A man accused of murdering a schoolgirl told jurors he did not see her the night he allegedly helped kill her.
Robert O’Brien denied there had been an arrangement to meet Caroline Glachan despite claims she had left her best friend to catch up with him.
The 45-year-old along with Andrew Kelly and Donna Marie Brand, both 44, are charged with murdering the 14-year-old at the River Leven in West Dunbartonshire on August 25, 1996.
All three deny murder.
O’Brien told the trial at the High Court in Glasgow how he first met Caroline between six and eight weeks before her death.
He went on to start a “relationship” with the schoolgirl describing it as “friends with benefits”.
This was at a time he was also in a relationship with co-accused Brand.
O’Brien said he did not initially know Caroline was 14. O’Brien was 17 or 18 at the time.
The trial earlier heard claims Caroline ended up “infatuated” with O’Brien, but he said he did not agree with that.
O’Brien said he had been with Brand – who was going to head home before they discovered they could go to a house where Kelly and his girlfriend Sarah Jane O’Neill were babysitting two boys.
He said he did not see Caroline down by the river or at all, later that night.
O’Brien said that he learned about a body being found in the River Leven when his younger brother told him on the afternoon of August 25.
The court again heard it was only in November 2021 that O’Brien was arrested.
Mr Duguid: “If you were living in the area for the best part of 25 or 26 years before this, you must have been aware of rumours.
“The rumours included you being a suspect?”
He replied: “Back in the day, yes.”
O’Brien went on to be cross-examined by prosecutor Alex Prentice KC.
The advocate depute put to him: “The last time you saw Caroline Glachan was when she was face down in the River Leven and you left her?”
O’Brien responded: “I had nothing to do with that.”
He told the court that he was in relationships with about five different girls at the time but that he didn’t think Brand knew he had also been seeing Caroline.
Mr Prentice concluded by suggesting O’Brien and his “companions” had gone to the River Leven to meet Caroline that night.
The prosecutor: “What was the argument about?”
O’Brien: “There was no argument. We were not at the Leven.”
Mr Prentice then asked had it been necessary to “inflict such terrible violence” on Caroline.
O’Brien: “I did not.”
He also denied hitting Caroline on other occasions when they were together.
The trio deny murder. The trial, before judge Lord Braid, continues.
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