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Inquiry fails to solve mystery of man's death

Published: 27 Apr 2011 14:30

"I cannot say that Colin Marr probably stabbed himself but nor can I say that he probably did not."

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MYSTERY still surrounds the death of an Inverkeithing man who died of a knife stab to his chest following an argument with his fiancee, after a sheriff could not decide if it was a suicide or muder.

Sheriff Robert Alastair Dunlop admitted he was unable to say if the fatal wound that killed Colin Marr was "self-inflicted or inflicted by another" - but added there was "no basis" for further investigation into the incident.

And in an unprecedented step, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has also apologised to Mr Marr's family admitting failures in the investigation of his death four years ago.

Sheriff Dunlop's decision, released on Monday, follows a three-week Fatal Accident Inquiry held at Dunfermline Sheriff Court in February and March.

Mr Marr (23) died on 10th July 2007 from a knife stab wound to the chest, which pierced his heart, after a row with fiancée Candice Bonar. He is then meant to have pulled the knife out before dying.

The couple had been arguing at their home in Johnston Crescent, Lochgelly, after Ms Bonar accused Mr Marr of cheating on her.

Following 999 calls, police officers arrived to find Ms Bonar "distressed, upset and crying and at times hysterical".

In taped police interviews shown at the hearing, Ms Bonar denied that she was responsible for his death and said he stabbed himself after she told him she was leaving him, because he had cheated on her.

Confronting him, Ms Bonar, who had been with Mr Marr six-and-a-half years, told Mr Marr they were "totally finished", throwing her engagement ring at him and hitting him with her handbag as he tried to stop her from leaving.

She said he shouted, "I will kill myself if you leave me", and heard "banging and clanging" from the kitchen as she headed for the door.

She then heard him "screaming like he had hurt himself", then he shouted, "I've stabbed myself."

When she ran to the kitchen, she saw him standing, with the knife on the floor and blood on his shirt, before falling on his stomach.

However, two pathologists told the inquiry they thought his death was more likely to have been a homicide, rather than suicide, although Sheriff Dunlop said one of the pathologists' position "was by no means consistent".

Sheriff Dunlop also found "discordant notes" in Ms Bonar's evidence, relating to her mobile phone and location of her shoes, but added, "I do not think that any of these matters assist in reaching a clear view about whether or not Candice Bonar was telling the truth when she said that Colin Marr had stabbed himself."

He continued, "Furthermore there was nothing in her demeanour in the witness box which caused me to think she was being untruthful.

"While there are inconsistencies in her various accounts after the event these do not point convincingly to any lack of truthfulness on her part."

Sheriff Dunlop said Mr Marr could have "experienced an acute emotional reaction" when confronted with the possibility of the end of his relationship with Ms Bonar, adding, "Whether such an emotional reaction would have led him to inflict the fatal wound, however, is a different matter and altogether less clear."

He concluded that there was "an insufficient evidential basis" for a decision, saying, "I cannot say that Colin Marr probably stabbed himself but nor can I say that he probably did not.

"It follows that there is no basis for saying that Candice Bonar probably stabbed him."

Sheriff Dunlop also stressed, "It is important to emphasise therefore that an inconclusive outcome ought not to be interpreted as in any way undermining the presumption of innocence which Candice Bonar enjoys."

The sheriff's findings also reported that Mr Marr's family also had "reservations" about whether his death had been properly investigated.

A Crown Office spokesperson said, "COPFS has apologised to the bereaved relatives of Mr Marr for the additional pressure that the early decisions and approaches in the investigation caused them at what was already a very difficult time.

"The Crown has sought to keep Mr Marr's family informed throughout the reinvestigation of the case and the fatal accident inquiry and has offered continued liaison to discuss any further questions they might have.

"The Sheriff Principal's determination accepts the Crown position that the available evidence does not reach a sufficiency to allow proof of homicide, nor can it be firmly concluded that the fatal wound was self inflicted either deliberately or accidentally.

"There is no indication that a different outcome would have resulted had the initial investigation been more properly focused on events surrounding the fatal incident."

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