A FORMER petty crook who was caught kissing Elaine Doyle has denied he murdered her more than 27 years ago.

Andrew Sutherland, 45, told a jury he was at home watching the opening matches of the World Cup Finals on the night the 16-year-old died in June 1986.

Mr Sutherland is one of 41 men on a list of possible suspects that has been read to the High Court in Edinburgh.

But when confronted with the allegation he replied: "Absolutely not."

The trial has heard how in February 1986 police on mobile patrol in Greenock saw Elaine's dad Jack, a postman, in the street.

Mr Doyle told the officers he was looking for his daughter, who was late getting back from a disco.

Former Constable Patrick Martin, 51, offered to help and found the girl in a bus station.

He said: "When I first saw her she was in an embrace with a young male about her age on the footpath. She was kissing the man at the time."

Mr Sutherland told the court he had been "sort of boyfriend-girlfriend" with Elaine for about 18 months. But that February he had not seen her for a time.

After a chance meeting in the Celtic Club in the town's Laird Street they walked to the bus station where they were "winching".

Mr Sutherland said Elaine was taken back to her family in a police car. He walked home and on the way threw a stone through a store window in a smash and grab raid.

He said he was sentenced to three months' detention in a Young Offenders' Institution and had been released just days before Elaine died.

Mr Sutherland, now a full-time carer for his disabled wife, told the trial he was embarrassed about the break-in.

"I was in and out of prison during that period. I broke the law and paid the price. I have nothing to hide."

Another witness, whose name is also on the defence list of possible suspects, also told the court he was watching World Cup football on television on the night Elaine died.

Trevor Sims, 47, said he was "definitely not" in Ardgowan Street that night.

He also denied he even knew Elaine - until his memory was prompted by a police statement made more than 27 years ago.

The man accused of the murder is John Docherty, 49, now of Dunoon. He denies murder and claims that at the time he is alleged to have stripped and strangled Elaine he was with his parents - who are no longer alive - at their home in Anne Street.

Docherty has also lodged a so-called special defence of incrimination, claiming the culprit might be among a list of 41 names taken from files of the police investigation into the murder.

The trial continues.