A cold-hearted killer who tried to steal from her victim’s bank account within hours of murdering him has been jailed for life.
Sharyn Stewart hit Alan Cowie (pictured below) with a bottle at his city home, knocked him to the ground and then placed two feet on his neck to stop him breathing before placing a bag over his head – and going to a party.
There, she told a reveller she would buy petrol and burn the house down to destroy the evidence – and then she tried to defraud her victim out of cash.
The detective who led the investigation described Stewart, 53, as a “despicable cold-hearted killer” who tried to ruin Mr Cowie’s reputation to save herself from justice.
Stewart – a drug addict and alcoholic – was told at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday she must serve at least 15 years in jail after a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict following a seven-day trial and a day of deliberation.
Detective Inspector Gary Winter, who was in charge of the probe, said: “Stewart was 100% a cold-hearted killer who brutally murdered a man who had put a roof over her head and supplied her with financial support.
“I have spoken to his loved ones and they have welcomed the verdict and the sentencing.”
Stewart met Mr Cowie, 65, outside his home in Alexander Terrace (pictured below), Aberdeen, in May 2016 as her daughter lives next door.
Mr Cowie had inherited £86,000 and Det Insp Winter said “the majority” of that had been spent before his death.
Stewart moved in with Mr Cowie but claimed they were just friends, though police disputed that.
The grandmother had previous convictions for violence, dishonesty and fraud and the court heard she tried to get her hands on Mr Cowie’s money.
Det Insp Winter told the Evening Express that Mr Cowie got so sick of Stewart spending his money he told her his bank cards had been stolen and cancelled them just four days before his death.
“Mr Cowie took the view that he needed to come up with a story to stop her spending his money in a way that would prevent her from turning violent towards him,” said Det Insp Winter.
He added: “Our inquiries identified a significant portion of his finances went on purchases for Stewart and when money was not available to her she became violent and cruel.”
Then on January 2 last year, Stewart killed Mr Cowie.
She claimed he had subjected her to domestic violence and she was reacting reasonably.
Det Insp Winter said: “If you look at what Stewart’s admissions were in court, they were that she was subjected to abuse, followed Mr Cowie into the kitchen, hit him to the ground, repeatedly hit his head against the kitchen floor and used both feet to stand on his neck.
“In some cases, there can be a reasonable physical response to domestic violence – but this clearly wasn’t reasonable.”
Stewart left Mr Cowie’s body at his home address and went to a New Year’s house party.
There, she told reveller John Patterson, 39, she had just stood on a man’s neck and killed him.
She asked him where she could buy petrol so she could burn down the house. Mr Patterson told the court he thought she was joking and Det Insp Winter said he does not know if she would have burned down the flat.
He added: “During the investigation, we heard a recording from the early hours of January 3 of Stewart contacting Mr Cowie’s bank attempting to gain access to his funds, though his bank card had been cancelled.”
It was later that morning that Stewart’s friends and family contacted the police as they were concerned for Mr Cowie’s welfare.
Police forced entry to his property and found his body.
It was originally alleged that Stewart had attempted to murder Mr Cowie in April 2017, but the prosecution withdrew that charge during the trial.
She admitted killing Mr Cowie but denied murder on the grounds her responsibility was diminished due to mental health problems.
However, psychiatrist Dr Alasdair Forrest, who works at Aberdeen’s Royal Cornhill Hospital, said he examined her and could not find evidence she didn’t know what she was doing when she killed Mr Cowie.
The jury concluded she was guilty of murder.
Sentencing Stewart, whose address was given as HMP Grampian, judge Lord Pentland said: “(The jury has) seen through your tissue of lies.”
He added: “I conclude you committed a savage and cruel murder with deliberation.
“The medical evidence showed Mr Cowie was fighting for his life but you showed him no mercy.
“The jury has rightly in my view rejected your defence of provocation.
“After murdering Mr Cowie you tried to cover your tracks and showed a callous disregard for what you have done.
“Although your relationship with him was a difficult one, my overall impression is that you preyed and manipulated him in order to secure money to feed your addictions to drink and drugs.”
During the trial, Stewart claimed Mr Cowie had pestered her for sex and she refused.
Giving evidence, she described the incident leading up to Mr Cowie’s death.
“He was going on about how the my pyjamas were made of steel as I wouldn’t let him anywhere near me,” said Stewart.
“I remember him running into me and pushing me – I fell back.
“It was like slow motion. When I got up, I don’t know – I exploded.
“I remember standing over him with my feet on his throat.
“He was laughing at me. I was banging him off the floor.”
Det Insp Winter said: “Despite having her own home, Stewart lived with Mr Cowie in his flat although claimed to not be in a relationship with him.
“There must have been something in the relationship for Mr Cowie.
“To the end, she claimed he made sexual advances towards her and slurred his reputation in an attempt to save herself from justice.”
Before ordering Stewart to be taken to the cells at the High Court in Edinburgh (pictured above), Lord Pentland told her: “You have not shown the slightest bit of regret or remorse for your actions.”
Defence advocate Stephen O’Rourke QC said there was very little he could say on behalf of his client.
He told Lord Pentland: “She has been in custody since January 5, 2018 and she has been described as being a model prisoner.
“The drug issues which you have heard about are being addressed and managed.”