A specialist road traffic collision investigator who carried out a survey of the Kinnordy Loch car park has spoken of a 40-metre drag mark to where Steven Donaldson was found beside his burnt-out car.
Perth-based PC Stewart Copeland went to the Angus nature reserve two days after the early hours discovery of the Arbroath man’s body, as part of the major investigation.
He told the jury at Edinburgh High Court on Thursday he used a laser scanner, similar to that used by construction engineers, from several points in and around the car park to build a 360 degree view of the scene.
Asked by advocate depute Ashley Edwards about the drag mark which the jury has heard was found running from the car park entrance to the deceased’s burnt-out car, the witness said it was “quite distinctive” and had left a “furrow” behind it.
He told the court it was 62 centimetres at its widest point.
“It was a uniform mark, like one item being dragged across a surface rather than trailing items,” said Mr Copeland.
“To leave that kind of mark it would be a solid rounded item, with no sharp edges protruding from it.
“There was nothing apparent at all of any trailing. If the body was being dragged with any other element trailing I would expect to see other marks.”
Taking into account the space covered by the burnt-out BMW, the witness said the length of the drag mark was some 40 metres.
He also told the court he and a fellow investigator had noticed a tyre mark, which they believed had been left after the drag mark was created.
It was one of four marks found at the site, with the others believed to belong to police vehicles which had been first on the scene.
The witness said the mark was a 1.8 metre acceleration mark in the gravel, 21 centimetres wide.
He said it could have been a wheelspin mark from a motorcycle.
Questioned about the direction of travel, he said: “The vehicle was accelerating from the centre of the car park to the exit.”
Under cross-examination by Ian Duguid QC, defending Steven Dickie, the investigator was asked if there was any evidence that, if it was a motorcycle, it had been driven anywhere else in the car park.
Mr Copeland replied: “The only evidence of any vehicle that has caused that mark is that mark itself.”
The defence counsel suggested a scenario of someone driving down the adjacent road and into the car park, seeing the burning vehicle and then driving out again and asked if that was a feasible explanation for the mark.
“Yes it is,” replied the witness.
Prosecutor Ashley Edwards suggested she expects to reach the end of the Crown case in the middle of next week.
The trial, before Lord Pentland and a jury of eight women and seven men, is scheduled to last 18 days in total.
The charge faced by the accused Steven Dickie, Callum Davidson and Tasmin Glass alleges that between June 6 and 7 2018 at the Peter Pan playpark, Kirriemuir and Loch of Kinnordy nature reserve car park, they assaulted Mr Donaldson and arranged to meet him with the intention of assaulting him, and once there repeatedly struck him on the head and body with unknown instruments whereby he was incapacitated, and thereafter took him to Loch of Kinnordy where they repeatedly struck him on the head and body with a knife and baseball bat or similar instruments, repeatedly struck him on the head and neck with an unknown heavy bladed instrument and set fire to him and his motor vehicle, registered S73 VED, and murdered him.
Dickie and Davidson face four other charges including one of behaving in a threatening manner towards two men between January 2014 and June 2018 by making threats, following them on foot and in a motor vehicle, presenting weapons and acting in a threatening manner.
They are also charged with putting a kitten in a bag in Main Street, Lochore, Fife on an occasion between February 1 and May 31 2017, swinging the bag about and punching and kicking the kitten; behaving in a threatening manner towards a man in St Malcolm’s Wynd, Kirriemuir, and elsewhere between December 1 2017 and February 28 2018 by following him on foot and in a vehicle, and threatening him with weapons.
Both also deny following and staring at a woman and kicking her car in Kirriemuir between August 1 2017 and April 31 2018.
Davidson faces a further charge of assaulting a man between June 1 2017 and December 31 2017 at a house in Glengate, Kirriemuir, by pushing him to the floor and threatening to punch him.
Dickie is also accused of assaulting a woman at the Ogilvy Arms pub in Kirriemuir between February 1 and 28 last year by seizing her by the wrist and neck and threatening her with violence.