A HAULAGE contractor said a rumour had "spread like wildfire" through Greenock that he murdered Elaine Doyle - just because he had ginger hair.

The trial has seen how a ­police artist made a sketch of a possible suspect - after a sighting of a youth acting suspiciously in a tenement close on the night Elaine died.

Stephen Friel, 45, is one of a list of 41 men which John Docherty's defence team suggest may include the real killer.

Advocate depute John Scullion, prosecuting, asked Mr Friel what he thought about this.

"It is outrageous that someone can pick a name out of a hat in a quest to create suspects," replied Mr Friel.

Questioned by defence QC Donald Findlay about why his name might be on the list, Mr Friel told the lawyer: "A description came out about red hair and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to ­realise I had red hair."

He said his dad was a haulage contractor and also ran a scaffolding business so the name Friel was on every ­corner. Mr Friel blamed "evil people".

But he denied all knowledge of an alleged incident in Greenock town centre when he was said to have been ­attacked by a group of youths for claiming: "That wee girl, I did it."

The account of the incident was given to police by a witness who came forward in June 2011.

Mr Friel said Greenock was full of rumours including those directed at him. "It spread like wildfire through the town," he said.

On trial is John Docherty, 49, now of Hunters' Quay, Holiday Village, Dunoon, He denies murder and claims 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 claimed the culprit might be among a list of 41 names taken from files of the police investigation into the murder. The list ­includes Mr Friel.

The trial continues.