A pizza chef has gone on trial charged with murdering a Perthshire jeweller by hitting him on the head with a metal pan and asphyxiating him.
Nikola Zhulev, 30, is accused of binding Alan Gardner’s feet together with tape and concealing his body in a duvet before buying a spade to dig a grave for him with the intention of concealing the body in woodland at St Martin’s near Guildtown, Perth.
He is alleged to have done this and to have hidden the keys of Mr Gardner’s Toyota Rav4 in a jar of coffee in his flat in a bid to defeat the ends of justice.
A jury at the High Court in Livingston was read a lengthy list of agreed evidence including comprehensive CCTV footage from a camera at the home of the deceased’s next door neighbour.
The Crown has also prepared an overlay presentation of accurate scale drawings showing injuries on Mr Gardner’s right upper lateral forehead along with imprint taken from underside of a frying pan recovered from his kitchen.
Jurors were informed that a post mortem report on 15 July 2015 concluded that the medical cause of his death was “unascertained” but possibly related to “head injury, asphyxia, acute and chronic alcoholism, and/or athersclerotic cardiothoracic disease”.
A spade wrapped in a tea towel along with a receipt from Homebase in Perth dated 23 April the day Mr Gardner’s estranged wife Jennifer reported him missing were recovered from the boot of the Toyota.
In addition to murdering Mr Gardner in his home at Croft Park in Balbeggie, Perthshire, between April 19 and 23 last year, Zhulev is alleged to have stolen valuables from the house and pawned them for cash, as well as using Mr Gardner’s credit card to buy takeaway food.
The Bulgarian national, who has also worked as a takeaway delivery driver, allegedly stole the deceased’s Toyota Rav 4, a car key, jewellery, a credit card and a number of cameras between April 18 and 20.
It’s alleged that the married father-of-one went to Ramsdens store in Perth High Street on April 21 and obtained £171.28 by fraud by pawning stolen jewellery after allegedly trying to sell similar items at the Money Shop in Perth the day before.
Zhulev is also alleged to have visited the Turkish Kebab and Pizza House in the city’s South Street on April 21 and used Mr Gardner’s credit card without authority to buy £17 worth of food.
It is further alleged that he visited the Marmaris kebab shop in Perth and used Mr Gardner’s credit card again to obtain £13.40 worth of food from the takeaway premises.
Zhulev is also alleged to have been found in possession of heroin in Scott Street, Perth, between April 20 and 24 and to have been concerned in the supply of the class ‘A’ drug.
Zhulev, formerly of 176c South Street, Perth, and now described as a Prisoner in the Prison of Perth, denies all the charges against him.
Freelance jewellery maker Mr Gardner, 49, was found dead in a bedroom of his home on April 20.