Mystery remains over body in blood-stained cottage

Brian Bathgate was found dead in his living room at Barney Mains Farm in March last year. Picture: contributed
Brian Bathgate was found dead in his living room at Barney Mains Farm in March last year. Picture: contributed
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THE death of a father-of-four found in his bloodstained cottage is still being treated as “suspicious” by detectives nearly ten months after the grim discovery.

Brian Bathgate was found dead in the living room of his cottage at Barney Mains Farm on the outskirts of Haddington on March 15, 2013.

The 45-year-old’s death certificate states that the cause of death was a stab wound to the neck, but police are yet to determine whether it was self-inflicted, a bizarre accident or murder.

Police insiders said that the long wait to clarify the circumstances of the joiner’s death was “strange”.

Forensic analysis on blood spatters found inside the living room at the isolated stone farmstead is understood to have been conducted, but the case remains a suspicious death probe.

The inquiry team has been given the same resources as a murder hunt, and detectives said the investigation remains “ongoing” while Mr Bathgate’s family continues to wait for 

Back on March 13 last year, Mr Bathgate returned home at around 2.30am after visiting his estranged wife. His body was found at 8.50am on March 15.

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.

A former detective, who has worked on murder inquiries, said: “I find the ten-month wait strange. A pathologist can normally make a ruling over whether a death is suicide, but that doesn’t seem to have happened here. With most suicides involving a knife, you see tentative cuts on the body before the injuries which cause death.

“It’s the procurator fiscal who makes the official determination that it’s a suicide or murder after detectives submit their reports. I would think the police would have submitted numerous reports over this time, but the fiscal obviously wants more information, perhaps to trace a potential witness or such like.”

Another former senior officer said: “Clearly it’s difficult to stab yourself in the neck accidentally, so the police will be seeking to determine whether it was deliberate or if someone else was involved.

“Forensic science is wonderful but it’s not the answer to everything. If someone else was present when Mr Bathgate was injured, their identity might only be established through speaking to members of the community or those people who knew the victim. It will require a thorough investigation of his personal life.

“The officers may be looking for the final pieces in the jigsaw. It’s right that they keep the case open, rather than closing it prematurely, as reopening a case can be very, very difficult.”

Officers initially treated Mr Bathgate’s death as unexplained but later upgraded the circumstances to suspicious.

A police spokesman said: “A police investigation into the death of Brian Bathgate, whose death is being treated as suspicious, is ongoing.”

His body was found by one of his brothers after various people had tried and failed to get in touch with him.

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.

Police said that Mr Bathgate had a lax attitude to home security and would regularly leave his door unlocked.