Scottish aristocrat Lord Strathnaver, 40, is found dead at foot of 30ft cliffs near Thurso castle


A Scottish aristocrat with a passion for surfing was tragically found dead at the foot of cliffs on Saturday night. 

Alexander Sutherland, Lord Strathnaver, 40, was found at the bottom of 30ft cliffs at Thurso East, near the ruined 19th century Thurso Castle in Caithness.

Thurso Lifeboat reported that a rescue vessel was launched at 11.30pm after reports of a person on the rocks.

‘The lifeboat quickly made its way to the area and casualty care trained crew members went ashore in the inflatable Y boat. They located the casualty and gave CPR and assisted Scottish Ambulance Service and local coastguard deal with the situation until Police Scotland took control,’ said a spokesperson for the lifeboat group. 

Lord Strathnaver, who would have celebrated his 41st birthday next month, was the only son of Alistair Sutherland, 25th Earl of Sutherland – who succeeded to the title in 2019.

The family had already suffered a tragedy when Lord Strathnaver’s cousin Jamie Janson, 44 – the son of the earl’s twin brother Martin and a great-nephew of Conservative minister John Profumo – took his own life in 2019.

Alexander Sutherland, 40,  who inherited the title of Lord Strathnaver when his grandmother Elizabeth, 24th Countess of Sutherland, died in 2019 aged 98, was a keen surfer and heir to the Earldom of Sutherland. 

Lord Strathnaver, was found at the bottom of 30ft cliffs at Thurso East, near the ruined 19th century Thurso Castle in Caithness (pictured)

Lord Strathnaver, was found at the bottom of 30ft cliffs at Thurso East, near the ruined 19th century Thurso Castle in Caithness (pictured)

A friend said Lord Strathnaver had been attending the Tunes in the Dunes music festival at Dunnet – mainland Britain’s most northerly point – at the weekend.

A keen surfer, he also had a house a few miles away at Thurso East, which is a top UK surfing location.

‘Sadly Al could not be saved. He was such a lovely chap – a really happy go lucky person. He had no airs. I did not know him as Lord Strathnaver – just as Al.

‘He was a keen surfer – he used to surf every day and that is why he had a house at Thurso East. He also had a little surf shop. It appears he had been at the music festival, had left it and may have been heading back. It is such a tragic loss.’

His grandmother, the Elizabeth, 24th Countess of Sutherland, died in 2019 aged 98.

The countess’s death meant her eldest son Alistair became the Earl of Sutherland – inheriting the 120,000 acre estate of Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland – and his son Alexander, took the title of Lord Strathnaver.

The earl’s twin brother Martin, younger by a few minutes, received £250,000 in the £18million will that his mother, Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, wrote three days before she died.

Martin is married to Mary – a niece of former Constaive suffered tragedy himself when his own son, former aid worker Jamie Janson took his own life in 2019.

Mr Janson, 44, had travelled to Syria to fight against ISIS and was arrested on suspicion of terror offences when he returned to the UK in March 2018.

He was released under investigation but was never charged with any offence and is understood to have been living in London at the time of his death.

His father Martin Janson, 72, told MailOnline: ‘My son Jamie took his own life at the age of 44.

‘As a family we are all devastated and do not want to talk about the circumstances. It is tragic and something we are all trying to deal with.

‘There will be a funeral at the family home in the north of Scotland next week.’

Lord Strathnaver's father Alistair, the current 25th Earl of Sutherland, pictured outside the family seat of Dunrobin Castle in 1997

Lord Strathnaver’s father Alistair, the current 25th Earl of Sutherland, pictured outside the family seat of Dunrobin Castle in 1997

Published probate documents confirmed that the Countess made a new will, determining the fate of her vast fortune, drawn up with the assistance of Farrer & Co, the Queen’s solicitors.

Elizabeth left £25,000 to each of her grandchildren, £10,000 to each of her great-grandchildren, and £5,000 both to Alistair’s current wife, Gillian, and to his first wife, Eileen.

The bulk of the will has been left to trusts connected to the castle.

Farrer explained that it could comment, nor could a spokesman at the 189 room castle, which the Countess and Alistair restored to its former glory after years of institutional use as a boys’ boarding school and opened it to the public.

Elizabeth had inherited the castle when her uncle, the 5th Duke of Sutherland, died childless in 1963.

The Countess, who was also Chief of Clan Sutherland, was orphaned at the age of ten, before becoming, in quick succession, a Land Girl during World War II, a proficient linguist and an accomplished laboratory technician.

Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses. A spokesman said the family had no comment at this stage.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘We were made aware of concern for a 40-year-old man near to Thurso Castle shortly after 11.20pm on Saturday, 4 September.

‘Emergency services attended but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

‘His death is being treated as unexplained and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.’

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