POLICE believe a father whose body lay undiscovered in a bloodstained cottage for two days may have been murdered.
Brian Bathgate, 45, was found dead in the living room of his cottage at Barney Mains Farm on the outskirts of Haddington.
Cops say the joiner had a lax attitude to home security and would regularly leave his door unlocked.
Officers initially treated Mr Bathgate’s death as unexplained but have now said the circumstances are suspicious.
The father-of-four returned home at around 2.30am on Wednesday, March 13 after visiting his estranged wife. His body was found on March 15.
Police are treating the investigation in the same way they would treat a homicide inquiry.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie from Police Scotland said: “We have sufficient evidence from our forensic examinations to lead us to believe his death was – at the very least – suspicious.”
He said “painstaking” forensic investigations are currently under way to help them establish the facts behind the grim discovery.
Blood spatter patterns – some even invisible to the naked eye – are being forensically analysed to try and unlock the secrets of the remote lodge.
DCI Hardie added: “The reason for the delay is the complexity inside the cottage, it’s painstaking work.
“We’re trying to establish exactly what went on from what we can see in the cottage.”
But he added there was “no real evidence” of there being violence within the house.
Officers are satisfied that he returned to his home alone but believe someone else was present when he died sometime between 2.30am and 7am.
DCI Hardie said: “Brian was found by his brother on the Friday morning.
“He had gone round to the cottage after various people had been unable to get in touch with Brian.”
Born and bred in Haddington, Mr Bathgate had lived at the cottage – a remote property with only a few neighbouring homes – for two years, having previously lived in Humbie.
He moved to Barney Mains Farm two years ago after splitting up with his wife, with whom he was said to have had an “on-off” relationship.
Forensic activity is still ongoing at the property, which has since been boarded up. The lawn is littered with a sun lounger and an old bicycle.
DCI Hardie, who said a full inquiry team is working on the case, added: “Brian was not particularly security conscious and it would not be unusual for him to have left the door to his house unlocked.”
Mr Bathgate was described as a “creature of habit” who attended his work on a regular basis. Police believe key information as to the circumstances of his death lies within the community.
DCI Hardie said: “From what we can establish, Brian was a guy who lived a quiet life and as far as we’re concerned he was a law-abiding citizen. Because this crime has taken place in the early hours of the morning and because it is so remote, if anybody has been up there at the time and seen anything, it might be something that sticks in their memory.
“There is a B&B nearby and it may well be some people have seen some comings and goings. This is a fairly tight-knit community, someone will know something about Brian which can assist us.”
Haddington councillor John McMillan said: “It’s very sad for his friends and family.”