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Steven Dickie death: Sheriff reveals Steven Donaldson murderer’s final hours

Steven Dickie killed himself in Perth Prison
Steven Dickie killed himself in Perth Prison

Murderer Steven Dickie had been taking illegal drugs and lost his prison job in the days leading up to his suicide, a court has heard.

Dickie, 24, was serving a life sentence for killing oil industry worker Steven Donaldson at Kinnordy nature reserve, near Kirriemuir, in June 2018.

He killed himself at Perth Prison in November 2019, the same day as his accomplices Tasmin Glass and Callum Davidson lost their bid to have their sentences reduced.

Despite taking drugs during his time in the prison, a sheriff ruled they had not played a part in his death as notes left for family and friends showed it was “deliberate and planned”.

Dickie had been sacked from his job as a “passman” in the jail on the previous day, a position which allowed Dickie to have certain privileges.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Gillian Wade QC, who presided over a Fatal Accident Inquiry held earlier this year, released her findings.

She had heard evidence that doctors who conducted a post mortem on Dickie found he had taken Spice – a psychoactive drug popular among prisoners.

The inquiry also heard Dickie had also taken an anti-depressant called Mirtazapine before he died. The substance had not been prescribed to him.

<br />Steven Donaldson, was killed by Dickie and his accomplices Tasmin Glass and Callum Davidson

In May 2019, jail staff also placed Dickie on the Scottish Prison Service’s anti-suicide Talk To Me Policy after his mother said she was worried for her son’s mental health.

He was placed on 60-minute observations but these were removed after staff concluded he was at no risk of taking his life.

Their conclusions were based on Dickie not expressing or showing any desire to do so.

‘Clearly using drugs’

In a written judgement issued on Tuesday, Sheriff Wade said the evidence in the case showed prison staff could not have done anything to stop Dickie from taking his life.

She wrote: “I accepted the submission of the procurator fiscal to the effect that the deceased was unlikely to have been acting under some sort of psychosis or hallucination at the time of his death as he had left a number of notes for his friends and family and specific directions about what he wished to be done with his property.

“It was therefore clear that whatever his motivation the deceased’s actions in taking his life were deliberate and planned.

“It is quite impossible for me to find any causal link between the consumption of these substances and the deceased’s death on the basis of the evidence before me.

“All that can be said with certainly is that the deceased was clearly using drugs within the prison system while expressly denying that this was the case.

“He had no history of substance abuse and had not sought any help for any such problem.

“There was no overt sign that he was ever under the effects of any substance and on the contrary seems to have held a position of responsibility within the prison without being compromised by apparent substance misuse.

Any attempt to attribute a motive would be speculation”

Sheriff Gillian Wade

“There are many factors which could have affected the deceased such as the loss of his job as a passman, his ingestion of drugs with unknown consequences, the lack of prospects of an appeal or simply the prospect of having to spend a lengthy period of time in custody.

“None of these on their own seem to have been the motivating factor behind the deceased’s actions and any attempt to attribute a motive would be speculation.

“On the basis of the evidence I cannot suggest any recommendations of the sort suggested… which might realistically have prevented this or other deaths in similar circumstances.”

Kinnordy Killers

Dickie was ordered to serve at least 23 years following a trial before judge Lord Pentland at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Along with Tasmin Glass and Callum Davidson, Dickie was convicted of Mr Donaldson’s murder after viciously assaulting him last June.

Glass, then aged 20, lured Mr Donaldson, who was her ex-boyfriend and the father of her unborn child, to a deadly rendezvous.

She had written off a Volkswagen car which he had bought for her and was under pressure to pay the money back.

Dickie, who had been in a sexual relationship with Glass, and Davidson, then 24, were recruited to confront their victim, which led to his brutal death at Kinnordy Nature Reserve.

Mr Donaldson, 27, was repeatedly struck on the head and body with a baseball bat and a “heavy bladed weapon”, such as a cleaver, machete or axe, which cut his spinal cord in two places.

A jury returned majority guilty verdicts of murder against Dickie and Davidson, and an unanimous verdict of culpable homicide against Glass.

Glass was given 10 years while Davidson was ordered to serve a minimum of 24.

Jogging bottoms row led to job loss

In the judgement, Sheriff Wade tells of how Dickie worked as a passman at Perth Prison. This allowed him to move freely between the halls to cleaning flats and showers and serve food to the other prisoners. It is only is allocated to trusted convicts.

Perth Prison

However, on the day before his death Dickie was sacked from the job because he refused to wear prison issue jogging bottoms when serving food.

The inquiry heard following the sacking, Dickie phoned his mother and it was “clear” from the conversation that he did not seem bothered by being sacked. He spoke about the “collection” of a car and a bike and how the vehicles should be stored.

Prison drug smuggling

Prison staff said it was very difficult for them to stop spice being smuggled into prison. They said the drug was a liquid and it was soaked into the paper which prisoners receive as letters.

Prison staff said they couldn’t stop inmates from receiving letters.

Sheriff Wade wrote that prison staff couldn’t stop drugs from entering jails on all occasions.

She wrote: “It is clearly a very difficult if not impossible task to prevent drugs from being brought into the prison estate. The evidence of the witness made clear the lengths to which prisoners would go to ensure a supply.

“I am satisfied that there are measures in place to try to counter the use of and admission of drugs in the prison estate but again this cannot be eliminated if there are increasingly novel and determined efforts to circumvent the measures in place.”