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Forres murderer Scott McCulloch jailed for life for killing his granny (84)

By Court Reporter

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A Forres man has been jailed for life after he admitted murdering his grandmother in the home they shared.

The scene of the murder and Scott McCulloch posing with a gun on Facebook four years ago.
The scene of the murder and Scott McCulloch posing with a gun on Facebook four years ago.

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (May 19) Scott McCulloch pleaded guilty to murdering 84-year-old Patricia Bitters.

Retired Patricia, who struggled with her mobility, was so badly injured in the brutal attack that she died in hospital six days later.

The court was told that unemployed McCulloch had been living with his grandmother for around five years, assisting with her daily care needs.

However, late in the evening of August 28 last year, neighbours heard a disturbance at the home they shared in Forres and rushed to investigate.

A distressed and intoxicated Scott McCulloch told them: "I have killed my granny. I didn’t mean to do it."

After the attack McCulloch told a neighbour: "She kept on and on and on at me. I told her I was going to commit suicide and she said 'What's stopping you?'."

The court heard that former barmaid Mrs Bitters, who stood four feet nine inches tall and weighed about seven and a half stones, had 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Advocate depute Nicola Gilchrist said: "Over the years Mrs Bitters' health deteriorated leading to mobility issues. Due to these issues she preferred to stay within her home. Scott McCulloch provided care to his grandmother, assisting her with day to day living. shopping and medical appointments."

REACTION: Grandmother should have been safe in her own home

The prosecutor said that on the day of the attack McCulloch, who has a previous conviction for assault with a bottle, visited a neighbour to mow his lawn.

He took a six pack of cider with him and the neighbour noted that during the work he was becoming more difficult to understand which he put down to his drinking.

At one stage McCulloch was seen lying on a dog's mattress at the back door and appeared to be about to fall asleep. He was asked to leave and a friend helped him to his feet and walked him back to the home he shared with his grandmother.

Later that evening another neighbour heard a disturbance coming from Mrs Bitter's bungalow. She heard a male shouting aggressively and a woman screaming: "Help, help, stop, stop, no." before the female fell silent.

Wendy Heron alerted members of her family and they went to the scene where her husband Michael found McCulloch on the pavement outside his grandmother's home.

Mr Heron went into the house and asked McCulloch where his grandmother was. He pointed to the living room and said: "She's in there." He covered his eyes and said: "I canna look."

The advocate depute said Mr Heron found the stricken woman unmoving and with blood coming from her mouth. His wife, who is a trained nurse, went to the aid of the pensioner.

"Wendy Heron established Patricia Bitters was breathing, although her eyes remained closed and she had blood coming from her nose, mouth and ear," said the prosecutor.

The attack victim opened her eyes and was able to confirm that she was assaulted by her grandson. She was asked why and said: "I don't know. He lost it."

Mrs Bitters told the nurse: "Don't leave me, I don't want to die alone, please stay with me while I die." The attack victim was taken to hospital by ambulance but later died after suffering blunt force head and neck injuries that led to haemorrhaging. She also sustained fractured ribs.

McCulloch told Mr Heron that he was the carer for his grandmother and had been doing it for two years, but was not receiving help.

He phoned his mother and said he was at his granny's and she said her mother would be in bed by now. But he told her: "No, she's lying on the living room floor covered in blood. He said he "killed her".

When police arrived at the scene they noted that McCulloch smelt of alcohol and was heavily intoxicated. He was staggering about slurring his words.

He told officers that he did not understand what was going on and had no idea why they were present. A blood test carried out on McCulloch 12 hours after he was arrested found he was almost three times the drink driving limit.

Before Mrs Bitters died he wrote a letter to his mother from prison: "Can you send some money in so I can get some juice and food. I hope Granny makes it. I am going to get help in here."

Defence counsel Donald Findlay KC said that McCulloch was "profoundly sorry" and added: "He finds it difficult to come to terms with why this has happened, but has to accept it has."

"He looked after his grandmother. They had their differences, but there does not seem to have been any simmering malice or resentment," he said.

Scott McCulloch was drunk when he attacked his grandmother.
Scott McCulloch was drunk when he attacked his grandmother.

At court today, the 26-year-old admitted repeatedly punching Mrs Bitters and stamping on her head and body.

She succumbed to her injuries in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, on September 3.

McCulloch was told today he must serve 15 years before being eligible to apply for parole.

David Green from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: "Scott McCulloch subjected his elderly grandmother to an appallingly violent assault.

A police car outside the home McCulloch shared with his grandmother.
A police car outside the home McCulloch shared with his grandmother.
"He murdered a woman who trusted him and relied upon him for her care.

"His actions have had a devastating effect on the family.

"Our thoughts are with the relatives of Mrs Bitters as they try to come to terms with their loss."

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