A NEIGHBOUR of the MacPhail family reported hearing ‘domestic abuse’ taking place between Toni McLachlan and Robert MacPhail.

Called as a defence witness, Avil Lax, 67, told the court: “I could hear her [Toni McLachlan] getting beaten up - over a period of a good few months.”

Asked when she heard the abuse, she said: “The year previous to Alesha going missing.”

She claimed she could hear Ms McLachlan screaming and ‘the sound of hitting’ and ‘skin slapping’.

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The retired voluntary worker said she once heard Ms McLachlan screaming ‘Help, someone help’.

Mrs Lax said she then reported the abuse to Mr MacPhail’s parents Angela King and Calum MacPhail, and claimed they told her ‘she didn’t hear anything’.

She said: “They didn’t want to blacken Robert’s name, there was a court case coming up over custody of Alesha.”

Under cross-examination from advocate depute Iain McSporran QC, she said the sounds of abuse coming from the MacPhail home took place over a three-month period.

Mrs Lax said: “It was something unpleasant and I didn’t want to take notes.

“I had just lost my husband and it was very upsetting.”

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She claimed she “just signed” the police statement and couldn’t remember precise details from her initial statement.

And another defence witness, Laura Crawford, 38, told the court that she ‘thought’ she had seen the couple on July 1 and ‘they looked like they had fallen out’.

Mrs Crawford got in touch with police on July 3 to report what she had seen.

She told the court: “Robert was pulling on her arm as if she wanted her to talk to him.
“It looked like they had fallen out.”

Asked by defence lawyer Brian McConnachie about Ms McLachlan’s ‘demeanour’ and whether she could tell anything from her body language, she said she couldn’t.

In her statement she said: “As we came round the corner the girl had her hands up with her palms facing forward, she looked upset, really upset.

“She looked as if she was about to start crying.”

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At the time Mrs Crawford claimed she didn’t know who it was.

She said: “I didn’t even know Toni-Louise had a boyfriend.

“I know the MacPhail family and they’re lovely people, but I didn’t know they were together.”

She claimed she later realised the couple were going out because there was pictures of them together.

Asked by Mr McConnachie if there was ‘any room for you being wrong about who you saw’, she said: “No.”

Under cross-examination by Mr McSporran, Mrs Crawford claimed the people were on the pavement behind parked cars on one side of the road and said she only ‘got a glimpse’ of the two people.

Mrs Crawford added: “I didn’t even know what Toni was wearing.”

She said the male was wearing ‘shades’.

She was questioned again by Mr McConnachie, who said: “Do you think you would know the difference between a 13-year-old girl and Toni McLachlan?”

Mrs Crawford replied: “From a glimpse, maybe not.”

The trial continues.

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