The characteristics recorded under distinguishing "Marks" in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen almost always refer to unique features such as tattoos, scars, missing fingers and the like - attributes that would help to identify an individual. It is rare that observations about the person's character appear, but David Sutherland is an exception. He is described as, "A cunning schemer, being found sane after release". A note accompanying his discharge date of 13th December 1872 states that he was given his freedom, "As insane". The clear inference being that David Sutherland feigned mental illness whilst incarcerated in order to secure his release, perhaps on compassionate grounds.
Sutherland had been convicted of theft in September 1867. The Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser for Buchan District of 20th September that year reported his trial as follows, "David Sutherland (32), John Ramsay, alias John Ramsay Strachan, alias William Strachan (27) were charged with the theft, from the person or custody of Adam Wood, farmer, Longfolds in the parish of Bourtie, of a leather pocket book, five £1 notes, 2s. in silver, 4 receipts, a certificate of membership of the Gallowgate U.P. Church, in favour of George Wood, and a paper with a list of names. The theft was charged as committed on the 13th May at Shadowside, Bourtie. Both were habit and repute thieves and had been several times convicted before the Police and Sheriff Courts. Strachan had also been convicted before the Circuit Court at Inverness, in April 1859. They pled not guilty, but after evidence was heard they were both found guilty. Lord Deas sentenced Strachan, who argued that the witnesses had "perjured" themselves to his disadvantage, to penal servitude for ten years and Sutherland to seven years penal servitude".
Following his release in December 1872, David Sutherland lived for a short while on Porthill Close, which was situated off the Gallowgate. In February 1873, however, a note in the register states that he had gone "to Dundee as a Pedlar".