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Strangled girl warned by father

A FATHER'S last words to his teenage daughter were to "be careful and watch herself", a murder trial has heard.

loving: Elaine Doyle's body was found near her Greenock home.
loving: Elaine Doyle's body was found near her Greenock home.

Jack Doyle, who has since died, spoke to police hours after the naked body of his daughter, Elaine, 16, was found in a lane just yards from her Greenock home almost 28 years ago.

He told them her bed was not slept in and he knew "deep down" that early-morning police activity that day might have something to do with his daughter.

John Docherty, 49, of Hunters' Quay Holiday Village, Dunoon, is on trial accused of murdering Elaine. He says that at the time he is alleged to have stripped and strangled the girl he was at home with his parents, also now dead.

Mr Doyle's statement was read to the High Court in Edinburgh during the evidence of retired detective inspector James Goldie, 76, who broke the news that Elaine's body had been found on June 2, 1986.

Mr Doyle had said although Elaine never stayed out all night without telling her parents he had called police once before when she had not turned up on time.

She was brought home in a police car by officers who said she had been found talking to a boy and they said: "The boy is a baddy and not suitable for Elaine."

Mr Doyle described how his daughter got dressed up the day before her body was found and he thought she was going to a disco.

She left her home in Ardgowan Street to meet a friend, Lynn Ryan, but phoned her father later.

"She said she would be home between 12.30am and 1am. I told her to be careful and watch herself," said the statement.

Mr Doyle, who was 44 at the time, said he woke at 5am - the time he usually got up for work - and saw Elaine's bed was empty. He wanted to call Lynn's parents but his wife, Maureen, said it was too early.

"Shortly afterwards I went to the window and saw all the police activity. My wife said: 'It is ­something to do with Elaine'. I tried to re-assure her but deep down I knew it could be."

In the statement Mr Doyle said: "As far as I knew she didn't have a steady boyfriend. She was a very loving girl towards me."

He said Elaine had told him: "I will never get married. I am staying with you, Dad."

Cross-examining witnesses, defence QC Donald Findlay suggested the investigation into Elaine's death was "botched".

Retired chief superintendent George Nedley, 52, agreed that in 1986 police ­investigations were carried out differently because there had been "a quantum leap" in forensic science since then. "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 that a video taken in Ardgowan Street showed detectives wandering about picking things up and putting them down again. Elaine's body was moved and turned over. Mr Findlay continued: "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, or de-contaminating a crime scene, destroying evidence."

Mr Docherty denies murder and has lodged a special defence of incrimination suggesting the culprit might be found on a list of 41 names in police files on the investigation into Elaine's death.

The trial continues.

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