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Body disposal claim at Rothesay woman murder trial

20 May 10 16:22 GMT

One of two men accused of murdering a woman and dumping her body at sea inquired how long it would take for a body to come ashore, a court has heard.

Linda Buckley told the High Court in Glasgow that Charles O'Neill made the comment to her former boyfriend John Hutton, a merchant seaman.

Mr Hutton was said to be the uncle of Charles O'Neill and William Lauchlan.

They deny killing Allison McGarrigle in 1997 to prevent her from reporting the abuse of a young boy.

Mrs McGarrigle was reported missing in February 1998. Her body has never been recovered and she was declared dead in 2005.

The court heard how both accused were visited by John Hutton, said to be their uncle, at the flat they lived at in Wilson Street, Largs in 1997.

'Odd' question

Mr Hutton was accompanied by his then girlfriend Linda Buckley.

Ms Buckley, 51, claimed Mr O'Neill once made a comment which "seemed odd".

She told the court: "He said 'if you drop a body at sea, how long would it take for it to come to the shore'.

"I laughed and said 'I am not that bad, am I?'. It seemed to be made in a serious way. It was me that was trying to make a joke of it."

Mr O'Neill's lawyer John Carroll suggested a comment stemmed from Mr Hutton claiming Ms Buckley had been nagging him and that he had spoken about throwing her overboard.

But Ms Buckley replied: "I had not been nagging John."

Prosecutor Dorothy Bain later asked if Mr O'Neill's comment was serious.

Ms Buckley said: "I could not see his face. It did not sound funny."

The trial also heard how police searched the flat in Wilson Street in September 1997 during a hunt for a missing boy.

Other charges

Mr O'Neill and Mr Lauchlan are said to have "engaged in criminal sexual activity" with the youngster.

Officers found the boy within a cupboard at the property.

Mr Lauchlan and Mr O'Neill deny murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Mr O'Neill has lodged a special defence incriminating Mrs McGarrigle's husband, Robert, as being responsible for her death.

He also faces a charge of assault or an alternative allegation of culpable and reckless conduct.

The trial, before Judge Lord Pentland, continues.

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