THE mystery surrounding the death of a five-year-old boy who

disappeared from Butlin's Wonderwest holiday complex at Ayr in September

deepened yesterday, when three people told a fatal accident inquiry they

had seen him in the company of a man.

Stephen McKerron, Donald Terrace, Hamilton, arrived at the holiday

centre on September 17 with an aunt and uncle to begin a week's holiday.

He disappeared within hours, and despite a massive search it was not

until 15 days later that his body was found by a hillwalker 31!/;1/

miles away.

At the time police spoke of witnesses having seen Stephen standing by

the side of the coast road which runs past the holiday complex.

But when the inquiry before Sheriff Neil Gow, QC, opened yesterday Ayr

businessman Mr Stuart Reid, 51, told of seeing Stephen walking along the

road hand-in-hand with a man.

Mr Reid, a video dealer, said he was struck by the fact that though it

was a cold night and the man was warmly clad the child wore only a

T-shirt. ''It struck me as kind of strange,'' he told depute-fiscal Mr

James Kelman.

Later he told solicitor Mr David Pirrett, representing Stephen's

parents, that the man was holding the boy's hand and seemed to be

talking to him.

Though he only saw the boy's profile as he passed he said photographs

of Stephen which he was shown in court could have been the boy he saw.

Mr Bryan Wilcox, 24, of Maybole, Ayrshire, told of meeting a man and a

boy that night as he drove over the single-track road which cuts across

the Carrick hills where Stephen's body was eventually found.

It was getting dark when he saw them walking side by side. The man

wore a wax jacket and the boy was indistinct, he said. Mr Wilcox, a

domestic appliances engineer, said: ''I think they were holding hands.

They looked as if they were out for a walk.''

Later Butlin's barmaid Ms Jacqueline Hepburn, 20, from Glenrothes,

Fife, told of seeing a man and a boy, who was crying, in the holiday

complex. She heard the man say: ''Don't worry. Your mother would not

have gone and left you. I am going to look after you.''

Ms Hepburn said the man was holding the boy's hand. He lifted him up,

and the boy was hitting him and screaming. She said the man wore a

snorkel-type jacket. The boy was crying as the man carried him off.

Another witness, however, said she was sure that Stephen was alone

when he left Wonderwest.

Grandmother Mrs Margaret Park, 54, of Fourth Avenue, Millerston,

Glasgow, was with her family in a caravan beside the perimeter fence of

the complex when she saw a youngster walking past. He stopped and looked

directly in.

She sent her grandson Jonathan to find out what the boy was doing, and

Jonathan told her the boy had climbed out of the complex over the fence.

He showed her where the boy had climbed and she could see a sag in the

fence there.

Jonathan, she said, had spoken to the youngster -- whom she identified

as Stephen -- as he sat on top of the fence and asked if he was lost.

The boy had said no.

Lady MacLehose, 68, of Beoch, Maybole, told the inquiry she found

Stephen's body in a ditch while out walking with her dog on Sunday,

October 2. She went home and called the police.

Wonderwest security manager Mr Maurice Wragg, 56, told Mr Kelman that

last season about 450 children were reported missing in the 110-acre

complex, but 99% of them were traced within an hour. Police were called

in to help search for missing youngsters only three or four times last


He told the McKerrons' lawyer that anyone under 14 seen leaving the

complex would be questioned about where they were going as a matter of

course. In his view it was possible but doubtful that a five-year-old

could climb the 61!/;1/ft fence.

At the start of the inquiry Stephen's father, Mr Stuart McKerron, 27,

when asked how Stephen was dressed that day, said he was wearing a track

suit and training shoes.

The inquiry continues today.

Stephen McKerron