A NINE-year-old girl was frightened by a scream in the night just hours before the body of Elaine Doyle was found more than 27 years ago, a murder trial has heard.

Emma Molloy, now aged 36 and a housing warden, told the High Court in Edinburgh she was afraid to look out of her window after hearing the noise. Ms Molloy said at the time, in June 1986, she lived in Robertson Street, just round the corner from Ms Doyle's Greenock home.

Her mother worked night shifts at National Semiconductors on the Larkfield Industrial Estate and cousin Avril Clark was babysitting.

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Ms Molloy, a mother-of-two, said she described what happened on June 3, 1986 to police investigating Ms Doyle's murder.

The trial heard how she told them she had been trying to listen to her mother's radio alarm just after midnight but switched it off because it was only buzzing. "I then heard a loud scream coming from outside. It sounded like a woman," she said in a statement. "I then heard a loud bang outside. I was frightened and hid under the blankets for about five minutes. I then went through to see Avril. I was crying."

Questioned by defence QC Donald Findlay, Ms Molloy agreed that ten years later she again described the night to police, but only told them about hearing the bang. The scream seemed to have been forgotten.

Admin assistant Avril Clark, 44, said that Sunday she and her cousin had watched a film "California Suite" on television. With the help of TV listings from 1986 the trial heard that the film had finished just before 12.40am on June 2. Minutes later, after she had gone to bed, Ms Molloy came into the room and told what she had heard: "I dismissed it. I just thought it was a noise she had heard on the radio."

John Docherty, 49, of Hunters' Quay, Holiday Village, Dunoon, denies murder.