A FORMER senior police officer has slammed the “diabolical” way the Fife authorities investigated the death of Colin Marr.

Tony Whittle, who retired as head of CID in West Yorkshire after 30 years in the force and still consults on cold cases, agreed at no charge to try and help the family find out the truth and criticised the actions of police and prosecutors.

Colin died in Lochgelly almost 16 years ago of a single stab wound but his mum, Margaret, and step-dad Stuart Graham do not believe he took his own life and have uncovered major failings in the way his death was investigated.

Mr Whittle, who still trains detectives, told the Times: “I’ve never come across a case like this. Ever. And I’m meeting and speaking to police officers across the country all the time.

“The way this death was treated on the night was diabolical.

“I’m sure they think I’m exaggerating but even officers who are dispassionate about it, who haven’t met the family, seen the photos or been involved in the meetings, they’re staggered that something like that can happen in this day and age.

“You trust the authorities to do what they’re supposed to do and Margaret and Stuart are right to be very upset that the people paid to do their duty have failed.”

He continued: “I find the whole thing quite shocking. And with my background, 28 years in the CID and I’ve seen the things human beings do to each other, I take some shocking.

“The performance of the professionals on the night was bad enough but then you have the unwillingness of people to do their job later and the way evidence was manipulated to create the impression it was suicide.

“Then you have the fact that every move forward to try and establish the truth has been driven, not by the people whose job it is to do that, but by the family. It is an outrage.”

Colin was just 23 when he died of a stab wound on July 10, 2007.

A kitchen knife was by his side.

His fiancee, Candice Bonar, said he had stabbed himself after they had rowed over his infidelity and that she was going to leave him.

Expert forensic pathologists such as the late Professor Mike Green, who invited Mr Whittle to look into Colin’s case in 2012, and Dr Nat Cary have said the case should have been treated as homicide until proven otherwise.

The retired cop said the investigation was botched from the very beginning and said “obstacles” are still being put in the way of the truth.

He said it was clearly a suspicious death but the detective chief inspector in charge didn’t treat it as such and seemingly accepted without question Candice’s assertion that it was suicide.

No investigation was carried out, the scene was not secured until more than two hours after the 999 call and despite being called, neither the on-call procurator fiscal or pathologist attended the scene.

The fiscal also did not order an autopsy while the senior officer’s note book and the scene log book went missing.

Mr Whittle described the lack of action as “bizarre” and said: “All the ingredients of a homicide was there.

“Most are done by someone close to them, Colin was lying dead in his own home with a kitchen knife next to him and it followed a row between him and Candice. “The golden rule is if there is any doubt or suspicion at all, you treat it as a murder.

“He didn’t secure the scene until more than two hours after the event. That’s evidence and forensics lost, police officers and paramedics going in and out of the house, no control over any witnesses.

“There was no explanation for that at all. I can’t understand it.”

Door to door enquiries were only carried out years later by a private investigator paid for by the family, with a neighbour giving evidence about a third person being there that night.

There was no public appeal for witnesses and information either, which should have been “standard practice”.

The Grahams did that, with new witnesses coming forward and their statements given to the police two years ago.

As early as February 2008 it was clear there was a problem with a fiscal admitting to serious concerns about the verdict of suicide and the way the case was handled.

He directed Fife Police to carry out another investigation. But they didn’t.

Willie Rennie MSP got involved and asked for an independent inquiry, but instead the Crown Office decided Fife police could investigate their own mistakes.

Mr Whittle described this decision as “indefensible” due to the “obvious conflict of interest”.

For the subsequent review he studied the statements taken from Colin’s friends and colleagues that touched on his state of mind and drug use.

Mr Whittle said these reports were then “edited” to emphasise evidence “that would support a ‘suicide’ outcome and ignore equally credible evidence that support a finding of homicide”.

He believes that “embarrassment” and trying to save face lies behind what he sees as a continued reluctance to properly investigate Colin’s death.

He said: “They recognised that the reputations of both the Crown Office and the police would be seriously damaged if their failures became public.

“However, if Colin’s death was to appear to be suicide, then there would be no public scrutiny and reputations would be saved.”

An internal Fife Police investigation in March 2009 had already identified 25 failings up to that point in how they handled the case.

Later the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner upheld 12 complaints from the family.

A fatal accident inquiry in 2011 was inconclusive, with a sheriff unable to decide who was responsible for Colin’s death.

The post-mortem report said the fatal knife wound had pierced the sternum (breastplate) but police tried to present new information in 2012 that contradicted that, making suicide seem more likely.

Mr Whittle said: “The argument has always been about how much force would be required to inflict that wound.

“Professor Green, Dr Cary and about five other experts have said it would need significant force, effectively they’re saying it’s more than you could do to yourself.

“No-one has ever said the knife didn’t go through the sternum, except a forensic anthropologist who doesn’t even carry out post-mortems, they look at bones, and who based their opinion on a photo that appears to have been a fake.

“And the Crown Office accepted it because it all comes down to this.

“If they can prove it’s suicide, they don’t have a problem. If it’s proven to be a homicide, the problems are immense because of the way Colin’s death was investigated.”

Mr Whittle, who said he is not employed by the family and is free to express his own opinions, added: “It’s clear there’s absolutely no initiative from the Crown Office to investigate this properly.

“It’s always Margaret and Stuart pushing for answers and the Crown Office putting obstacles in their way.

“People never want to accept their child committed suicide but, good or bad, they just want the truth.

“They’re not angry or seeking vengeance but I think what they want now is for someone to be held to account.

“People have lied, tainted evidence, not done what they should have and to get to this stage, and for their to be no redress, has been very hard.”

After Stuart handed over a dossier of new information to the police in April 2021, ‘new lines of enquiry’ were established and a cold case team is being led by Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes, of Police Scotland’s major investigation team, This week a review of the ‘forensic and pathology aspects’ of the case has been instructed.

Mr Whittle commented: “It’s two years since Nat Cary’s report (stating it should be treated as homicide until proven otherwise) was given to the Crown Office.

“If they’re only now looking at the forensics and pathology, what have they been doing for the last two years?

“If they keep pushing back and not moving forward, it can become stale, witnesses move on and people lose interest.

“What justification is there for the delay?

“The problems with the case were known about 15 years ago and the information was available 15 years ago.

“Maybe they’re just closing their eyes and hoping it will go away.”