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Teenager was ‘infatuated’ with accused boyfriend, mother tells murder trial

A teenager found dead 27 years ago was “infatuated” with the boyfriend accused of murdering her, despite telling her mother he had “lifted his hands to her”, a Scottish court has heard.

Robbie O’Brien, 45, is one of three people on trial at the High Court in Glasgow accused of murdering Caroline Glachan on August 25 1996.

The first witness in the trial was the girl’s mother, Margaret McKeich, who told the court she “didn’t approve” of her 14-year-old daughter’s relationship with O’Brien, who was at least three years older than her.

O’Brien is accused alongside Donna Marie Brand, 44; and Andrew Kelly, 44; of the murder after the teenager’s body was discovered in the river Leven, near Place of Bonhill in Renton, West Dunbartonshire on the above date.

Margaret McKeich
Margaret McKeich speaking at a press conference on the 10th anniversary of her daughter Caroline’s death (Danny Lawson/PA)

Prosecutors allege the trio arranged to meet the schoolgirl at a bridge near the towpath beside the river Leven between Renton and Bonhill.

It is then alleged they assaulted her, shouted and swore at the teenager and repeatedly punched and kicked her on the head and body.

The accused are then alleged to have thrown bricks or “similar instruments” at her, causing blunt force trauma to her head and body, causing her to fall, or pushing her, into the river.

All three have pleaded not guilty to her murder and have lodged special defences of alibi.

O’Brien, originally from Dunbarton, is separately accused on various dates between June 1 1996 and August 25 1996 of assaulting the girl 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.

In evidence to the court, the schoolgirl’s mother told the court her daughter was dating O’Brien and the pair had gone to an Oasis concert, held in Balloch on August 3 1996.

She said: “Caroline was quite infatuated with him.

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More Scotland stories - click above

“I didn’t approve of the relationship. I felt he was too old. I did have words with them about that.”

Mrs McKeich also told the court that her daughter had informed her of his physical behaviour towards her, adding: “She told me that he had lifted his hands to her. He gave her a slap.”

She said she made her views known “absolutely on more than one occasion”.

Advocate Depute Alex Prentice asked Mrs McKeich if she had approached O’Brien – known to Caroline as “Robbie” – over the claims.

She said: “I did. It was roughly about two to three weeks before her murder.

Caroline Glachan murder appeal
Caroline Glachan was found dead on her mother’s 40th birthday (Family handout/PA)

“I asked him what he thought he was playing at with a 14-year-old girl. I wasn’t happy with him and he should stay away from her.”

The day the girl’s body was discovered by police – August 25 1996 – was her mother’s 40th birthday.

Mrs McKeich told the court she went out in the evening to celebrate, returning around 2am or 3am on August 25, but her daughter was not home.

She said: “I sat and waited and thought, ‘she will come in anytime now’. I was angry at her and I was upset that she would stay out so late. And then I thought she will come in the morning because she will be frightened to face me.”

The advocate depute asked her: “Did you receive bad news that day?”

She replied: “I did. It was in the later afternoon.”

He then asked: “Did you ID your daughter?”

Fighting back tears, Mrs McKeich said: “I did.”

However, Ian Duguid KC, acting on behalf of O’Brien, asked Mrs McKeich: “Before August 25 you had a conversation with Caroline about heroin?”

She said: “I did yes. She told me she had tried it but she didn’t like it.”

He put to Mrs McKeich that “around the time of her death there were a number of things going on in her life that perhaps she wasn’t being entirely honest about in her explanation to you, is that fair?”

She said: “That is fair”.

Later, Anne Marie Tomlin, a former family friend who was “like an aunty” to Caroline, said she had seen Caroline on August 24 and asked if she would be coming to stay at hers as they had previously discussed.

“She said she was going to meet friends that night,” she told the court.

Jurors were then shown a video of former Strathclyde police officer James McMeekin and his team recovering the schoolgirl’s body, face down on the river embankment.

Facial injuries were visible when she was turned over.

The trial, before judge Lord Braid, continues.