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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Emine Sinmaz

Man found guilty of killing woman by pushing her off pier in Scotland

Charmaine O'Donnell
Charmaine O'Donnell was described as ‘a loving and selfless person’. Photograph: PR Handout

A man has been convicted of killing a stranger by pushing her off a pier in Scotland.

Jacob Foster, 29, was found guilty of pushing Charmaine O’Donnell, 25, to her death at Helensburgh Pier, in Argyll and Bute, in April last year.

Foster reportedly told a police officer “it was just a bit of a fun” after the attack on the charity worker, who suffered severe neck injuries and drowned.

Foster, who has a learning disability, had denied murder at a trial at the high court in Glasgow. He was convicted of culpable homicide after his lawyers lodged a special defence of diminished responsibility, according to the BBC.

O’Donnell, from Glasgow, had gone to Helensburgh with a friend, Caitlin McTaggart, on 23 April 2021 when Foster tried to get involved in a conversation they were having with three men who were fishing.

McTaggart told the court that neither she nor O’Donnell had known him. She recalled hearing a “commotion” and said a person had gone over the railings at the pier. She said she did not initially know who it was but someone shouted: “That’s your pal.”

Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, asked McTaggart: “Did you say anything to Jacob?”

She replied: “I was screaming at him to help her. He just kept saying: ‘What have I done? I have taken it too far this time. I am going away for a long time.’”

McTaggart called 999 and PC Gary Davidson attended the scene and spoke to Foster, who is from Helensburgh.

The officer told jurors: “He said that it was an accident. He said: ‘I just pushed her. It was just a bit of fun’.

“He said that he had a few cans that day.”

The trial heard from one of the men who was fishing, who said he witnessed Foster pushing O’Donnell “with both hands”. It also heard from several teenagers who tried to help her.

Foster’s lawyers had called for him to be acquitted, saying he had misunderstood an alleged remark made by O’Donnell because of his mental health issues.

Prentice said O’Donnell had been on furlough from her job as an assistant manager at a British Heart Foundation shop, adding: “It is clear she was much loved and her death has brought untold and continuing grief.

“She was described as a loving and selfless person.”

O’Donnell’s mother, Jacqueline Gallacher, 50, and stepfather, William King, 54, paid tribute to her, the BBC reported.

They said: “The past 15 months have been the most difficult time we have ever had to face. Losing Charmaine has changed our lives for ever. We will never be the same again. Our hearts have been broken.

“She had her whole life ahead of her. She had a great personality and sense of humour, warming the hearts of all who met her.”

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