Tayside and Central Scotland

Annalise Johnstone murder accused gave 'confused' account

Annalise Johnstone Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Annalise Johnstone's body was discovered in woodland in May 2018

The best friend of a woman allegedly murdered by her brother and his girlfriend has told a trial they gave "confusing" accounts of her last hours.

Donna Paton said she phoned the couple after learning that Annalise Johnstone had been found dead in Perthshire.

She said Annalise had left with the pair the previous day, giving "no hint" that she would not return to Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, that night.

Jordan Johnstone and Angela Newlands deny murdering Annalise in May 2018.

They are accused of stabbing the 22-year-old at the Maggie's Wall Memorial near Dunning, Perthshire.

Ms Paton, 43, told the High Court in Livingston that Annalise had asked her to look after her pet dog Sadie.

Annalise had promised to collect the dog an hour or so later, she said.

She added: "She never ever asked me to watch the dog before, but if she'd ever made arrangements with me she was always on time. She was punctual."

Ms Paton became concerned when Annalise failed to collect her dog as promised and even more worried the following morning when she found her friend's phone was switched off and she was not active on Facebook as usual.

When she learned that her body had been found, she said she phoned Jordan Johnstone.

She told the jury: "I asked where Anna was. He says that he dropped her off at their uncle's in Beith somewhere.

"We were on the phone quite a wee bit but it was confused. His girlfriend was taking the phone in between while I was trying to talk.

"It wasn't very clear. He said she'd gone hitchhiking at 03:00."

'Thought it was a prank'

Asked if she'd challenged him about what he was saying, she said: "No, really. It was her brother.

"I was cool with him on the phone. It wasn't a challenge but he seemed quite confused."

Under cross examination by defence counsel Keith Stewart she added: "I never thought anything untoward had happened. I just thought it was a prank at first, that they were just pulling my leg. (It was) Maybe a bit sick, and I thought they were having me on.

"She was taking the phone when Jordan was being confused and stuttering. He was trying to talk to me. He was nice on the phone.

"But the phone would get grabbed off him and she'd say: 'We haven't seen her'. She would take the phone off him and help him along.'

Self harm

Under questioning by Mark Stewart, counsel for Ms Newlands, she admitted that Annalise had self harmed in the days before her murder because she was anxious to return home from a holiday break with the accused couple.

She said: "I already knew she'd cut herself before she showed me - it was just through the skin, just surface wounds, the same as she'd do on her legs.

"It was just for attention. It was a way of her releasing her frustrations. She was really really scared.

"She told me she cut her wrists to get home because they wouldn't bring her home."

The trial continues.

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