Court hears man accused of murdering north-east mechanic Brian McKandie paid off £1,500 bar tab same week body found

Brian McKandie
Brian McKandie

A man accused of murder paid off a £1,500 bar tab the week his alleged victim died, having not bought a drink in the pub for a year, a court has heard.

Steven Sidebottom, 25, is on trial accused of murdering and robbing Brian McKandie at his rural cottage at Badenscoth in March 2016.

Police found almost £200,000 in cash in the dead mechanic’s Aberdeenshire home while investigating the incident.

Yesterday jurors at the High Court in Aberdeen heard evidence from Roderick Blacklaw, who runs the Vale Hotel in Fyvie.

He claimed Sidebottom had been a regular customer in his premises from 2014 and he had built up a tab for drinks for around a year between 2015-2016.

Advocate depute Iain McSporran QC asked how this had happened.

Mr Blacklaw replied: “I felt I knew him and I thought I could trust him.”

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He told the court that when he struggled to pay off a tax bill in 2016 he asked Sidebottom to pay his tab.

Mr McSporran said: “Tell us about the circumstances of him paying up.”

He replied: “I said I have a bill to pay and would he pay his tab, he said ‘yes’. He said he had something coming up the next week, he paid me.”

Brian McKandie, left, and officers at his home near Rothienorman

When asked when it was, he replied: “It was the week before March 13.”

Mr McSporran asked: “What is significant about that week?”

He replied: “Mr McKandie was found.”

When asked when Sidebottom paid the money due, he said: “The Wednesday before.”

When Mr McSporran put it to him that it was in fact the Friday he received the cash, the hotelier rejected his suggestion.

He also said Sidebottom had given him £2,000 and, when asked why he had given £500 extra, he told him to start a new tab.

Sidebottom has lodged a special defence of alibi, claiming he was elsewhere during the time of the attack, including at the Vale Hotel as well as his home in Crannabog Farm, the Co-op in Newmachar and St Peters Hall in Aberdeen.

Mr Blacklaw told the court Sidebottom was in his bar at some point between 5-7pm on the Friday the alleged attack took place and left and did not come back.

The court also heard from Ronald MacInnes, a self-employed mechanic, who got to know Sidebottom after he took an interest in his trade in early 2016.

He said he had a car up for sale and Sidebottom kept messaging him, beginning on March 17 2016, asking to sell him it, and he eventually bought it paying £700 in £20 notes.

Mr McSporran asked him whether he had queried with Sidebottom whether he was responsible for Mr McKandie’s death.

He said: “I asked him once and once only”, and he said Sidebottom had replied “no” and then “swore at me”.

Earlier in the day the court heard from Professor James Grieve, the forensic pathologist who examined Mr McKandie’s body.

Having initially been told it was not a suspicious death, he told the jurors he unzipped the bag and realised “something was not right” as there were injuries on multiple sides to his head and he believed it was unlikely he had fallen.

Sidebottom denies the charge and as well as his alibi, he claims another man, from Bridge of Don, was responsible.

The trial, being held before Lord Uist, continues.