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Cold case review into death of man family believe was murdered

Stefan Sutherland died six years ago with officers concluding he had taken his own life.

Campaign: Stefan Sutherland's family believe he was murdered.
Campaign: Stefan Sutherland's family believe he was murdered.

By Iain Ramage & Jenness Mitchell

The family of a man found dead on a beach in an apparent suicide has met with detectives in their quest to convince police that he did not take his own life and was instead murdered.

Stefan Sutherland, from Caithness in the Highlands, died six years ago with investigating officers concluding he had taken his own life.

His death certificate states the 25-year-old was killed by a head injury following a fall from cliffs, but his family aren't convinced.

Following a campaign to bring in an outside force to re-examine the case, on Tuesday Mr Sutherland's family met with two senior officers from Police Scotland's Specialist Crime Division.

They now feel encouraged that their concerns have been taken on board - with police confirming that a review is now under way by officers with no prior knowledge of the case.

Family: Sandy and Katrina Sutherland.
Family: Sandy and Katrina Sutherland. STV

Katrina Sutherland, Mr Sutherland's sister, told STV News: "Everything we presented to them today is information that Wick and Inverness officers have already had.

"Whether they've noted it accurately or not is up for discussion, but we're hoping that the new people on it today will go and consider everything we told them carefully and make their own conclusions.

"We've always been determined to get to the bottom of what happened to Stefan, so that hasn't changed.

"So the fact there's a lot of interest in this case - there's a lot of people following the posts on Facebook, there's national newspapers, TV coverage now - so I think it's going to be a lot more difficult for police to not do a good job, so that's encouraging."

On September 6, 2013, Mr Sutherland had been out for a drink at the Bayview Hotel in the Caithness village of Lybster before he was seen going to a house in nearby Shelligoe Road.

His body was found washed up on rocks 11 days later at the foot of 100ft high cliffs just 300 yards from his family home.

Police concluded that Mr Sutherland's death was suicide, but his family believe a catalogue of injuries, including a broken leg, missing teeth and the joints of his fingers pulled apart, point to murder.

Many witness statements were taken, but no arrests have ever been made.

Mr Sutherland's family won't place a headstone on his grave until they can be certain how he died and are prepared for his body to be exhumed if it helps provide answers.

Grave: Mr Sutherland's family are prepared for his body to be exhumed if it helps provide answers.
Grave: Mr Sutherland's family are prepared for his body to be exhumed if it helps provide answers. STV

Ms Sutherland stated: "I think that is always still potentially an option, but we are hopeful that if they consider the information they've already got, they'll find that's probably not necessary.

"There's lots of information that if it was acted upon would probably give them the answers they're looking for - but we haven't ruled it out at all."

Mr Sutherland's family believe information previously given to the police was not acted upon.

His sister added: "It's extremely frustrating. I mean, the whole family live this, breathe this every day.

"I've always felt there could be justice. We only need the ear of the right people.

"We need diligent, conscientious officers that want to find criminals - and I don't think they'll have any problems finding their criminals."

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