Helensburgh Pier push killer to be assessed in secure hospital

Charmaine O'Donnell
Charmaine O’Donnell drowned after she was pushed into the water.

BBC Scotland is reporting that a 29-year-old man who killed a stranger by picking her up and then pushing her off Helensburgh Pier is to be assessed at the State Hospital in Carstairs.

Jacob Foster attacked Charmaine O’Donnell at Helensburgh Pier in April 2021.

Ms O’Donnell, 25, suffered severe neck injuries and drowned after she was pushed into the water.

Foster was convicted of culpable homicide. Judge Lord Fairley has now granted an interim compulsion order.

He said it was not a final sentence, but would allow medical practitioners to assess Foster in a closed, secure environment.

The order will be reviewed in February.

“This is an essential step I need to take in sentencing,” Lord Fairley said.

“I’m satisfied from the written evidence from the medical practitioners that he has a mental disorder.

“It may be a source of frustration but I have to do what’s right… in regard to Mr Foster’s medical condition.”

Foster, who had denied murder, was convicted of culpable homicide after a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Jacob Foster
Jacob Foster will be be assessed at the State Hospital in Carstairs

His lawyers had lodged a special defence of diminished responsibility, saying he had an “abnormality of mind” at the time.

Foster, from Helensburgh, has a learning disability.

The trial heard that Ms O’Donnell had gone to Helensburgh with a friend, Caitlin McTaggart, on 23 April last year to enjoy the good weather.

The pair began chatting to three men who were fishing. Ms McTaggart, 25, said it appeared Foster was trying to get involved in the conversation, although neither she nor Ms O’Donnell knew him.

There was a “commotion” when Ms O’Donnell was pushed over the railings at the pier, and someone shouted to Ms McTaggart: “That’s your pal.”

Asked if she said anything to Foster, Ms McTaggart 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’.”

Ms O’Donnell family said her death had changed their lives forever.

Top picture is of Helensburgh Pier on a busy summer’s day.

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