Father unaware as girl lay dead yards away

Murder Victim Elaine Doyle killed in Greenock 1986.
Murder Victim Elaine Doyle killed in Greenock 1986.
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THE father of a missing teenager gave a description to police unaware that her body was lying just yards away, a court heard yesterday.

Elaine Doyle, 16, was found dead in a lane in Greenock on 2 June, 1986. A post-mortem examination concluded that she had been strangled.

Yesterday a murder trial heard from one of the first police officers to arrive on the scene. He spoke to her father to obtain a description of what she was wearing when she disappeared.

William Carmichael, 68, told the High Court in Edinburgh that at the time he was a uniformed constable with some 22 years service, all of it in the Greenock area.

He was on mobile patrol when he was sent to the lane, near an Air Training Corps hut in Ardgowan Street where he saw the body at about 8:30am.

Mr Carmichael said he was asked to begin door-to-door inquiries and called at the Doyle family home in Ardgowan Street, the first tenement past the ATC hut.

He told advocate depute John Scullion, prosecuting, that Mr and Mrs Doyle said their daughter had not returned home and they gave him a description of what she had been wearing.

He said: “I suspected that, unfortunately, the missing person could also be the deceased in the lane.” He said he returned to the lane to tell a senior officer.

The trial has also heard of some confusion surrounding the events of that day. Mr Carmichael agreed that his statement made no mention of him seeing the body and a log kept by a colleague did not record his arrival until 10:39am.

Defence QC Donald Findlay suggested this was the start of “a botched investigation”.

On trial is John Docherty, 49, now of Hunters’ Quay, Holiday Village, Dunoon.

He claims that at the time he is alleged to have stripped and strangled Elaine Doyle he was at home with his parents, who are no longer alive.

He denies a murder charge which alleges that on 2 June 1986 in a lane near Elaine Doyle’s home in Ardgowan Street, Greenock, he seized her by the hair, struck her on the head and either removed or compelled her to remove her clothing.

Docherty has lodged a so-called special defence of incrimination suggesting the culprit might be found among a list of 41 names taken from files of the police investigation into the alleged murder.

Another witness, retired chief superintendent George Nedley, 52, agreed that back in 1986 police investigations were carried out differently and since then there has been “a quantum leap” in forensic science techniques

“We know so much more now than we did then,” he told Mr Findlay.

The lawyer asked if the way the crime scene was handled was “shoddy”.

Mr Nedley replied: “No, there was nobody went out deliberately not to do their job”

Mr Findlay said video taken in Ardgowan Street showed CID wandering about in raincoats, picking things up and putting them down again. The body of Elaine Doyle had been moved and turned over before being covered with a police blanket.

Mr Findlay continued: “I suggest there is a point of great importance.

“You will also understand, I am sure, it is very important for the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to have a clear picture of the way, for example, a police investigation was carried out in 1986.

“Things such as police officers tramping in and out of the crime scene – one suspects more or less just to have a look in some cases – would not in any way be tolerated by today’s standards. Such a casual approach runs the risk of contaminating a crime scene, destroying evidence and prejudicing someone who may be on trial.”

The trial continues.