A FORMER petty crook who was caught kissing Elaine Doyle has denied that 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 the 16-year-old died.

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

Loading article content

But when confronted with the allegation yesterday, he replied: "Absolutely not."

The trial has heard how in February 1986 police on mobile patrol in Greenock saw Ms Doyle's father, postman Jack Doyle, in the street.

He told them he was looking for his daughter who was late getting back from a disco.

Former PC Patrick Martin, 51, offered to help and found the girl in a bus station.

"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," he said.

Mr Sutherland said he had been "sort of boyfriend-girlfriend" with Ms Doyle for about 18 months. But that February he had not seen her for a time.

After a chance meeting in the Celtic Club in the town's Laird Street they walked to the bus station where they were "winching".

Mr Sutherland said Ms Doyle was taken back to her family in a police car.

He walked home - throwing a stone through a city-centre 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 Ms Doyle died.

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

"I was in and out of prison during that period.

"I broke the law and paid the price.

"I have nothing to hide," he told the court.

John Docherty, 49, now of Hunters' Quay, Holiday Village, Dunoon, denies murder and claims that, at the time that he is alleged to have stripped and ­strangled Elaine Doylem, he was with his parents - who are no longer alive - at their home in Anne Street.

Mr Docherty has also lodged a so-called special defence of incrimination and claimed the culprit might be among a list of 41 names which were taken from files of the police investigation into the murder.

The charge alleges that on June 2 1986 in a lane near Ms 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.

The charge goes on to allege that Mr Docherty forced Ms Doyle to the ground, pushed her face into the ground, sat or knelt on the teenager then placed a ligature round her neck and strangled her.

Mr Docherty also denies ­stealing a handbag from Ardgowan Street on the same date.

He further denies a charge of 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.

The trial continues.