A pensioner has been found guilty of the “painful and terrifying” murder of a quiet Inverness mother.
The judge said killer Michael Taylor had displayed “staggering brutality” when he battered Elizabeth Mackay to death in the Highland capital last year.
Ms Mackay’s body was found by friends in a pool of blood on March 31 last year at her Kintail Court home in the Hilton area of the city.
It was the same single-storey council house where Brian Grant murdered hairdresser Ilene O’Connor a decade ago and buried her body in the garden.
Ms Mackay – who went to Inverness High School with murdered London police officer Gordon Semple – had been attacked with a blunt object.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard how prosecutors were unable to discover why 71-year-old Taylor killed Ms Mackay.
But the court was told that Taylor grabbed the defenceless 60-year-old, before repeatedly punching her on the head until she lost consciousness, and then repeatedly striking her on the head with what prosecutors suspect was a kitchen pan.
He then removed Ms Mackay’s clothing, handled and bit her breasts, before fleeing the scene.
Detectives initially found their investigation “very challenging”, as Ms Mackay had lost contact with her family, had few friends and no phone or social media accounts.
But Taylor was caught after police found his fingerprints and “large amounts” of his DNA at the scene, while police also discovered that he had admitted assaulting the mother-of-one to his friends.
Taylor, a prisoner of HMP Inverness, denied committing the murder but on their second day of deliberations, jurors returned a guilty verdict yesterday.
Judge Michael O’Grady QC told Taylor that the law required him to pass a life sentence for murder, although he must first obtain a report about his character.
Ordering the widower to be remanded in custody, judge O’Grady told the killer: “Mr Taylor – you have been convicted of an appalling offence.
“Murder is always an appalling offence. The brutality of this particular offence is quite staggering.
“No one, I imagine, will ever know why it should be that you attacked this woman in this fashion.
“What is abundantly clear is that she must have suffered a painful and terrifying death at your hands.”
The verdict in the case came on the 11th day of proceedings, which judge O’Grady had to adjourn at 30 minute intervals to give Taylor 10-minute breaks due to his “health difficulties”.
Police investigating the crime believe that he attacked her sometime between March 28 and March 31 last year.
Expert Karen Smith told the court that fingerprints which were left in pools of blood beside the body matched Taylor’s.
Jurors heard from forensic scientist Esther Combe that Taylor’s DNA was found on a jumper which belonged to Ms Mackay, who was also known by her married name Muir.
And witness Vincent Lyle told the court that Taylor had made an incriminating admission to him about his role in her death.
During evidence in the case, Mr Lyle said that Taylor had told him: “I didn’t mean to kill her. I only punched her once.”
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie led the inquiry for the police’s Major Investigation Team.
He told the Press and Journal: “We’re pleased with the verdict, justice has been done.
“Very, very high levels of violence were used, gratuitous in some respects. Elizabeth was a defenceless woman.
“He is a despicable individual. The fact he is capable of doing that to another human means communities are much safer having him behind bars.”
He added: “It was very challenging in the early stages of the inquiry.
“Some inquiries we go into and we’ve already got a positive line of inquiry, but in this inquiry Elizabeth was found brutally murdered in her own home, with no obvious clue about what had happened.
“We relied very heavily on our forensic experts, and that in itself was key.”
The advocate depute revealed that Taylor had previous convictions for road traffic offences, public indecency and a racially aggravated breach of the peace.
Taylor’s advocate Shelagh McCall told judge O’Grady that she would address the court on her client’s behalf at the sentencing hearing next month.
The killer was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh next month.
The judge thanked jurors for their attention and care during the trial, saying: “It has been a difficult and anxious case.”