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Stefan Sutherland: Police launch cold case review after family call for investigation

A cold case review into the death of man whose body was discovered on a beach six years ago has been announced by Police Scotland after a campaign by his family.

Stefan Sutherland, 25, disappeared from his home in Caithness in September 2013 and was found dead 11 days later.

Mr Sutherland’s family claim he was murdered and say blood was found at a house he visited before he disappeared.

They have urged Police Scotland to launch a review of the case – and the Daily Record revealed earlier this year that Stefan‘s killer has been named to Police Scotland by several witnesses.

Despite previous claims that there were no grounds for a fresh investigation and that Stefan’s death was an accident, Police Scotland have now announced a full review of the case.

Stefan Sutherland was found dead on the beach after going missing

Police Scotland Det Supt Graeme Mackie confirmed last night that “all aspects” of the investigation will be looked at and urged anyone with information to come forward.

He said: “We have updated the family of Stefan Sutherland that a review of the investigation into his death is being carried out by Police Scotland.

“This is being carried out by officers with no prior involvement in the case who have expertise in reviewing investigations.

“I would stress once more that we will act on any new information reported to us in connection with Stefan’s death.”

Mr Sutherland’s sister Katrina welcomed the move last night.

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She said: “We have waited so long and had so many disappointments in the past, that we are not getting too excited, but we are certainly a little bit more optimistic than we were yesterday.

“There is definitely a sense that some people’s evidence was recorded in a different manner than what they would have liked and some of the information in their statements may differ slightly if they were interviewed by a different police force.”

The Daily Record brought the case of Stefan Sutherland back into the public eye in February this year, reporting his family’s call for a fresh investigation.

We also reported how the parents of local woman Jenna Johnson believed the man who killed Stefan also raped their daughter – who later took her own life.

We then reported how local people had named Stefan’s killer to police, but had their claims dismissed and one woman was told to “shut her mouth”.


September 6, 2013 – Last reported sighting of Stefan Sutherland in Lybster. Large-scale search mounted.

September 17, 2013 – Body found by a member of the public on a nearby beach at Occumster, near his home.

September 23, 2013 – Body confirmed as Stefan.

January 2014 – Police make further inquiries into “sudden death”.

January 2016 – Family go public and say they believe Stefan was murdered. They call for a full fatal accident investigation and a fresh police investigation.

February 2019 – The Daily Record reports how the parents of local woman, Jenna Johnson, believe the man who killed Stefan was also responsible for the rape of their daughter. Jenna later took her own life.

March 2019 – Former bar manager Caroline Isaac tells Daily Record how police told her to “shut her mouth” over her belief that Stefan had been murdered. She served him on the night he died and told police the identity of the man she believes killed Stefan.

July 2019 – Police agree to meet family after further calls for an external review – following a decision for Kevin Mcleod’s case to be probed by Merseyside Police.

September 2, 2019 – The Daily Record reports how 18 witnesses complained to Police Scotland over their evidence in the Stefan investigation being dismissed.

September 6, 2019 – Family meet police officers on sixth anniversary of Stefan’s body being found, but demand more answers and another meeting is arranged.

October 1, 2019 – Family meet senior detectives from Police Scotland Major Investigation Team (MIT) and review is announced.


The Sutherlands have drawn parallels between their case and that of Kevin Mcleod, a 24-year-old also from Caithness whose body was found in Wick harbour in 1997.

Former police force Northern Constabulary did not investigate his death as a murder at the time as instructed by a Crown official.

Police Scotland has apologised for how the case was handled in the past.

How police dealt with Mr Mcleod’s death and his family over the last 22 years is being reviewed by the Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service and, separately, by Merseyside Police.

Stefan’s parents Sandy and Sandra had sought an external investigation, but have been assured the new probe will be conducted by officers with no links to the previous probe.

Stefan Sutherland was found dead on a beach at Occumster – his family say he was murdered

The family claim Stefan’s body had suffered serious injuries, which they claim a pathologist’s report said were carried out prior to his death, adding that blood was found at a house he visited before he disappeared.

They claimed the police had failed to focus attention on a particular man, and Stefan’s dad Sandy said previously: “The circumstances in the deaths of Stefan and Kevin are so similar, starting with the fact they both suffered serious injuries, seemingly prior to their deaths. We have been told Stefan’s death was an accident, then he drowned or it was suicide – which we can’t believe.

“We don’t believe his death was properly investigated initially by police in Caithness.”

Local MP Jamie Stone said: “A further examination of the cause of his death would be appropriate – and I have put this to Police Scotland.

“I have made the point to Police Scotland that public confidence in policing is vitally important.”

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