A pensioner police initially believed had died accidentally had suffered “at least 15” blows to the head, a murder trial has heard.
Brian McKandie, 67, was found dead at his home near Rothienorman in Aberdeenshire in March 2016.
Steven Sidebottom, 25, denies murder and robbery.
Forensic pathologist James Grieve told the High Court in Aberdeen he had concerns as soon as he opened the body bag.
He said a later full post mortem examination led him to believe there had been a “sustained assault” starting outside and heading inside the cottage.
Mr McKandie’s body was found on Saturday 12 March 2016 and Prof Grieve first looked at the body on the Tuesday.
Prof Grieve told the sixth day of the trial he was asked to look at what – at the time – was considered to be the “relatively routine” death of Mr McKandie who may have collapsed.
‘Had to be regarded as suspicious’
He said: “When I initially approached the body and I opened the body bag I was aware he had some very severe head injuries which gave me anxiety so I sought the advice of the CID.
“This was not what I was expecting.
“It was very very evident that this had to be regarded as suspicious.
“I halted the process because of what I saw on Mr McKandie’s head, which was severe injuries.”
He said photos of the scene did not allay his fears and made him “very very concerned”.
The full post mortem examination was carried out two days after his initial viewing of Mr McKandie’s body.
The jury was shown computerised images of the injuries.
Prof Grieve told advocate depute Iain McSporran, prosecuting, there had been “multiple blows”.
He said he would have to “suspend any credibility” if asked to say someone had fallen over and over again to explain the injuries.
The post mortem report conclusion stated: “Altogether there appeared to be at least 15 separate blows to the head.”
He said Mr McKandie could have lived for two or three hours after suffering the injuries.
Prof Grieve told defence counsel Iain Duguid QC he could not exclude there being more than one attacker.
Mr Sidebottom denies repeatedly striking Mr McKandie with an unidentified implement or implements.
He has lodged special defences of incrimination and alibi.
The trial, before Lord Uist, continues on Thursday.