Driver who killed charity cyclist Tony Parsons jailed for 12 years

Alexander McKellar was behind the wheel of an Isuzu pick-up when he mowed down Tony Parsons on the A82 between Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum in Argyll and Bute on September 29 2017.

The deer stalker then teamed up with twin brother Robert to cover up the crime including hiding the corpse of the 63-year-old deep in the nearby 9000-acre Auch Estate.

Glasgow Times:

Mr Parsons disappearance sparked a huge missing persons probe including an emotional BBC Crimewatch TV appeal by his son Mike.

It was in November 2020 that Alexander – known as Sandy – confessed to then girlfriend Caroline Muirhead what had happened three years earlier.

He went on drive her to the desolate makeshift grave where the ex-Navy officer had been buried.

Pathologist Miss Muirhead had the presence of mind to leave a Red Bull drink can at the remote site as a marker.

Glasgow Times:

After alerting police, it eventually led to the remains of Mr Parsons being uncovered.

The brothers – aged 31 – were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on Friday.

Alexander had pleaded guilty last month to the culpable homicide of Mr Parsons.

Both McKellars had also admitted to a charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

READ NEXT: Glasgow High Court: Driver killed cyclist and hid body

As well as Alexander being jailed,  Robert was locked up for five years and three months for his part in the crime.

Mr Parsons’ relatives and friends were in court to hear the pair being sentenced as was Miss Muirhead.

Lord Armstrong stated: “I have no doubt Mr Parsons’ family have been deeply affected by this.

“I have read three victim impact statements – one by his widow, daughter and son.

“The terms clearly indicate the profound, devastating and continuing impact your actions have had on their lives.

“You have caused them a devastating loss and emotional ongoing harm.

“I suspect no sentence will ever be regarded as sufficient.”

Glasgow Times: The widow of Tony Parsons, Margaret Parsons (second left) arrives at the High Court, Glasgow, with their son and daughter, Mike and Victoria (right), for the sentence hearing of the McKellar brothersThe widow of Tony Parsons, Margaret Parsons (second left) arrives at the High Court, Glasgow, with their son and daughter, Mike and Victoria (right), for the sentence hearing of the McKellar brothers (Image: Andrew Milligan/ PA)

The hearing last month was told how Mr Parson had set out on a charity cycle having battled prostate cancer.

The much-loved grandfather planned to ride through the night to complete the 100-mile journey from Fort William back to his home in Tillicoultry, Clacks in one day.

Mr Parsons initially headed north by train on the morning of September 29 2017.

He sent a couple of messages around 5pm to his wife Margaret later that afternoon confirming he had arrived and checking how she was.

READ NEXT: Police referred to watchdog over charity cyclist death investigation

Mr Prentice: “That was the last contact she had with her husband.”

The court heard Mr Parsons made a stop off at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel around 11pm that night.

McKellars were also there with a German hunting party.

A valiant Mr Parsons decided to continue on his cycle despite the awful weather.

He was then on the A82 when he was struck at speed by the Isuzu pick-up driven by Alexander, who had downed alcohol at the hotel that night.

Glasgow Times: The widow of Tony Parsons, Margaret Parsons (second left) arrives at the High Court, Glasgow, with their son and daughter, Mike and Victoria (right), for the sentence hearing of the McKellar brothersThe widow of Tony Parsons, Margaret Parsons (second left) arrives at the High Court, Glasgow, with their son and daughter, Mike and Victoria (right), for the sentence hearing of the McKellar brothers (Image: Andrew Milligan/ PA)

The McKellars had been returning home to the Auch Estate at the time.

Mr Prentice: “Alexander McKellar ascertained that Mr Parsons – though severely injured – was still alive.

“He did not call the emergency services preventing any prospect of him receiving treatment.”

The twins fled, and dumped their phones before returning to the scene in a Toyota.

They then put Mr Parsons’ body and his bike in the motor, and drove to the Auch Estate leaving him overnight.

READ NEXT: Drink-driver’s partner told police where cyclist’s body was hidden

Mr Prentice: “After attending with a shooting party the next day, the body was taken to a peaty area of the estate.

“A grave was dug and the body placed in it and covered.

“The personal possessions of Mr Parsons were also disposed of.

“Such was the location that if Alexander McKellar had not disclosed where the grave was, the remains are unlikely to have ever been found.”

