Caroline Glachan: Donna Marie Brand jailed over 1996 murder of schoolgirl

A woman who, along with two friends, murdered a schoolgirl and evaded justice for almost three decades has been sentenced to at least 17 years in jail.

Donna Marie Brand, Robert O'Brien and Andrew Kelly denied killing Caroline Glachan, 14, in 1996 when they were teenagers and lied about their whereabouts on the night of the murder.

However, the trio were found guilty of murder last December following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

In January, O'Brien was ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years before being eligible for parole, and Kelly 18 years.

Both O'Brien and Kelly have since launched a bid for freedom and intend to appeal their conviction and sentence.

Brand, 44, who was unfit to attend court at the time, received her sentence via video link on Monday.

Judge Lord Braid previously described the murder as "brutal, depraved, and above all, wicked".

Caroline's body was found in the River Leven in West Dunbartonshire on 25 August 1996 - the day of her mother's 40th birthday.

The killers were eventually caught after Police Scotland reinvestigated the case in 2019.

More than 200 statements were taken from people who had not previously spoken to police, and from that officers from the Major Investigations Team were able to discredit their alibis.

During the trial last year, the jury heard that Caroline met O'Brien, who was her boyfriend, Kelly and Brand at a bridge near a towpath beside the river, between Renton and Bonhill.

There, Caroline was shouted at and sworn at. She was also repeatedly punched and kicked on the head and body.

The court also heard bricks or "similar instruments" were thrown, causing blunt force trauma.

She was pushed or fell into undergrowth and her body was later discovered in the river at Place of Bonhill, Renton.

Lord Braid said O'Brien was the main perpetrator and used "extreme violence" on the teenager.

The judge said while Kelly played a lesser role, he was also involved in inflicting "murderous violence".

Lord Braid accepted that Brand also played a lesser role in the murder as there was "no evidence" she participated in the assault.

But the judge said she must "bear the consequences" of O'Brien's actions as she left Caroline lying face down in the water.

Lord Braid also noted how Brand had previously threatened to "batter" Caroline over O'Brien, who had been seeing the two girls.

The judge noted: "You went to the towpath knowing that violence was to be inflicted on her.

"Although you did not yourself assault Caroline, you must take equal responsibility with the others for having left her lying face down in the water when she was still alive; drowning as we know, being the actual cause of death."

During the trial, the court heard from Caroline's mother Margaret McKeich, who said her daughter was "infatuated" with O'Brien but that she did not approve of the relationship as he was a few years older than her.

Mrs McKeich said her daughter had previously disclosed O'Brien had "lifted his hands to her".

Dr Marjorie Turner, a forensic pathologist, told the court Caroline's cause of death was drowning.

She told the trial: "She was still alive when she went into the water. The drowning was the ultimate cause of death."

Prosecutor Alex Prentice KC argued evidence given by a boy named Archie Wilson, who was four-years-old at the time of the murder, was "pivotal" to the case.

The boy's mother gave evidence that he had been taken to the river the night Caroline was murdered and witnessed her being assaulted and falling into the water.

Lord Braid said: "An aggravating feature is that the murder was committed in the presence of, and was witnessed by, two very young children. And one can only speculate at the extent to which that has blighted their lives."

Brand was supported by her family in court.

Her lawyer asked the judge to take into account the fact she was 17 at the time of the murder and has no other previous convictions.

Lord Braid accepted that it was likely that Brand had taken drugs or was under the influence of illicit substances at the time of the offence.

He said: "To an extent, your culpability is mitigated by your age at the time, although the harm done is not."

The judge noted that Brand continues to deny any wrongdoing and has shown "limited empathy" for Caroline's mother.

He said the trio's actions deprived Caroline's family of seeing the woman she would have become.

Lord Braid said: "Caroline was a popular teenager. Indeed, you say she was a friend of yours.

"As her mother, Margaret McKeich, puts it in her victim statement, she was a lover of life.

"Due in part to you, Caroline has been deprived of the opportunity of living that life - of developing into an adult, forming relationships, having children, fulfilling the potential which she evidently had, and of continuing to enjoy life, as she clearly did.

"Additionally, a daughter has been taken from her loving mother.

"In her victim statement, Mrs McKeich speaks eloquently and movingly of the lasting pain which Caroline's death has caused, the void which has been left in her life which can never be filled, and the incalculable feelings of deep loss and sadness which will always be there.

"She has been deprived of seeing the woman that Caroline would have become and of taking pride in the potential Caroline may have fulfilled.

"No sentence that I pass on you can possibly make up for what she has lost."

Mrs McKeich previously spoke outside court following O'Brien and Kelly's sentencing and said she was "over the moon" that justice had been served for her daughter.