‘I did not murder Elaine’ boyfriend tells trial

Elaine Doyle, 16, was found strangled in Greenock in 1986
Elaine Doyle, 16, was found strangled in Greenock in 1986
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A FORMER petty crook who was the “sort of” boyfriend of Elaine Doyle has denied he murdered her more than 27 years ago.

Andrew Sutherland, 45, told a trial that he was at home watching the opening matches of the 1986 World Cup on the night 16-year-old Elaine died.

Mr Sutherland is one of 41 men named on a list of possible suspects which has been read to a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh.

When confronted with the allegation yesterday, he replied: “Absolutely not.”

The trial has heard how in February 1986 – four months before her death – police on patrol in Greenock saw Elaine’s father, postman Jack Doyle, in the street. He told them he was looking for his 16-year-old daughter who was late returning home from a disco.

Former police officer Patrick Martin offered to help and found the girl in a bus station.

Mr Martin said: “When I first saw her, she was in an embrace with a young male of about her age on the footpath. She was kissing the man at the time.”

Mr Sutherland said he had been “sort of boyfriend-girlfriend” with Elaine for about 18 months, but in February 1986 he had not seen her for a while.

After a chance meeting in the Celtic Club in the town, they walked to the bus station where they were “winching”.

Mr Sutherland said Elaine was taken back to her family in a police car. He walked home, throwing a stone through a store window on the way in a smash-and-grab raid.

He said he was sentenced to three months’ detention in a young offenders’ institution and had been released just days before Elaine died.

Mr Sutherland, now a full-time carer for his disabled wife, told the trial he was embarrassed about the break-in.

He said: “I was in and out of prison during that period. I broke the law and paid the price. I have nothing to hide.”

Another witness, whose name is on the defence list of possible suspects, also told the court he was watching World Cup football on television on the night Elaine died.

Trevor Sims, 47, said he was “definitely not” in the street where Elaine lived that night. He also denied he even knew Elaine, until his memory was prompted by a police statement made more than 27 years ago.

In spite of an account in the same police statement, railway worker Mr Sims - also known as “Simba” - continued to deny all knowledge of a row with Elaine and her best friend in a Greenock street about six weeks before her death.

John Docherty, 49, now of Hunters’ Quay, Dunoon, denies murder and claims that at the time he is alleged to have stripped and strangled Elaine, he was with his parents at their home.

Docherty has lodged a special defence of incrimination and claims the culprit might be among a list of 41 names taken from files of the police investigation into the murder.

The trial continues.