‘Hysterical’ half-dressed woman found in graveyard

The woman was found cowering in a 'dark and dingy' area of the graveyard at St Cuthbert's Parish Church. Picture: Andrew Stuart
The woman was found cowering in a 'dark and dingy' area of the graveyard at St Cuthbert's Parish Church. Picture: Andrew Stuart
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A POLICE officer found a partially undressed and “hysterical” woman in a graveyard where she was allegedly raped.

PC Kristopher Harvey was called to St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, Lothian Road, with a colleague and discovered the terrified woman sitting in a “dark and dingy” area.

The 28-year-old was forced to shine a flashlight on his “Police” badge to prove who he was, as the woman cowered in fear, a court heard.

The officer was giving evidence at the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday of John Branchfield, 44, who is accused of raping the woman on August 4 or 5 last year.

The woman was allegedly attacked while nearby Princes Street and Lothian Road were packed with Festival goers and other revellers.

PC Harvey, a city centre beat patrol officer based at Gayfield Square station, said he and a colleague, PC Webster, received a call about a reported rape at 12.35am.

The officer said they entered the graveyard from the Lothian Road entrance.

He searched towards the King’s Stables Road end while PC Webster went towards Princes Street and soon found the woman.

PC Harvey described the scene he was confronted with.

He said: “She was sitting down on a raised wall, a couple of feet high.

“Her trousers and underwear had been pulled down just above the knee.

“She was hysterical. She was crying and it was evident that something had just occurred. She was shouting at us to keep away.

“I thought it was perhaps because of the male voices. I remember putting my flashlight up to my badge so she could read ‘Police’. I got down on my knee so we could speak face-to-face. After 30 seconds to a minute she had calmed down to a degree where we could get communication. It was in a dark area popular with homeless people to drink.”

The two officers took the woman to the Amethyst unit at the Gyle, which deals with sex crime victims.

PC Lesley Robertson, 34, a sexual offences liaison officer,said the woman appeared “quite disorientated” when she spoke to her.

The court also heard from Lynne Docherty, 45, who received a mobile call from the woman at 12.15am on August 5. Ms Docherty said that the woman, who had been on a night out with friends, was still in the graveyard and told her, “I think I’ve been raped”.

She told the jury: “She was quiet hysterical, crying and shouting. I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t figure it out at first.

“She was very upset and I was trying to calm her down.”

Ms Docherty said she phoned 999 while remaining on the mobile call.

Branchfield, of Houston Street, Greenock, denies raping the woman after seizing her by the throat and pushing her to the ground. The trial before Lord Glennie continues.