Elaine Doyle murder: Police inquiry 'rotten to the core'

Elaine Doyle Elaine Doyle's body was found in a lane in Greenock just yards from her family home

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A retired detective has admitted the hunt for the killer of Elaine Doyle was "rotten to the core."

Former Det Ch Insp William Clark conceded that major mistakes were made but he denied attempting to hide them from prosecutors.

The 77-year-old was also questioned over his conflicting statements on whether Elaine's body was covered with a blanket at the crime scene.

John Docherty, 49, denies killing Elaine, 16, in Greenock in 1986.

Mr Clark told the trial that when he arrived at the lane off Ardgowan Street, Greenock on the morning of 2 June 1986 he was horrified to see the girl's body had been "contaminated" by being covered with a blanket.

He did not know where the blanket had come from but accepted that, as the senior officer there, it was his responsibility.

The jury have heard that Mr Clark said much the same when questioned in 2009 - more than a decade after his retirement.

Then, in June 2012 another detective visited Mr Clark at his home to be told: "There is confusion about the blanket in the last statement."

'Fitted up'

Mr Clark continued: "I am certain that when I arrived at the crime scene there was no blanket over the body of Elaine Doyle."

This comment led to suggestions from defence QC Donald Findlay that Mr Clark had been "fitted up" and that his statement was fabricated.

Mr Clark also admitted that two detectives who took a disputed "confession" about a gang-bang leading to the girl's death were quietly side-lined after allegations of intimidation.

And although officers spent a total of 18 hours checking out the "gang bang" story, 16-year-old Colin McIntyre was never charged with wasting police time.

Defence QC Donald Findlay challenged: "This inquiry from the word go was not just bad. This inquiry was rotten to the core."

Mr Clark told the lawyer: "Yes, I suppose it was. It just was a continual one thing after another."

Mr Findlay continued: "In my submission, these ladies and gentlemen of the jury - if what you say is right - are dealing with an inquiry which was corrupt at the end, incompetent at the beginning, rotten to the core.

"They should place no reliance whatsoever on anything the police said or did in relation to the death of Elaine Doyle."

Mr Clark answered: "Very well put, Mr Findlay."

Ruined evidence

The trial also heard that towards the end of 1986 Mr Clark produced a 21-page report, updating prosecutors on how the investigation had been conducted up to that point.

There was no mention of the blanket question in the report - "an oversight" claimed Mr Clark today. He said it was a mistake but denied he was trying to keep from the procurator fiscal the fact that the blanket had ruined the chances of forensic evidence.

The report did give some indication of the massive police operation which began with the discovery of 16-year-old Elaine.

Police believed they were looking for a sex killer, possibly a dog walker who had used a dog lead to strangle the teenager.

The opening games of the Mexico City World Cup had brought men onto the streets to exercise their pets later than usual, said Mr Clark.

Door-to-door inquiries took in 22 major streets and taxi drivers who might have seen something were questioned. Police tried to trace every male over the age of 12 who had been out after midnight.

'Wall of silence'

By the time the 1986 report was written, almost 50 officers had logged more than 46,000 hours working on the inquiry.

The trial also heard that the head of Greenock's CID, Mr Fleming, condemned the "wall of silence" in the town.

A police incident caravan had been set up in Ardgowan Street - but no member of the public knocked on the door for five days.

There were also complaints from residents about police conducting door-to door inquiries in the area.

Mr Docherty, now of Dunoon, denies murder and claims that at the time he is alleged to have strangled Elaine, he was with his parents - who are no longer alive - at their home.

His defence team has lodged a special defence of incrimination, claiming the culprit might be among a list of 41 names taken from files of the police investigation into the murder.

The trial continues.

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