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Woman charged with attempted murder in Inverness 'wanted partner to die' High Court in Aberdeen is told

By Joanne Warnock

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The building into which the car smashed was badly damaged as a result and was covered in scaffolding for months afterwards. Picture: James Mackenzie
The building into which the car smashed was badly damaged as a result and was covered in scaffolding for months afterwards. Picture: James Mackenzie

The trial of a woman charged with the attempted murder of three men in Inverness has heard “she wanted him to die” just hours before the car they were in smashed into a wall.

It is alleged Donna Stewart drove her Mercedes erratically around Inverness with three men inside, deliberately crashing it into a building in the Merkinch area, causing them to sustain severe injuries that put their life in danger.

Stewart (46) denies trying to murder ex-partner Hugh Lowther, Stephen MacDonald and John Fraser at around 9pm on January 21, 2021 in Inverness.

The trio were passengers in her car as it smashed into the former William Hill shop in the city’s Grant Street.

All three men suffered multiple broken bones in the incident.

Giving evidence via a live link, Sarah Marshall (38) said she and her partner Stephen MacDonald had been living in Albany Place, Kirkhill at the time of the incident.

She said that earlier that day, Mr MacDonald had been at a funeral of a friend in Inverness and she had picked him up and driven him home.

On arrival back at their house she said Donna Stewart and her partner Hugh Lowther were waiting for them.

Ms Marshall said Donna “had been drinking” and was “being loud and quite mouthy”.

The court heard how Stewart and Mr Lowther had been together for 27 years and had five children together.

UPDATE: Attempted murder charge dropped by prosecutors

Ms Marshall described the couple as being “on and off” and said Donna was “not getting on” with Mr Lowther, whom she called Shug.

Ms Marshall said: “She said that she wanted him to die. She said it a couple of times.”

Deputy advocate John Macpherson asked how Mr Lowther had reacted to this and she replied: “He was taken aback. He was quite timid of her.”

Ms Marshall also told the court she had seen Ms Stewart consume “two bottles of wine” in the short time she had been at her house, and that she had also “poured a can of Dragon Soup” into one of the bottles.

She told the jury she had asked the couple to leave her house as she “didn’t want any trouble”.

Under cross-examination by advocate Justine Green, Ms Marshall denied that her partner was a drug user and did not know if Mr Lowther had taken any cocaine whilst at her house that day.

The court heard, as a result of the incident, Mr Lowther had broken both his upper and lower right leg and had also broken his spine and two ribs.

Initially taken to Raigmore Hospital he was transferred to Aberdeen’s Royal Infirmary (ARI) the next day for spinal surgery and stayed for a month before being sent back to Inverness.

The jury were told that Stephen MacDonald also suffered “life endangering” injuries, breaking his leg and requiring to be treated for three days in the Intensive Care Unit at Raigmore.

Mr Fraser, the court heard, had dislocated a hip, a “displaced fracture through the right socket of the hip joint”. He was also taken to ARI for surgery and his injuries were also described as being a “danger to his life”.

Stewart, who now lives in Perth, is also charged with threatening Mr Lowther at an address in Albany Place, Inverness, causing him to suffer fear or alarm, whilst also lunging at him and trying to strike him on the head with a bottle.

She is also said to have been shouting and swearing at him and behaving in an abusive manner, uttering offensive remarks and is further charged with driving dangerously at excessive speeds around Inverness, driving towards oncoming traffic and repeatedly entering the oncoming carriageway.

The court heard this journey ended with her mounting a kerb and crashing her car into the side of a building – allegedly trying to murder her three passengers.

She is also charged with driving over the alcohol limit, having 99mg of alcohol in 100 mg of blood when the legal limit is 50mg.

Giving evidence, Kerry-Anne Goodfellow (30) told the court she had been parking her car outside the NISA shop near the scene of the crash when she saw a “car crash into the betting shop”. She said the car had been travelling at “full speed” and estimated it to be going between 50-70mph. She said it had made “no attempt to brake”.

She told the court she could see the female driver and three male passengers and immediately dialled the emergency services.

She described the scene as “chaotic”, said the female had not responded to questions and described her as being “out of it”.

Deputy advocate John Macpherson asked her what meant by that and she replied: “She looked dazed; in shock. There was a strong smell of alcohol coming from the car.”

Under cross-examination by Ms Green, Ms Goodfellow told the court how a woman wearing a pink coat had also been at the crash scene and she had seen her take something from the male front passenger of the car.

Ms Goodfellow said on approaching the car she had seen “bottles of Buckfast in the back” and then said she saw the male passenger in the front seat “give items from his pocket” to a woman wearing a pink coat.

She said it had seemed “suspicious” and added: “It was unusual. It certainly stands out.”

The trial, being heard by Sheriff Graham Buchanan at the High Court in Aberdeen, continues and is due to last for five days.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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