A remorseless killer was today facing life in jail after he was convicted of brutally murdering and robbing a north-east 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 March 11 2016.
A jury deliberated for 11-and-a-half hours over three days after hearing three weeks of evidence – and found him guilty today.
Judge Lord Uist told him he faces life in prison when he returns for sentence next month – and said he was guilty of a “brutal murder”.
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 had heard how Mr McKandie’s body was found in a bloodbath at his home on March 12 2016.
He had died the night before in a savage attack that started outside his house and continued in the front hall – but wasn’t discovered until customers came calling the next day.
But despite the bloody scene that met him police officers who attended the property ruled his death an accident and didn’t begin a full forensic examination of the scene for six days.
Police today said they had apologised to Mr McKandie’s family for those blunders and said an internal review had been carried out – but said ultimately they had got their man.
It wasn’t until a pathologist carrying out a post-mortem saw the horrific injuries – which he said had come from 15 separate blows to the head – that a murder inquiry was launched the following Thursday.
Incredibly, it then took seven weeks before a massive haul of cash was discovered in the house, totalling more than £200,000.
Mr McKandie’s estate was later valued at more than £800,000 – wealth beyond anything imagined by his friends or relatives.
In the time between the death and the murder probe starting the house had sat virtually unguarded by police with no measures in place to protect forensic evidence outside the house.
When the probe 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 cops 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 – though that evidence could also have placed him at his own home.
He had also been seen with a “wad” of “thousands of pounds” in cash around the time – money that nobody could account for.
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 praised the family’s “courage and dignity” throughout the lengthy police investigation and court process that followed.
The senior detective 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.
“Thanks to the painstaking efforts of the officers involved who noticed anomalies in Sidebottom’s version of events, another side began to emerge of him as someone desperate for money to fund a lifestyle he couldn’t afford but managed to squander thousands of pounds the days following Brian’s murder.
“He also went to extreme efforts to cover his tracks and spun a web of lies to deceive the people around him.
“To date Sidebottom has shown no remorse for his actions nor offered any explanation as to why an innoncent man had to die, but starting today he must now face the consequences of robbing another person of their life.”
Sidebottom, 25, of Rothienorman, Aberdeenshire, denied a single charge of murder and robbery.
A jury of five men and ten women took 11 hours and 20 minutes spread over the course of three days to find him guilty by majority.
Judge Lord Uist deferred sentence for a social work background report and remanded Sidebottom in custody to appear at the High Court in Edinburgh on March 6 for sentence.
He said: “You have been convicted by the jury of the crimes of murder and robbery of Brian McKandie, a man who lived alone in his cottage in Badenscoth, Aberdeenshire.
“He was brutally murdered by being struck at least 15 times on the head an this was done in order to obtain money which you subsequently gave to other people and used yourself.
“The sentence for murder is fixed by law and is imprisonment for life.”