After spending 22 days covering the trial, and with a verdict reached last Friday, The Courier’s Angus chief reporter Graham Brown reflects on one of the most horrific crimes the region has ever seen.
There are no words which can adequately describe the senselessness and brutality which ended the life of Steven Donaldson.
The deceit and depravity shown by his three killers also know no bounds; from the first seeds of that evil plan sown on the warm night of June 6 2018 to the lies each of these three despicable individuals continued to tell on High Court of Justiciary oath. It was a final, desperate attempt to evade the justice which will now rightly be meted out by Lord Pentland at the end of this month.
Fate brought together this unlikely cast of killers – two well-known hard men of Kirriemuir with a reputation for trouble and growing criminal records, alongside a teenager with talent from the right side of the tracks.
In the final stages of the trial, the phrase criminal enterprise featured prominently as Crown prosecutor Ashley Edwards placed the pieces of the picture before the jury, revealing the true version of the horror which unfolded.
Steven Donaldson’s killing was a series of events which spiralled out of control.
A row over a relationship prompted a plan to give an entirely innocent man “a hiding” and culminated in bloody and battered Steven Donaldson fighting for his life against two maniacal best pals in a frenzy of violence.
Three months pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby, Tasmin Glass lied to Steven Donaldson throughout the entire day before he met his brutal end, falsely telling him she was in Glasgow.
Eventually, and well into the evening after swimming in an Angus river with new boyfriend Dickie, farmhand Davidson and his girlfriend Claire Ogston, she told him: “Meet me at the hill or not at all.”
Armed with the baseball bat which would prove one of the key forensic elements of the circumstantial case, the two men jumped their victim, but gave completely different versions of how the following events unfolded.
The jury’s verdicts confirmed they saw through the lies of the contemptible triumvirate, Dickie and Davidson pointing the finger at each other and Glass denying even being at the car park where her two co-accused and an independent witness had placed her.
There are still questions surrounding the crime which might never be answered, including the weapon which delivered the fatal blow and where it was discarded.
A pathologist said the severity of the wounds to the back of Steven Donaldson’s head and neck were the result of sharp force trauma with a heavy bladed weapon such as a machete, sword or axe.
Jurors were invited to believe the killing weapon could have been collected from Davidson’s truck as the trio drove through Kirriemuir, but if that was the case it was another secret all three were prepared to lie about.
The final, terrible sequence of events at Kinnordy Loch is also likely to remain shrouded in deceit, including who set fire to the white BMW which burned so fiercely it collapsed on to the body of its owner after he was dragged under it.
Mercifully, the trio of figures in this darkest of events are each now facing years in a prison cell for what happened to Steven Donaldson.
It is a night that will forever remain etched in the memory of communities at opposite ends of Angus.
However, it was the last act of this grimmest of tragedies which most deserves the attention and focus of the people of Angus and beyond.
Huddled together in grief which has not lifted since their hearts first broke on Thursday June 7 2018, the Donaldson family bravely faced the waiting media while their statement was read by the investigation’s senior detective, Chief Inspector Andy Patrick.
Bill and Pam Donaldson, along with Steven’s sisters Lori and Nicola, had sat through the entire court proceedings.
Some moments, such as the horrific, but necessary presentation to the jury of the graphic images of their son’s hacked and burned corpse, proved too much to bear.
But they endured the horror of hearing how his hands were razored by defence wounds as he fought to protect himself in the car park at Kinnordy Loch, the trail of his blood stretching across it as he made a final, vain, attempt to escape Dickie and Davidson, and the sight of their deceased son lying beside the BMW car which had been his pride and joy.
Their dignity, decency and devotion to Steven’s memory presented the sharpest contrast imaginable to the behaviour of the three people who took their loved one’s life away.
They paid tribute in their statement to the Police Scotland major investigation team and all those who helped secure justice for Steven.
They also thanked the wider community of Angus whose revulsion over the killing has now been matched by the sense of relief that those behind it have been held to account.
The turnout at Steven’s funeral, and the floral tributes which continue to be laid at his grave and alongside the Kinnordy Loch oak tree planted in his memory, speaks eloquently of the love in which the successful, happy and popular young man was held.
There will be a final return to the High Court for the family on May 30.
On that day, the Donaldson family will finally see the three people who stole their loved one away face justice for the lies and savagery which shocked Angus as the dawn of a June morning broke to reveal a scene of incomprehensible horror.