the murder inquiry starting, there were no measures in place to protect forensic evidence in the house.

When the inquiry did get fully under way, fingerprints and DNA samples from police, undertakers and firefighters who had attended the scene were found, but nothing to link police to a killer.

It wasn’t until seven months later, when police became suspicious of inconsistencies in statements made by Sidebottom, that he came into the frame.

A trawl of his mobile phone records placed him in the vicinity of Mr McKandie’s property at the time it was believed he was attacked .

Sidebottom had also been seen with a “wad” of “thousands of pounds” in cash around the time.

Text messages showed Sidebottom had been planning a “job” that would involve him “doing someone in” to recover cash.

Following the guilty verdict, members of Mr McKandie’s family stood outside court as Detective Superintendent Iain Smith, of Police Scotland’s Major Investigations Team, read a statement on their behalf.

It said: “He was a much-loved and respected member of the community – a hard-working and quiet man who wouldn’t have done anyone a bad turn.

“Every day we think about what happened to Brian in the home he lived his whole life, and every day we struggle to understand why this happened to him.

“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.”

DI Smith said this was a “cold and calculated murder” and added: “Brian was a quiet, unassuming man who had proved himself over the years to be an honest and reliable handyman and mechanic.

“The fact he was murdered within his own house – the place he had lived since he was two-years-old – made this crime all the more callous.”