US News

Family convinced their son was murdered told there was ‘no criminality’ by cops

A family who believe their son was murdered have been told by police that there is “no criminality” after a major re-investigation.

The family of Stefan Sutherland, 25, have campaigned for a murder prosecution to be brought since his body was found in the sea with head injuries in 2013.

But after a major re-investigation by Police Scotland, officers have told the family they can find “no evidence” Stefan was murdered.

Detectives and prosecutors confirmed in a meeting with Stefan’s family that a spot of his blood was found on the living-room wall of a violent drug-dealer – but insisted no evidence existed to justify charges. Deputy Crown Agent Lindsey Miller led a meeting with the Sutherland family in Inverness on September 7, eight years and a day after Stefan was last seen alive.

A 47-page document had been delivered by hand to the family the evening before.

Stefan Sutherland

Police Scotland officers also attended as the family was talked through the document and told the “thorough” investigation lasting almost two years had ruled out criminality.

Dad Sandy last night insisted there were still unanswered questions over Stefan’s death.

Sandy said: “I asked the senior investigating officer Graeme Mackie, ‘When did Stefan die; where did he die; how did he die and why did he die?’

“He just looked at me because they still don’t know.”

Stefan vanished in September 2013, his body washing up on the beach at Occumster 11 days after he was last seen going to a drug dealer’s home in Lybster, Caithness, after having a drink in the bar of the village’s Bayview Hotel.

The family believe local officers concluded the death was suicide or an accident rather than a murder.

Relatives fought long and hard for a comprehensive investigation, while Police Scotland maintained there was no evidence of foul play.

In 2019, the Daily Record revealed the bloodstain on the wall carried Stefan’s DNA, that injuries to his body suggested he had been brutally beaten, and that witnesses reported the suspect had burned a carpet and a sofa soon after Stefan vanished.

Following a series of articles, the force announced in October 2019 that a review by experienced detectives would begin.

But Stefan’s family believe that the re-investigation has placed too much emphasis on Facebook posts by Stefan, where he talks about his mental health difficulties.

Mum, Sandra Sutherland, brother Graham, dad Sandy Sutherland, sister Katrina Sutherland, brother Andrew
Mum, Sandra Sutherland, brother Graham, dad Sandy Sutherland, sister Katrina Sutherland, brother Andrew

Sandy said last night: “They have spent two years investigating Stefan’s Facebook posts instead of searching for evidence to establish how his blood ended up on the wall of a guy who had beaten him unconscious once before. From pages six to 19 of the document, they mention Stefan’s Facebook posts and comments 31 times.

“There are also references to posts or messages without the word ‘Facebook’ but that is where all their material comes from.

“There’s no mention of the numerous Facebook posts we have been shown over the years that indicate some kind of confession by the man we believe killed Stefan, or admissions made by those close to him that they lied to police.

“If they’re bringing in the Major Investigation Team to work for almost two years and telling them to concentrate mainly on Facebook, surely it should be more wide-ranging, not just looking at Stefan’s posts.”

Sandy said he and wife Sandra were horrified at allegations made against them in the new Police Scotland report by unidentified witnesses.

He said: “Apparently, these people have been able to see and hear arguments in the family home, which stands isolated on a croft and cannot be seen from the A99, the main road that passes us.

“Yet witnesses have told the police I chased Stefan out of the house, Sandra whacked him on the head, that we wouldn’t let him come back and live with us, and even that I said when he was missing that I didn’t care if he was dead.

“Anyone who knows us will know that none of that is true.

“They have picked out some of Stefan’s posts saying he was down.

“They focus on his worries about losing his hair, a relationship and a job coming to an end.

“But Stefan was planning to come and live in a new house he was going to help me build on the land, and we had agreed to go halves with him on a car he wanted as long as he used his money for driving lessons.

“He was making plans for the future that did not involve killing himself. Stefan had no mental health problems and had never been treated for depression.

“His family and close friends told the police that in 2013 and during the review that started in 2019.

“Like lots of young people all over the world, when things went against him, he poured out a bit of emotion on social media and like most of them, he got on with his life next day.

“Det Supt Mackie kept telling us we could trust them, they would do a thorough job, but they have just gone over everything looking to reinforce the shoddy police work in 2013.”

Did you know you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to our daily newsletter?

We send a morning and lunchtime newsletter covering the latest headlines every day.

We also send coronavirus updates at 5pm on weekdays, and a round up of the week’s must-read stories on Sunday afternoons.

Signing up is simple, easy and free.

You can pop your email address into the sign up box above, hit Subscribe and we’ll do the rest.

Alternatively, you can sign up and check out the rest of our newsletters here.

The family can ask the Crown Office to review its decision and they say they are likely to do so.

Police Scotland last night insisted that its investigation had been “comprehensive” – but insisted there was no evidence of criminality in Stefan’s death.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “Stefan’s death was a tragedy for his family, his friends and the close-knit Caithness community. Our sympathies remain with them all.

“Officers from Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team spent 16 months carrying out a comprehensive review into all aspects of Stefan’s death, which included taking more than 200. statements, speaking to over 500 people locally, re-interviewing witnesses
from the original investigation and tracing a number of new witnesses.

“These inquiries found no evidence of criminality in relation to Stefan’s death, which was supported by an expert review of forensic evidence, witness testimony and all facts established during both the initial investigation in 2013 and the latest review.

“I recognise the years of campaigning by the Sutherland family, who have rightly sought answers to a number of questions surrounding Stefan’s death.

“The review found that many of these questions and concerns were based on unsubstantiated information being passed to them which understandably caused significant grief and worry to the Sutherland family and the local community.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office said: “Crown counsel has instructed that there should be no proceedings in this case.”

Source link

Back to top button