Suzanne Pilley murder trial: Killer keeps secret of lover’s grave

THE grieving family of Suzanne Pilley described how their ordeal would go on until her body was found, as her former lover was jailed for murder.

Friday, 16th March 2012, 2:35 am

Her parents, Robert and Sylvia Pilley, and her sister, Gail, who wept on hearing yesterday’s guilty verdict, said she had finally “received the justice she deserved”.

However, their hope is that one day they will be able to lay her to rest.

Only Gilroy will be able to ease their suffering, but he gave no hint he would break a two-year silence as he was led to the cells at the High Court in Edinburgh.

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He remained sitting bolt upright in the dock when the jury announced its majority guilty verdict on charges of murdering Ms Pilley and taking her body to its secret grave, believed to be somewhere in Argyll. He briefly closed his eyes but said nothing.

Gilroy had protested his innocence since the day Ms Pilley disappeared, but when police found make-up on the back of his hands two days later, on 6 May, 2010, hiding recent injuries, it was the turning point in the entire investigation. From that moment on, he was a key suspect and the net slowly closed.

His wife, Andrea, dropped her head as the word “guilty” was spoken by the jury’s spokesperson. In a statement later, she insisted he was innocent.

Gilroy nodded in her direction and mouthed something as he was taken away to begin a life sentence, but she declined to comment to the media on leaving the court.

In contrast, the Pilley family faced the cameras as a statement was read on their behalf.

“This day has been a long time coming but finally Suzanne has received the justice she deserved,” it said.

“As a family, we continue to struggle to come to terms with losing her. We have lost our daughter, but her memory lives on in everyone who knew her. Suzanne was a devoted daughter, a supportive friend and an exemplary colleague at work.

“She was a proud Scot who led a full and active life, and enjoyed the great outdoors, always walking, cycling and keeping fit. We have been met with nothing but kindness from her many friends during this great time of sorrow.

“We would like to express our gratitude to every police officer involved in the investigation and to [prosecutor] Alex Prentice and his team for their efforts in bringing this case to a conclusion.

“Although the trial has ended, our ordeal goes on, and we hope that one day we can lay our daughter to rest.”

Gilroy will return to court next month to receive the mandatory life sentence, and to be told by the judge the minimum period he must serve before becoming eligible for parole.

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

However, there was less support from his former colleagues at Infrastructure Managers Limited (IML), of Thistle Street, Edinburgh, where he and Ms Pilley met and where he killed her, by unknown means.

Simon Peck, manager of IML, where Ms Pilley’s tank of tropical fish has been given a home in the reception area, said: “Suzanne was a much-loved friend and colleague. To have her snatched from her friends and her family in such a callous and cold-blooded way is something we’re all still dealing with. The revulsion felt towards David Gilroy cannot be expressed. To think that he went about his business in the days after he murdered Suzanne, pretending that nothing was amiss, is truly chilling. I can only hope this verdict gives some small degree of comfort to Suzanne’s parents and her many friends. But 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.”

Mr Prentice QC said Gilroy’s contract with IML had been terminated in July 2010. He joined the firm in January 2009, and became Scottish regional operations manager. Previously, he had served 11 years in the Royal Navy as an engineer. He had no previous criminal record.

Ms Pilley was a book-keeper and started at IML in January 2008. She hoped to get married and start a family, something she “had always craved”, Mr Prentice said.

The prosecution was based on several pieces of circumstantial evidence. Mr Prentice conceded that, individually, the pieces could amount to very little, and may have an innocent as well as an incriminating explanation.

He spoke of a cable with many strands. The individual strands could be thin and weak, but they could be built up until a very strong cable was created.

The relationship between Gilroy and Ms Pilley had been “turbulent”, and he had shown himself to be jealous and possessive. She had started to see another man and spent her last night alive with him. The next morning, she disappeared only yards from the offices where she and Gilroy worked.

In the three weeks leading up to her death, Gilroy bombarded Ms Pilley with more than 430 texts – 64 in one day – and 49 calls. They ended on the day before she vanished. The day she disappeared, colleagues tried to contact her to check everything was fine as it was so unusual for her to fail to turn up at work without letting anyone know. There was silence from Gilroy.

That day, workmates said he was sweaty and clammy, as if in shock, and agitated and shaking, and rarely at his desk. He was seen hanging around a door to an internal staircase that led to the basement garage. He made an excuse of collecting papers, which were not immediately required, to go home and bring his car to the garage.

The next day, he went on an unplanned, unnecessary trip to Lochgilphead, Argyll, where his company was involved in the construction of a school campus. His car was seen on closed-circuit television at various points in the journey. A subsequent police reconstruction showed it took about 40 minutes to drive between Tyndrum and Inveraray. On the way out, Gilroy had taken two hours and 28 minutes. On the return, it took him two hours and ten minutes.

Gilroy reported, as requested, to a police station after arriving back in Edinburgh from Argyll, and he was seen to have scratches to his hands. Gilroy claimed he had fallen into bushes while gardening five days earlier. An expert witness said the injuries could have been fingernail marks sustained in a scuffle. He had seen such injuries before – on suspects in known strangulation cases.

Gilroy’s car had fractures to three of the four coil springs in the suspension. Also, there was gouging on the underside, and vegetation had been snagged on the underside. The vehicle showed clear signs of having been driven off road.

A cadaver dog, trained to locate the scent of dead bodies, reacted in the basement garage at a bay where Gilroy’s car had been parked, at an adjoining bay, and at a door that led to the internal staircase. It also gave an alert at a recess behind the door, where a body could have been laid.