Family stand by Gilroy as colleagues tell of revulsion

DAVID Gilroy was today spending his first full day behind bars as a convicted killer facing demands to finally come clean and reveal where Suzanne Pilley’s body is buried.

Friday, 16th March 2012, 12:00 pm

Legal experts said that Gilroy was likely to be sentenced to more than 20 years due to the “clear premeditation” shown and his conviction for perverting the course of justice by trying to conceal the killing.

Family and friends of Ms Pilley, who would have turned 40 earlier this month, have simply urged the 49-year-old to end their ordeal and allow his victim a proper burial.

The bookkeeper’s ex-husband Peter Durrand told the Evening News how he feared twisted Gilroy would never reveal his secret, while police have pledged not to close the case until she is found.

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Officers have also spoken of the hope that the body, believed to be concealed in the dense forest of Argyll, could be found with the help of rapidly advancing forensic technology.

Ms Pilley’s parents, Rob and Sylvia, who sat through the trial, meanwhile, spoke of their ordeal continuing and their “hope that one day we can lay our daughter to rest”.

Gilroy, who continued to live in the family home in Silverknowes throughout the trial, is now likely to launch an appeal after being convicted by majority verdict and continuing to protest his innocence.

His family insist they will stand by him and, as he was led to the cells after conviction, he mouthed the words “I love you” to his wife, Andrea, 43.

Neighbours in Silverknowes told the Evening News of their shock at the double-life of an apparently “normal guy” with a loving family who was exposed as a cold-blooded killer.

Detective Superintendent Gary Flannigan, who led the investigation called “Operation Mica”, paid tribute to the Pilley family and said the work to find Ms Pilley was ongoing.

He said the verdict did “not end the torment for Suzanne’s family”.

“I have given Rob, Sylvia and Gail [her sister] our assurance that we will continue to pursue any new information which comes to light which could help recover Suzanne,” he said.

He also praised the support for the investigation from Infrastructure Managers Limited, the Thistle Street company where both Gilroy and Ms Pilley worked, adding: “They had to deal with the loss of a colleague while their workplace was the focus of a police investigation in the glare of the media spotlight. And then, of course, they had to cope with the news that another work colleague was the murder suspect, all the while continuing to run their business.”

The massive murder inquiry saw police speak to 1470 potential witnesses and take 1164 statements. Officers gathered 2325 productions to use in evidence and obtained CCTV footage from 250 separate locations while 30 different areas in Argyll were subject to coordinated searches.

The verdict came at the end of a dramatic three-and-a-half week trial in which the court heard how Gilroy lured his former lover to her death in the basement of the IML office on May 4, 2010.

The couple had a “turbulent” relationship after getting together on a staff night out and Ms Pilley had tried to end the affair when she began seeing someone else shortly before her disappearance.

The court heard how Gilroy had sent her more than 400 texts in the month before she went missing, but these stopped when she vanished.

The investigation was the sixth most expensive in the history of the force, with help drafted in from forensic experts and cadaver dogs.

Gilroy is believed to have strangled 38-year-old Ms Pilley and hidden her body in the basement level of their office whilst he returned home to get his car.

After driving her body back to his home, Det Supt Flannigan believes that Gilroy drove back to the office with Ms Pilley’s body still in his car boot.

Gilroy later pretended to be going on a site visit to a PFI school in Lochgilpead, hiding Ms Pilley’s body either on the journey to or from the site.

Simon Peck, director of IML, spoke of the “revulsion and disgust” felt towards his former employee.

He said: “Suzanne was a much-loved friend and colleague. To have her snatched away from her friends and her family in such a callous and cold-blooded way is something we’re all still dealing with.”

He added: “Until David Gilroy reveals where Suzanne’s body lies, her family and friends will never be able to fully come to terms with her loss.”

Gilroy will return to the High Court on April 18 for sentencing.

One legal expert told the Evening News he is likely to face a harsh sentence.

He said: “In cases of simple murder, where there is no pre-meditation, the punishment part of the sentence – that time which the person convicted must serve before they can be eligible for parole – is normally around 13 or 14 years. In a case such as this, however, where it seems clear there has been intent not only to murder but to try and evade the law and the legal process, it seems likely that the punishment part of the sentence will be closer to 20 years or more.

“While it may not be a hugely significant factor in terms of the sentencing, there is little doubt that fact that Suzanne’s body has never been found will have some influence on the judge’s decision about sentencing.”

Former neighbours of Suzanne’s on Whitson Road, Saughton, spoke of their reliefat the verdict. Many remembered Suzanne as a popular neighbour and urged Gilroy to “give up the game”.

A middle-aged man said he was “delighted, but surprised” at the verdict.

He said: “I’m surprised because I thought he’d get off as there is no body or murder weapon. I’d like to think he’s going to say where her body is, to put the family’s mind at rest, but he is a murderer and he’s admitted nothing so far.”

Another added: “It’s brilliant news. It was heartbreaking to see Suzanne’s mum and dad up at the house afterwards, I felt so sorry. They’ve got no closure, and they deserve at least that.”

One man in his 30s who lived in the block opposite said of Gilroy: “That guy needs to give up the game. He’s done nothing to help police, and now justice has been done. It is disgusting behaviour.”

Outside the court yesterday, Gilroy’s wife and mother declined to comment as they were led away – pursued by photographers, television cameras and reporters calling “Do you know where the body is buried?” and “Why did you stand by him?”

The Gilroy family issued a statement which read: “We are devastated about the verdict. The family has always believed in David’s innocence and continue to do so.”

Advocate depute Alex Prentice told the court Ms Pilley’s family were shocked by the fact that Gilroy has never disclosed where he discarded her remains.

Presenting two private victim impact statements to Lord Bracadale, Mr Prentice told the court: “She wanted to get married and start a family – family life was always something she craved.

“Before her death, Suzanne was very close to her parents. She was in contact with them every day.

“The heartache suffered is increased by her remains never being located.”

• Additional reporting by David McCann and Victoria Raimes