A MAN has been convicted of pushing a stranger to her death off Helensburgh Pier.

The jury at the High Court in Glasgow convicted Jacob Foster, 29, of culpable homicide in the death of Charmaine O'Donnell, 25, in April last year.

Foster - who suffers from a learning disability - had denied murder and claimed diminished responsibility. The judge in the trial told jurors on Monday that a conviction for murder was no longer open to them.

The killer claimed it was a "bit of fun" when she shoved the charity worker off the pier on April 23, 2021.

Charmaine passed away due to severe neck injuries and drowning.

Foster, also of Helensburgh, had his bail continued pending sentencing in September.


Helensburgh Advertiser: Charmaine O'Donnell died in April 2021Charmaine O'Donnell died in April 2021

Charmaine, of Glasgow, had gone on 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 young women had then swithered about going to Largs in Ayrshire but decided to catch the train to Helensburgh.

They got chatting to men fishing at the pier as Foster lurked nearby.

A group of youngsters had also been jumping into the water to swim.

Ms McTaggart recalled suddenly hearing a "commotion".

She said "somebody" had gone over the railings at the pier.

Ms McTaggart did not initially know who it was, but a person shouted: "That's your pal."

She then peered over and to her horror found Charmaine in the sea.

A number of the youngsters there immediately tried to help.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC asked Ms McTaggart: "Did you say anything to Jacob?"

She 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'."

Paramedics and police raced to the scene, but Charmaine did not survive.

Stephen Cairns, 42, was one of the men fishing that day. He remembered Foster shoving Charmaine over the edge.

Mr Prentice asked: "So, with her back to Jacob, who then pushed her with both hands?"

Mr Cairns said: "Yes. It was just carnage after that."

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 added: "I did not know that she could not swim."

Foster's lawyers had claimed - due to his mental health issues - he had misunderstood an alleged remark Charmaine made about going into the water.

But, in his closing speech, Mr Prentice said there was "overwhelming" evidence Foster pushed Charmaine insisting it was "deliberate conduct".

Sean Templeton, defending, had asked for Foster to be completely acquitted stating: "It was a young man with learning difficulties who got it wrong."

It emerged after the verdict 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 Charmaine had been on furlough at the time 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."

Police Scotland Chief Inspector Samantha Glasgow said: “This has been a distressing time for everyone involved. We welcome the conviction of Jacob Foster and hope that it brings some comfort to the family and friends of Charmaine O’Donnell who lost her life.”

Lord Fairley said in the "very unusual circumstances" of the case he would continue bail and adjourned for reports.