Glasgow Times: Tony Parsons was on a charity cycle ride when he was hit by a vehicle and his body later hidden (PA)

Mr Parsons was reported missing on October 2 2017.

The large-scale probe included his son Mike appearing on BBC’s Crimewatch show appealing for help to find him.

In it, he proudly spoke of his dad while going on to state: “We cannot move on. We cannot say our final goodbyes.”

In August 2018, police got an anonymous letter asking them to pay attention to “the twins” who live in Bridge of Orchy as they had been in the hotel the night Mr Parsons went missing.

READ NEXT: Red Bull can helped find body of missing cyclist Tony Parsons

Months later, officers spoke to the McKellars and asked if they had been involved in a road accident that evening.

No further action was initially taken following the meeting.

In June 2020, they were again quizzed about Mr Parsons. They confirmed being in the hotel with a hunting party that night but had not seen the cyclist.

Three months later, it emerged Alexander had started a relationship with Miss Muirhead having met on a dating site.

It was in November of that year she quizzed him on his past.

Glasgow Times:

He went on to admit that he struck a “cyclist” three years earlier having been driving at excessive speed and under the influence.

Alexander added the man “fitted the description” of Mr Parsons.

Mr Prentice: “He said that he had been panicking.”

He described leaving the victim at the side of the road, going to the Auch Estate with his brother and returning in a Toyota pick-up.

The body was initially hidden in woods before being dumped in a further “secluded area”.

Mr Prentice: “Once a large hole was dug, the body was deposited within it and covered with soil.

“He said they destroyed the male’s phone, SIM car as well as burning his backpack, wallet and cycling helmet.”

Mr Parsons’ yellow bike was also hidden near a waterfall.

The badly damaged Isuzu was repaired “by a friend of a friend” at a garage in Airdrie, Lanarkshire with a repair bill of up to £3000.

After Miss Muirhead alerted police, the search of the site began on December 30 2020.

Mr Prentice: “The Red Bull can was still present. The description of other landmarks were consistent with what was found at the site by officers.”

Police enlisted the help of soil expert Professor Lorna Dawson, whose skills have previously helped snare a number of killers including World’s End murderer Angus Sinclair.

She attended the site where Mr Parsons was thought to be. Prof Dawson confirmed it as a “target area for investigation”.

During the dig, investigators initially discovered a segment of red material, which matched the jacket Mr Parsons had been wearing.

Mr Prentice: “Between January 13 and 14, the body was exposed and, with great care, recovered from the mechanically dug grave.”

Mr Parsons was found to have suffered “catastrophic” rib, pelvic and spine fractures following the collision.

Glasgow Times:

The rib injuries were considered to be “the most immediate cause of death” due to the effect it would have had on his breathing. The victim may also have suffered a collapsed lung.

Mr Prentice said without medical help, Mr Parsons was unlikely to have survived more than 20 to 30 minutes. It was, however, unlikely he would have died instantly.

The McKellars were eventually charged and first appeared in court in December 2021.

The court heard on Friday Alexander wanted to apologise for “the trauma” Mr Parsons’ relatives had suffered.

Brian McConnachie KC, defending, added: “This is firstly for his driving that night and the decision he took in disposing of Mr Parsons’ body leaving the family not knowing the fate of their loved one for a significant period.”

The defence advocate said Alexander had initially been “too much of a coward to come clean” until he confessed to Miss Muirhead in 2020.

Mr McConnachie: “He has never held it against her that she went to the police.

“In fact, it was what he expected to happen and ultimately she made the right decision to do so.”

The KC also added: “The fact the body was discovered and the end of this case has brought an element of closure to him.

“From the outside what he did could be looked upon as cruel.

“But, he is not an evil man. He acknowledges that he has done a terrible thing which has caused untold distress to the Parsons family.

“He would do anything he could to alter the decision he took in September 2017, but he cannot rewind the clock.”

John Scullion KC, defending Robert, said the dad-of-two had got involved due to “misplaced loyalty” towards his brother in trying to cover up the death.

Mr Scullion: “He bitterly regrets his callous and cowardly actions.”

The advocate said Robert would “like the opportunity to communicate directly” with the victim’s family to say sorry.

The McKellars showed no emotion as they were taken handcuffed to the cells.

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