Angus man Steven Donaldson’s spinal cord was severed in two places by sharp force blows which caused his death and could have been inficted by an axe or machete, a High Court jury has been told.
In harrowing evidence on the eighth day of the trial in Edinburgh of a woman and two men accused of murdering the 27-year-old Arbroath oil worker, a forensic pathologist detailed the extent of horrific injuries found on Mr Donaldson’s charred body after it was discovered at Loch of Kinnordy nature reserve, near Kirriemuir, on June 7 last year.
They included numerous deep stab wounds to his body and legs, a broken jaw and a cut across his throat area.
Dr Helen Brownlow, of Dundee University, also told jurors that wounds which had cut both of Mr Donaldson’s hands through to the bone could have been inflicted as he tried to protect himself.
Stab wounds on his legs might also have resulted from him pulling them up towards his torso in defence.
The jury had previously been given evidence confirming sharp force injuries as the cause of Mr Donaldson’s death.
Dr Brownlow said he had suffered blows to the back of the neck which cut through the neck bones and severed the spinal cord in two places, injuries she said would lead to immediate death.
“The wounds were complex and lie on the same plane, so they are overlapping each other,” said the witness.
“It’s possible there were more but earlier ones had been obliterated by later blows. There were at least six in this location of the body.”
Dr Brownlow said they could have been caused by a sword, machete, cleaver or axe.
Detailing the hand injuries, she told the court: “Those type of injuries could be caused by individuals putting up their hands to protect themselves from blows.
“We tend to refer to them as defence injuries, to try to block a strike from a blade or instrument.”
Two deep stab wounds to Mr Donaldson’s torso, which were among eight found on that part of the body, punctured his lungs, the court heard.
A post-mortem examination also found eight stab wounds on Mr Donaldson’s left leg. Dr Brownlow told the court: “It is possible that they may have been caused by the accused attempting to shield himself from blows.
“In previous cases I have seen victims trying to pull their knees up towards their torso to protect themselves from sharp force injury.”
Earlier, the court heard that Mr Donaldson’s charred corpse showed signs of having been dragged across the gravel car park in the nature reserve where his body was found.
Steven Dickie, 24, Callum Davidson, 24, and Tasmin Glass, 20, all from Kirriemuir, deny murdering Mr Donaldson.
For a full list of the charges the trio face, see the video below.
The trial continues.