Tayside and Central Scotland

Man found guilty of murdering Perth jeweller Alan Gardner

Nikola Zhulev Image copyright PPA
Image caption Nikola Zhulev was found guilty at the High Court in Livingston

A man has been found guilty of murdering Perthshire jeweller Alan Gardner.

Nikola Zhulev, 31, was convicted by a jury at the High Court in Livingston.

The jury heard during the trial that Mr Gardner, who Zhulev described as "like a father" to him, was found dead at his Balbeggie home on 24 April last year.

The 49-year-old freelance jeweller had a head wound imprinted with the pattern from the base of a heavy pan found in the kitchen.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption The jury was shown a reconstruction of the pan imprint on Mr Gardner's head

Zhulev's DNA was found on the pan and his victim's body was discovered in his home, stripped to the waist and wrapped "like a cocoon" with his ankles bound.

The trial heard that Bulgarian national Zhulev was living in Perth and working as a kitchen porter and got to know Mr Gardner, who ran a jewellery business from his home.

According to a friend of the killer, Zhulev was spending at least £100 a day on heroin.

Zhulev was short of money for his rent in April last year and promised his new landlord that he would pay him in a few days time.

Zhulev then carried out a series of internet searches on his phone, including 'how dangerous is a hit to the head?'.

Image copyright Crown Office
Image caption The killer was captured on CCTV trying to pawn jewellery

After Mr Gardner's death, Zhulev was seen in the Money Shop in Perth trying to pawn jewellery.

The trial heard from Zhulev's friend who said Zhulev confessed that he had hit Mr Gardner over the head with a pan and killed him.

Zhulev had planned on disposing of Mr Gardner's body but ran out of time as police closed in.

The jury took 90 minutes to return a unanimous guilty verdict following the 17-day trial at the High Court in Livingston.

Zhulev was also found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Judge Lady Rae called for background reports and deferred sentence until 5 May.

She said: "This was on any view a cold, calculated killing of a vulnerable man, a man who gave you accommodation because you had nowhere to go.

"All you did was take advantage of him and then, when he was going to go to the police, you killed him.

"There can only be one sentence and that will be life when I deal with you."

Following the verdict, Det Insp Brian Geddes of Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team said the case had been a "challenging and complex investigation".

He said: "The information and assistance provided by witnesses who came forward, particularly those from the local community, proved vital in building a compelling case against Zhulev.

"My thoughts are with the family of Alan Gardner, and those who were closest to him, and I hope they can now begin to put their ordeal behind them."

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