Heartbroken daughters speak of last contact with Edinburgh mum strangled to death by their dad

TWO heartbroken daughters have told of the last contact they had with their mum before she was strangled to death by their dad.

Police, who forced entry to their parent’s flat, found their father Robert Douglas unresponsive with severe arm injuries after trying to commit suicide for a third time with his partner lying dead beside him.

The bedroom and other parts of the house were covered in blood stains from his self inflicted injuries and a craft knife was found in a pool of blood beside the bed.

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Douglas, 63, who is currently detained in Carstairs State Mental Hospital, admits killing Marie, 61 at the flay they shared in Edinburgh’s Pennywell district on 6 or 7 August last year but denies murder.

Livingston High Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Livingston High Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Livingston High Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

He has lodged a special defence of diminished responsibility, claiming that he suffered from such abnormality of the mind that, having unlawfully killed Marie, his conviction ought to be for the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Giving evidence at the High Court in Livingston on Tuesday, step-sisters Lesley-Anne Douglas, 30, and Pamela McGrogan, 38, told how their parents were deeply in love before the family tragedy unfolded.

Marie worked as a cleaner and their dad was a fork lift driver at Walkers Timber in Bo’ness until he suddenly left. He was out of work for a year before taking a job as a delivery driver.

In June last year, they said the accused started suspecting that his wife was having an affair with a man she worked beside and that she was a secret drinker.

Both women said their dad started meeting Marie at work twice a day. Then, on June 29, he was rushed to hospital after attempting suicide.

Lesley-Anne, who lives in Lincoln, said she drove back to Edinburgh as soon as her mum told her the news.

She found a note he had written to her which was “scribbled” instead of in his usually neat handwriting. The envelope also contained £255 and the entry code for his mobile phone.

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On the phone she found a second note he’d typed saying her mum had been having an affair and he was heartbroken, then “just saying goodbye to everyone”.

Lesley-Anne said: “Mum was devastated. She couldn’t stop crying. We tried to speak to him but he just sort of shrugged it off like he was being silly.”

She said her mum also asked him why he thought she was having an affair while they were all together. She said: “He was quiet. I think he felt quite embarrassed.”

On 18 July the accused was admitted to hospital again following a second suicide attempt.

Lesley-Anne went on: “I sent him some text messages which just said that he was giving us a fright again and why was he doing it. He sort of ignored them and asked other questions about my health.

“He just seemed really down. The way he responded it wasn’t his normal responses. He’d been happier.”

On 6 August, Lesley-Anne received a text message from her mum saying: “Need your brain as your dad is in a strange mood today” and asking her to add up some figures which totalled £164,175.

She said her mum owned the flat, adding: “She didn’t want to retire but I think she was getting worried about my dad and was trying to get early retirement.”

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The next message from her mum thanked her for doing the sums, saying: “That’s fine. Me (meaning ‘He’ Robert) is watching me on fone staring into air.”

Lesely-Anne asked, “OK. have you tried to talk to him?”, but there was no reply. She said she sent a text saying “Good morning. How are you this morning?” at 6.47am the next day but again got no response.

She said: “I was quite concerned. I waited about 15 minutes then I phoned her phone and it was switched off.

“I phoned the house phone twice and the second time he answered. I just said I was concerned that mum hadn’t answered my text messages, was everything OK? He said yes, she’d started new tablets and she’d slept in for work.

“I just asked him to get her to phone me when she woke up. He said he would let her know to phone me straight away.”

Becoming increasingly concerned she contacted her step sister Pamela, stating: “Sorry if I’m over-reacting, just worry.”

Pamela answered: “Getting worried myself too hopefully it’s nothing.”

Pamela said she last heard from her mum the previous evening as well and expressed surprise that her mother had not been online sending her usual daily “Good morning” message.

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Pamela said: “Her phone was off and she wasn’t answering her phone. I went along to their flat. The front door was locked. I think the telly was on.

“Me and my sister were trying to phone the phones. I could hear it ringing from outside the door. I kept knocking on the door until I think about half eight and then me and Lesley decided it would be better to get the police just in case because of what happened the previous times.

“The first time he tried anything my mum told me she thought he was giving her a cuddle through the night but he was actually trying to strangle her but couldn’t go through with it.

“Because of that and because we couldn’t get a hold of her I was a bit concerned.”

PC Paul Burrows, 49, told the court he and another officer kicked open the door of the flat in Pennywell Road, Edinburgh and walked into the hallway.

He said: “I glanced into bedroom and what I’ve seen immediately is some blood on the floor.

“There was a person lying on the bed. In that initial moment I could just see one of the legs sticking out underneath the duvet. There was blood on it.

“I turned to the other constable and asked him to take Pamela McGrogan out of the flat because I was concerned she might see something she didn’t want to see.”

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He said he recognised Robert Douglas because he’d dealt with him in the incident three weeks prior to that morning.

PC Burrows went on: “He had some blood on his arms and a significant injury to his left arm, I can only describe it as a deep cut. There was blood on his arms, on his torso where his arms were and also on the bed itself.

“I can only describe him as being near death. He was non-responsive to verbal commands. His breathing was very laboured and very difficult.

“I was shouting at him: “Are you OK? Robert respond, speak to me,” and him not responding. I just felt the injuries he had were beyond anything I could help him with. I ensured we had an ambulance coming.”

“I wanted to try and get a better view of Mr Douglas so I moved the duvet which was piled up next to him. When I moved that there was the body of a lady lying next to him. She was lying on her back on the left hand side of the bed. Her head was tilted to her left in effect looking in the direction of Mr Douglas.

“I checked one of her wrists and also checked for a pulse on her neck as well. I didn’t find one. I formed the impression that she was deceased.

“She was very cold to the touch, there was also part of her lower back which was slightly exposed and I could see post mortem staining on her lower back.”

Paramedic Susan Halley, 59, said the accused was given Naloxen to counteract the effect of opioids he appeared to have taken and the “quite severe” cuts to his arms were dressed before he was taken on a stretcher to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

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Douglas is charged with assaulting his partner Marie by compressing her throat on 28 or 29 June last year and murdering her by compressing her neck and covering her mouth and nose with his hand restricting her breathing on 6 or 7 august last year. He denies both charges.

The trial, before Lord Boyd, continues.

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