Man, 29, who killed a stranger, 25, by pushing her off a pier will be assessed in secure hospital

Man, 29, who killed a stranger, 25, by pushing her off a pier in a random attack and later said it was a ‘bit of fun’ will be assessed in secure hospital

  • Jacob Foster pushed Charmaine O’Donnell from Helensburgh Pier last year
  • Ms O’Donnell, from Glasgow, suffered neck injuries and drowned 
  • Foster suffers from a learning disability and was convicted of culpable homicide 
  • Medics said he should be observed for a period at The State Hospital in Carstairs

A man who killed a stranger after he pushed her from a pier and into the water claiming it was a ‘bit of fun’ has been sent to hospital for examination. 

Jacob Foster, 29, shoved Charmaine O’Donnell, 25, off Helensburgh Pier in Argyll and Bute on 23 April last year. 

Ms O’Donnell, a charity worker from Glasgow, suffered severe neck injuries and drowned. 

Foster, who suffers from a learning disability, was convicted of a culpable homicide charge following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The sentencing was told that medical practitioners agreed that he should be observed for a period of time at The State Hospital in Carstairs, South Lanarkshire.

Judge Lord Fairley granted an interim compulsion order with a review to take place in February.

Charity worker Charmaine O'Donnell, from Glasgow, suffered severe neck injuries and drowned after she was pushed by Foster

Charity worker Charmaine O’Donnell, from Glasgow, suffered severe neck injuries and drowned after she was pushed by Foster

Foster, from Helensburgh, has a learning difficulty and was convicted of a culpable homicide charge following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow

Foster, from Helensburgh, has a learning difficulty and was convicted of a culpable homicide charge following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow

Young people who saw the incident take place tried to rescue Ms O'Donnell after she was pushed into the water

Young people who saw the incident take place tried to rescue Ms O’Donnell after she was pushed into the water

He said: ‘This is not a final sentence.

‘This allows medical practitioners to assess him in a closed secure environment.

‘This is an essential step I need to take in sentencing him.

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

Jacob Foster, 29, shoved Charmaine O'Donnell, 25, off Helensburgh Pier in Argyll and Bute on 23 April last year

Jacob Foster, 29, shoved Charmaine O’Donnell, 25, off Helensburgh Pier in Argyll and Bute on 23 April last year

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

Sean Templeton, defending, told today’s hearing that an interim compulsion order was ‘necessary’.

‘This is so doctors can observe him 24/7 and can make a full assessment – all doctors say such a measure is required and is in the best interests of the case.

‘It’s not lost on the court that this remains one of the most tragic cases seen with what took place.’

Ms O’Donnell had been enjoying a day out to Helensburgh with her friend Caitlin McTaggart. 

Ms McTaggart, 25, told jurors: ‘I had wanted to go the Campsies where there is a waterfall.

‘She said ‘no’ because she would have ended up in the water basically.’

The pair had considered going to Largs in Ayrshire but decided to catch the train to Helensburgh.

When they arrived, they chatted to men fishing at the pier and a group of youngsters were jumping into the water to swim. 

Ms O'Donnell was visiting Helensburgh with her friend Caitlin McTaggart who had not realised Ms O'Donnell had fallen into the water

Ms O’Donnell was visiting Helensburgh with her friend Caitlin McTaggart who had not realised Ms O’Donnell had fallen into the water 

Ms McTaggart then recalled suddenly hearing a ‘commotion’ and somebody had gone over the railings at the pier.

At first she did not know who it was, but a person shouted: ‘That’s your pal.’ 

When she looked over, she saw that it was Ms O’Donnell in the sea and a number of youngsters immediately tried to help rescue her.

When asked if she said anything to Foster, Ms McTaggart told the court: ‘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’.’

Paramedics and police raced to the scene but Ms O’Donnell did not survive.

Ms O'Donnell was on furlough at the time of her death and had been due to return to work the following week

Ms O’Donnell was on furlough at the time of her death and had been due to return to work the following week

Foster's lawyers had claimed that, due his mental health issues, he had misunderstood an alleged remark Ms O'Donnell had made about going into the water

Foster’s lawyers had claimed that, due his mental health issues, he had misunderstood an alleged remark Ms O’Donnell had made about going into the water

Stephen Cairns, 42, was one of the men fishing that day. He remembered Foster shoving Ms O’Donnell over the edge.

PC Gary Davidson spoke to Foster at the pier after the incident.

The officer told jurors: ‘He said that it was an accident. He said: ‘I just pushed her. It was just a bit of fun’.

‘He said that he had a few cans that day.

‘I said to him the best thing was to stay calm and not say anything, but he said these things again and again.’

Foster had added: ‘I did not know that she could not swim.’

Foster’s lawyers claimed that, due his mental health issues, he had misunderstood an alleged remark Ms O’Donnell made about going into the water.

But Alex Prentice KC said there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence Foster pushed Ms O’Donnell, insisting it was ‘deliberate conduct’.

Following the verdict, it emerged that Foster had a number of previous convictions including assaulting a staff member at a Costa coffee shop in Helensburgh in 2018.

Mr Prentice told the court Ms O’Donnell had been on furlough from her job as an assistant manager at a British Heart Foundation shop.

She was due to return a week after she died.

The advocate depute said: ‘It is clear she was much loved and her death has brought untold and continuing grief.

‘She was described as a loving and selfless person.’

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