Elaine Doyle: ‘Agitated man wanted to confess’

Elaine Doyle: Her naked body was found near her home
Elaine Doyle: Her naked body was found near her home
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THE Elaine Doyle murder trial has heard how an “agitated” man, who has been named as a possible suspect, said he wanted to confess to killing her.

The “confession” was part of a conversation with a prison ­officer in Greenock Police Office in February 2011, some 25 years after the teenager’s naked body was found near her home in the town’s Ardgowan Street.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, John Docherty, 49, denies murdering Elaine. He claims he was at home with his parents when jeweller’s assistant Elaine, 16, was stripped and strangled in June 1986.

Docherty has also lodged a list of 41 possible suspects which, he suggests, might include the ­murderer.

One of the names on the list is Alexander Cannon – the name given by the man who wandered into the police station.

Yesterday, retired prison officer James Gamble, 67, said the murder was “the talk of the town” when the teenager’s body was found.

But, until prompted by a statement he gave at the time, he could not remember the incident which happened three years ago.

The jury heard how Mr Gamble had then been a security and custody officer for 28 years and was working a backshift, due to end at 11pm.

A man came in and spoke first to his colleague, who then left his post at the police office counter.

Mr Gamble’s statement, read in court, continued: “I kept an eye on the man.

“He looked agitated, the man, so I went out into the foyer and asked if he wanted a cup of tea. He refused.

“I asked him what he had come in for.

“He replied: ‘I want to to confess to the murder of Elaine Doyle.’

“I then asked him where he had met her and he said, ‘the health centre in Ardgowan.’”

The trial heard that at the time of Elaine’s murder, the health centre he spoke of did not exist.

It was opened in about 2001, thought Mr Gamble, on the site of a former primary school.

Mr Gamble said after his brief conversation with the man he handed the matter to CID officers and had no further dealings with him.

Questioned by defence QC Donald Findlay, Mr Gamble said he could no longer remember any other details, nor could he describe the man.

He agreed with the lawyer there were not many occasions when someone came into the police office with such a confession.

Docherty, of Dunoon, denies murder and the theft of a handbag on 2 June 1986 in a lane near Elaine’s Greenock home.

He denies seizing her by the hair, striking her on the head and either removing or compelling her to remove her clothing, before pushing her face into the ground, and then strangling her with a ligature.

Docherty further denies attacking another woman, Linda Hargie, on various occasions between 1990 and 1995 at an address in Anne Street, Greenock, by seizing her and pushing her and punching her on the head.