POLICE have welcomed the conviction of a 25-year-old farmworker for the murder of mechanic Brian McKandie.
A jury at Aberdeen High Court today delivered a guilty verdict against Steven Sidebottom for the murder of Mr McKandie at his home in Rothienorman in March 2016.
Detective Superintendent Iain Smith said: "I welcome the conviction of Steven Sidebottom today for the cold and calculated murder of Brian McKandie.
"Brian was a quiet, unassuming man who had proved himself over the years to be an honest and reliable handyman and mechanic.
"He didn't advertise his services but still had customers visit him every day from across the North East through word of mouth because they knew he would get the job done and do it well.
"Given the private person Brian was he didn't have a lot of close friends and didn't let anyone into his home. The fact he was murdered within his own house - the place he had lived since he was two-years-old - made this crime all the more callous.
"This was an extremely challenging and complex investigation for many reasons, not least the lack of CCTV opportunities where Brian lived and the vast number of customers and acquaintances he had.
"Thanks to the painstaking efforts of the officers involved though who noticed anomalies in Sidebottom's version of events, another side of him began to emerge as someone desperate for money to fund a lifestyle he couldn't afford but managed to squander thousands of pounds the days following Brian's murder.
"He also went to extreme efforts to cover his tracks and spun a web of lies to deceive the people around him. This type of crime is extremely rare in Scotland let alone a rural place like Rothienorman, and Brian's death rightly shocked the local community.
"I can imagine his murder will be even harder to understand given that the man responsible lived so close by and continued to live in the midst of those affected by it knowing what he had done.
"It is the painstaking attention to detail by all those involved in this investigation that leads us to this point today.
"However I must also thank the public who got in touch in response to the many appeals for information we issued and the customers and acquaintances of Brian who consented to providing their DNA.
"Your information and co-operation was invaluable. I would also like to thank all those who assisted in bringing and presenting the case to court."
DS Smith paid tribute to Mr McKandie's family, including his brother Bill who lives in Buckie.
He said: "Brian's family, and in particular his brother Bill, have shown great courage and dignity throughout the investigation and subsequent trial and I cannot thank them enough for their patience and support. Today's outcome will not bring Brian back however I hope this conviction can help them move forward.
"It has now been three years since Brian died. To date Sidebottom has shown no remorse for his actions nor offered any explanation as to why an innocent man had to die, but starting today he must now face the consequences of robbing another person of their life."
A public statement was also released by Mr McKandie's family.
It said: "Whatever the outcome at court today, the fact remains that Brian is no longer with us. He was a much-loved and respected member of the community - a hard-working and quiet man who wouldn't have done anyone a bad turn.
Every day we think about what happened to Brian in the home he lived his whole life, and every day we struggle to understand why this happened to him.
"The reality is we will never understand why Brian - a complete gentleman - died in such a brutal and senseless way, and it is something we will never come to terms with.
"As a family we are extremely pleased with and welcome today's outcome, however it doesn't bring Brian back. We would like to thank the public for your help and support throughout this investigation and to everyone involved in bringing this case to court.
"We would ask that we are given privacy to come to terms with our loss."
Mr McKandie's body was discovered at his home in Rothienorman on Saturday March 12, 2016.
The 67-years-old had lived at Fairview Cottages in Badenscoth since the age of two. He had attended Badenscoth School as a child, just yards from his home, and was an extremely private individual with a limited circle of friends. He had no children and never married.
Although a private man, Mr McKandie was well-known in the North East as a reliable handyman and mechanic. Customers travelled from throughout the region and he had established a steady business over the years through word-of-mouth.
The initial circumstances surrounding the death were assessed by officers who attended the locus as potentially not criminal, and an unexplained death enquiry was launched.
The property was secured and preserved pending a post mortem examination to establish the cause of death. An internal review has since been carried out in relation to the initial police response.
Following the post mortem and once next-of-kin had been informed, a murder enquiry was subsequently launched, led by Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team. At the time it was the only unsolved murder since the establishment of the single force.
The investigation into Mr McKandie's murder - which ran for almost a year - was described by police as "extremely challenging", not least because of the lack of CCTV opportunities owing to the rural location, his vast number of customers and where they had travelled from.
The investigation became one of the largest in Police Scotland's history.
In total more than 4,800 people were spoken to during the investigation.
Around 2,500 statements were noted while house-to-house enquiries covered a three mile radius surrounding Mr McKandie's home.
•Almost 700 people who were either acquaintances or customers of Mr McKandie consented to providing their DNA
Meanwhile, 753 questionnaires were completed during roadside enquiries on the B9001 a fortnight after Mr McKandie's death.
A total of 24 appeals were issued to the media and public as the investigation progressed.
The case also featured on BBC1's Crimewatch twice.
Sidebottom is due to be sentenced on March 6.