A woman accused of murder had threatened to “batter” a schoolgirl for spending time with a youth she was also seeing prior to the girl’s death, a court heard.
Tracy McFetridge, 44, told police she heard Donna Marie Brand – one of the three people charged with Caroline Glachan’s murder – utter the threat in a conversation with another friend weeks before she was found dead.
The High Court in Glasgow heard McFetridge made the accusation in a statement she gave to police during a reinvestigation in 2020 – 24 years after Miss Glachan was found dead in the river Leven, aged 14.
Brand, 44, is on trial with Robert O’Brien, 45; and Andrew Kelly, 44; accused of murdering the schoolgirl on August 25 1996.
Prosecutors allege they arranged to meet the teenager at a bridge near a towpath beside the river between Renton and Bonhill, West Dunbartonshire.
They are then alleged to have assaulted the 14-year-old, shouted and sworn at her and repeatedly kicked and punched her on the head and body.
It is claimed the trio threw bricks or “similar instruments” causing blunt force injuries to her head and body before pushing or causing her to fall into the river, and ultimately murdering her.
O’Brien, Brand and Kelly have all pleaded not guilty and lodged a special defence of alibi.
Ms McFetridge told the court on Tuesday that Miss Glachan had been spending time with O’Brien, but that he had also been seeing Brand at the same time and the older girl was not happy with the situation.
Asked by Advocate Depute Alex Prentice if there had been a conversation involving Miss Glachan and a suspected pregnancy, Ms McFetridge replied: “Yes. She said she had missed her period and she might be pregnant.”
She went on to tell the court that the schoolgirl was aware O’Brien was seeing Brand and that she had advised her not to say anything about the potential pregnancy around her.
“Donna said she was not happy and said she was going to batter her. I told her, ‘Naw, you canny do that, she is only 14’,” she said.
Questioned by O’Brien’s lawyer, Ian Duguid KC, Ms McFetridge said she initially did not believe Miss Glachan when she said she might be pregnant, adding: “She told wee white lies.”
She then told the court she accompanied the schoolgirl as she took a pregnancy test, which returned positive.
However, forensic pathologist Dr Marjorie Turner said there was no sign the teenager was pregnant at the post-mortem examination.
Continuing to give evidence on Wednesday morning, Ms McFetridge added: “(Donna Marie Brand) was angry, as you would be if someone was seeing your partner at that age.”
Ms McFetridge also told the court Miss Glachan had visited her at her dad’s house on the night before her death, but this was something she only felt confident revealing during the reinvestigation into her death in 2020.
Asked by Brand’s solicitor, Thomas Ross KC, why she had made “absolutely no mention” of the visit in three separate statements she made to police in the three months after the schoolgirl’s death, she said she was “scared” of repercussions.
“I was terrified of the gang and getting done in,” she said.
Mr Ross also quizzed Ms McFetridge on why her account of the Saturday night before Miss Glachan was found did not tally with evidence previously given to the court by Joanne Menzies, another former friend of the 14-year-old who said she was with her the night before she was found.
Noting Ms Menzies said Miss Glachan was with her at around the same time that Ms McFetridge said she was at her father’s house – about 10pm – Mr Ross asked: “Can you think of any reason why her best friend would tell lies to the jury?”
Ms McFetridge replied: “I’m saying Caroline was at my dad’s.”
O’Brien faces a separate charge alleging that on various dates between June 1 1996 and August 25 1996, he assaulted the teenager at locations including Balloch Country Park, Renton, Vale of Leven and “elsewhere in Dunbartonshire”.
It is alleged O’Brien assaulted the teenager by punching her face, placing his hands around her neck and compressing her throat. He denies the charge.
Another witness, Alison Curley, told the court Miss Glachan had told her on August 25 1996 – the day she died – that she was meeting O’Brien that night.
Ms Curley said that later that evening she had been out walking with the teenager and James Docherty over the river Leven on a now-demolished crossing known as Black Bridge.
She said she and Mr Docherty then parted company with Miss Glachan on the other side as she spotted a figure waiting in the shadows and went to approach him.
Asked if she could make out who the figure was, she replied she could not as it was too dark.
Ian Duguid, defending O’Brien, questioned why Ms Curley only told police about her encounter with Caroline after they reopened the investigation into her death in 2020.
Ms Curley said she was sure she had raised the meeting with officers during previous interviews but when it was put to her that police had asked the same question during a recent interview, she replied: “I don’t remember them saying that.”
The trial, before judge Lord Braid, continues.