Stefan, 25, had been missing for 11 days when his body was found on the high-water mark on the beach at Occumster, MAP close to where he lived.
His body had suffered considerable damage from marine life, so clearly had been at sea for some days.
As well as a broken skull and broken leg, his front teeth had been knocked out and the joints of his fingers had been pulled apart, suggesting a brutal beating.
Occumster Bay, where Stefan’s body was found
Police and Stefan’s family heard from locals that Stefan, who had seven siblings, was seen going into a house on the night he disappeared.
It was also claimed he had been murdered and his body hidden in a luxury caravan for three days, before being dumped at sea.
But Police Scotland quickly concluded there had been no foul play, insisting that Stefan either fell more than 100 feet from the cliffs in the dark, or was suicidal and jumped.
The theory fails to explain how his body reached the water, later to wash up at the high-water mark, some 75 feet from the foot of the cliffs.
It took more than four months for his family to persuade police to search the house where they feared he had been murdered, and a bloodstain matching Stefan’s DNA was found.
Bedding locals said had been dumped from the caravan at the centre of the mystery was collected by police, but over a period of months, amid repeated questioning by the Sutherland family, it emerged that it had never been forensically tested, and has now been destroyed.
The family has also been told by police that the caravan has been sold more than once since September 2013, and that they cannot trace it now.
Police Scotland and the Crown Office maintain there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death, and that no evidence has emerged that warrants taking action against anyone.
The Crown Office is considering the possibility of a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Stefan’s death.
But his family intends to press for a new and comprehensive police investigation, hoping someone might yet face a charge for murder.
Stefan’s mother, Sandra, said: “For over two years now I have been haunted by how my son might have died and how he sustained the horrific injuries that prevented us from identifying his body. It is hard to adjust to the fact that we will never see Stefan again. He was so alive, energetic, enthusiastic. Now we just have memories.”
The family believes most police action that has followed, mainly in response to their prompting, has been about justifying the early decision not to pursue it as a murder case, rather than delivering justice.
His father, Sandy, said: “When we’ve argued against the suicide theory because we know his state of mind better than the police, they’ve gradually moved over to the accident theory. But he would never have walked over the cliffs in the dark. He knew better. Also, far from being a short-cut home, a walk that way would have taken him away from home.”
Stefan’s brother George added: “The whole situation has devastated the family. You have to lose a close family member to know how it affects you. Our situation was made much worse when liaison officers informed us that 98% of people interviewed in a door-to-door enquiry mentioned a name, yet detectives say there are no suspicious circumstances.”
Yesterday, a Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police Scotland can confirm following a thorough investigation into the death of Stefan Sutherland in September 2013, there were no suspicious circumstances and as with all sudden deaths a report was sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “Comprehensive and thorough investigations have been carried out into the death of Stefan Sutherland and no suspicious circumstances have been discovered.”
At the moment, the Sutherlands are not interested in an FAI.
Mr Sutherland said: “There is abundant evidence that our son was murdered. He did not pull his own fingers apart at the joints or knock his own teeth out. He did not fall or jump from the cliffs and then walk into the sea. It is clearly a matter for a criminal court, not an FAI.”
POLICE are re-investigating the circumstances of the death of a young man whose body was found near his village home in Caithness over four months ago.
Officers were in Lybster yesterday as part of their renewed probe into the death of Stefan Sutherland, who was discovered on the shoreline at Occumster, just north of Lybster. At the time, Police Scotland said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the tragedy. But officers were seen yesterday visiting a house in Shelligoe Road, MAP which was the last place Stefan was seen alive.
Locals reported seeing several individuals in white overalls, commonly deployed in forensic investigations, entering the council house, which is believed to be unoccupied.
Wick-based area inspector Nick Clasper confirmed police officers were in the village to carry out further investigations regarding the 25-year-old’s death. He was unable to confirm the nature of their inquiry.
In a brief statement he said: “Police Scotland are currently carrying out further enquiries into the circumstances around the sudden death of Stefan Sutherland in the Shelligoe Road area of Lybster. No further information is available at this time.”
Mr Clasper said the case is still not being treated as suspicious.
Mr Sutherland, of The Moorings, Occumster, was last seen leaving an address at Shelligoe Road on Friday, September 6. His body was found 10 days later.
Over 40 locals joined emergency services in a three-day search which involved air and ground searches co-ordinated by police around the Latheronwheel, Lybster and Occumster areas. Coastguard teams from Wick, Scrabster and Duncansby Head were also involved in the search along with members of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team and police dog search teams. Mr Sutherland worked in the family businesses Caithness Cheese and Caithness Sheepskins with his parents Sandy and Sandra and brother Graham. https://archive.is/Oem1N
Police Officers in Highlands and Islands Division have issued a further appeal for information regarding the death of Stefan Sutherland, from the Lybster area.
On Tuesday 17 September 2013, Police received a report from a member of the public at around 12.17pm that the body of a man had been discovered on the shoreline of Occumster. This sadly turned out to be Stefan Sutherland.
Significant inquiries have been carried out in relation to the death of Stefan Sutherland and many people have given information about the circumstances which led to him being traced and we thank the public for that assistance.
Police are still keen to hear from anyone who we have not yet spoken to and
Stefan would have celebrated his birthday in February and the police would ask anyone who has information and who has not yet contacted us to think of his family at this difficult time.
Officers want to hear from anyone who had contact with Stefan or who saw him on the night in question. Anyone with information should call Police Scotland on 101 or provide information anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- Parents of Stefan Sutherland ‘devastated’ by his … – STV News 16 Sep 2013
- Body found during search for Stefan Sutherland – BBC News 17 Sep 2013
- Stefan Sutherland’s family informed after Occumster body find 17 Sep 2013
- Body found at Occumster confirmed as missing man Stefan 23 Sep 2013
- Stefan Sutherland death being re-investigated, police say 29 Jan 2014
- Police making further enquiries into Stefan Sutherland’s death 29 Jan 2014
- Appeal for information on the death of Stefan Sutherland 3 Feb 2014
More articles from the john o groats journal here
Facebook Justice 4 Stefan #justiceforstefan
LAST PLACE STEFAN WAS SEEN ALIVE MAP
Stefan Sutherland was last seen going into a house in Shelligoe Road in Lybster, around midnight on Friday Sept 6 2014
- The strange case of Shaun Ritchie: Fraserburgh lad missing for 2 years https://spidercatweb.blog/2016/09/01/shaun-ritchie-still-missing/
- Body found in search for missing Inverness teen Adam Mitchell https://spidercatweb.blog/2016/11/21/adam-mitchell-18-missing/
- What’s going on with young men in the North of Scotland? https://spidercatweb.blog/2016/12/09/missing-dead-men-scotland/
- 20 YEARS After His Death, ScotCops Re-Open Kevin McLeod Case https://spidercatweb.blog/2017/02/03/kevin-mcleod/
- Lance Corporal Joe Spencer: Soldier shot dead at Highland military base https://spidercatweb.blog/2016/11/03/lance-corporal-joe-spence/
- Stefan Sutherland Murdered & Police Scotland do LESS THAN NOTHING https://spidercatweb.blog/2016/01/25/highland-man-murdered-police-scotland-do-less-than-nothing/