Police officers searching for a missing woman in a single-bedroom flat failed to find her butchered body lying in the bath, the High Court in Glasgow has been told.
A search of murder accused Steven Jackson’s home was conducted without a single officer opening the door of his bathroom to look inside.
The body of Kimberley Mackenzie was within, according to witnesses.
It has emerged that four police officers carried out searches at Jackson’s home in Market Street, Montrose.
Each admitted they had failed to open the bathroom door, with the officers blaming “miscommunication” and “distraction”.
During two visits on the same day, they looked under a bed, opened cupboards, searched behind curtains in the living room and poked around the kitchen.
The failure to enter the bathroom left presiding judge Lady Rae bemused and she questioned the methods used by Police Scotland.
Having heard evidence from three officers it fell to Montrose PC Debbie Ironside to answer for the failings.
Lady Rae asked the officer what it meant to search a house, adding “ do you mean just part of the house?”.
The officer replied: “It means all of the house. I will search half of a property and a colleague will search the other half.”
Lady Rae replied: “Is there some special system because you are the fourth officer that did not search the bathroom.
The witness said colleagues “did usually communicate” but admitted that had not taken place on that occasion.
PC Ironside admitted her attention had been drawn, midway through her search by a number of heavy duty black bags, half-filled with unknown but bulky contents and a chainsaw.
The jury heard she and a colleague had accepted the explanation offered by Jackson, who told them: “There’s nothing to worry about. It belongs to a friend. There’s not even a motor in it.”
The officers did not search the bags and did not to complete their search of the flat.
The court heard how during the multiple visits by Police Scotland Jackson had been calm and unflappable and officers undertaking what was, at that time, a missing person inquiry had found nothing untoward.
But during a return visit on November 4, as the search for missing Ms Mackenzie continued, officers were assaulted by the smell of death as they knocked on the door.
PC Garry Smith said when he arrived with his colleague PC Michael Woodburn, they were aware of “a smell you would associate with a dead body” from the communal stairwell. Incense was being used to mask the smell.
Moments after their arrival at his flat on November 4, Jackson had admitted killing his former partner Kimberley MacKenzie, PC Smith said.
He told the High Court in Glasgow Jackson had made a series of admissions that began with his knowledge of her killing and his part in her death, before detailing her dismemberment and the disposal of her body in bins across Montrose.
PC Smith said Jackson — identified in court as a drug dealer — confided in the officers that Miss Mackenzie had visited his flat and offered sex in exchange for drugs.
That was overheard by co-accused Michelle Higgins, a heroin addict and his current partner, who had been in the flat’s single bedroom.
He said she had run from the room with a hammer and had struck Miss Mackenzie “six or seven times in the head”.
PC Smith continued: “He told us that he had finished Miss Mackenzie off by cutting her throat using a yellow-handled saw.”
He was confessing at such a rate, the court heard, that the officers had trouble keeping up with their notetaking. He admitted cutting Miss Jackson’s body into numerous pieces in the bathtub. The parts were then placed in black bags, one of which burst and spilled blood on the living room floor.
PC Smith said: “He said that he had cut her arms at the wrists, at the elbows and the shoulders, that he had cut her head off and cut her torso in two.
“He had also cut her thighs off.”
The body parts, he told the officers, had been placed in nearby bins on the street.
He later admitted some parts had been moved to a house elsewhere in Montrose.
CCTV footage was shown of Jackson and Higgins pulling suitcases through the streets between two locations named in charges.
Jackson, 40, and co-accused Michelle Higgins, 29, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
They deny murdering and dismembering 37-year-old Kimberley Mackenzie at Jackson’s flat in October last year.
It is alleged they cut up Miss Mackenzie’s body and put her parts into bins at Market Street, Paton’s Lane, Chapel Street and William Phillips Drive.
Jackson and Higgins are also alleged to have cleaned and bleached the walls of the flat and disposed of a bloodstained rug.
Both deny murder. The trial continues.