A juror in a murder trial fainted moments after hearing a pathologist say the alleged victim would have died “immediately” after “chop like” blows repeatedly cut his spinal cord.
Judge Lord Pentland halted proceedings against Tasmin Glass, 20, Steven Dickie, 24, and Callum Davidson, 24, for approximately 50 minutes after the jury member collapsed.
The male juror had been looking at photos of the corpse of 27-year-old Aberdeen oil worker Steven Donaldson when he passed out whilst sitting listening to evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh.
Forensic pathologist Helen Brownlow, 40, had been telling prosecution lawyer Ashley Edwards QC how she conducted an examination of Mr Donaldson’s body in June 2018.
She told Ms Edwards that Mr Donaldson had died as a consequence of sustaining stab wounds to his neck. The medic also said that a “sword, machete, cleaver, or an axe” could have been used to inflict the blows.
Dr Brownlow also said that Mr Donaldson’s body had been damaged by fire caused by him being in close proximity to a burning car.
She said she couldn’t also rule out that there had been a second attempt to set fire to his body.
When Ms Edwards asked her how Mr Donaldson would have died, Dr Brownlow said that “chop like” blows had been inflicted on his neck.
She said the blows penetrated the “donut like” bones which supported Mr Donaldson’s neck and cut his spinal cord in two places.
When asked what would have happened when the spinal cord was cut, Dr Brownlow said: “It is associated with immediate death.
“Your heart stops beating. Your lungs stop breathing. It would have been immediately fatal.”
Dr Brownlow was giving evidence on the eighth day of proceedings against Miss Glass, Mr Dickie and Mr Davidson.
The trio, who all come from the Kirriemuir area in Angus, deny murdering Mr Donaldson, an ex boyfriend of Miss Glass, at locations in their hometown between June 6 and June 7 last year.
Today, Dr Brownlow, who is based at Dundee University, told Ms Edwards that she conducted an autopsy of Mr Donaldson, of Arbroath, Angus, following his death.
She said that she recorded Mr Donaldson’s cause of death as being from “sharp force injuries to the neck”.
Dr Brownlow said that Mr Donaldson had sustained stab wounds to his neck and shoulders. She said that he also suffered “defensive style” injuries to his hands.
She added: “The deceased was still alive and was trying to block blows.”
The medic also said that she found that Mr Donaldson had sustained “several stab wounds” to his torso.
She said that one wound passed through his rib cage and caused a two centimetre wound to his lung. Another blow “nipped the edge” of his sixth rib and caused another 15mm stab wound on his lung.
Dr Brownlow said that Mr Donaldson had sustained stabbing injuries to his legs.
She said she thought those might have been caused by him drawing up his limbs to protect his torso from being stabbed.
The doctor also sustained fire damage to his lower body. She said that small bones in Mr Donaldson’s feet had been destroyed by this.
Dr Brownlow also said that she noted burns on Mr Donaldson’s body.
She said: “We couldn’t exclude the possibility that there was a second attempt to ignite the body.”
Ms Edwards then asked for television monitors situated beside the public benches to be switched off.
She said that she wanted to show the jury photographs taken of Mr Donaldson’s remains and the images weren’t to be shown to the public benches.
Shortly afterwards, the juror collapsed after seeing the images.
Lord Pentland went off the bench for almost an hour before proceedings resumed at 12.10pm. The juror who fainted returned to take his place in the jury box with a glass of water.
Lord Pentland then turned to the jury and said: “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I understand we’re ready to resume now.”
Prosecutors claim that between June 6 and June 7 2018, Mr Dickie, Mr Davidson and Miss Glass arranged to meet Mr Donaldson at the Peter Pan Play Park in their home town and assaulted him there by repeatedly striking him with “unknown weapons”.
It’s alleged that Mr Donaldson was then “incapacitated” – the trio are then alleged to have taken him to the nearby Loch of Kinnordy nature reserve car park.
Once at the park, the Crown claims that Mr Donaldson was struck on the head and body with a knife, a baseball bat or similar instruments.
The trio are then alleged to have struck Mr Donaldson on the head and neck with an “unknown heavy bladed instrument”.
They are then alleged to have set fire to Mr Donaldson and to his car.
Mr Dickie and Mr Davidson also face number of other charges including assaults and behaving in a threatening or abusive manner.
The trio have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The trial continues.