A HAULAGE contractor said a rumour had “spread like wildfire” through Greenock that he murdered Elaine Doyle – simply because he had ginger hair.
The High Court in Edinburgh had previously been told how a police artist made a sketch of a possible suspect after a sighting of a youth acting suspiciously in a tenement close on the night Elaine died.
Stephen Friel, 45, was called as a witness yesterday.
Elaine’s naked body was found close to her home in Greenock early on 2 June, 1986. She had been strangled.
On trial is John Docherty, 49, now of Holiday Village, Dunoon. He denies murder and claims he was with his parents – who are no longer alive – at their home in Greenock.
Docherty has also lodged a special defence of incrimination. He has claimed the real culprit might be among a list of 41 names taken from police files on the murder. Mr Friel’s is one of the names on the list.
Advocate depute John Scullion, prosecuting, yesterday asked Mr Friel what he thought about this. He replied: “It is outrageous that someone can pick a name out of a hat in a quest to create suspects.”
Mr Friel was then questioned by defence QC Donald Findlay about why his name might be on the list.
He replied: “A description came out about red hair, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise I had red hair.” Mr Friel blamed “evil people” for the rumours.
But he denied all knowledge of an alleged incident in Greenock town centre when he was said to have been attacked by a group of youths for claiming: “That wee girl, I did it.”
The account of the incident was given to police by a witness who came forward in June 2011.
Mr Friel said Greenock was full of rumours at the time, including those directed at him.
“It spread like wildfire through the town,” he said.
Docherty denies all the charges. The trial continues.