THREE people have been convicted of the murder of a schoolgirl almost 30 years ago.

Robert O'Brien, 45, Andrew Kelly and Donna Marie Brand, both 44, were involved in a brutal attack on Caroline Glachan before leaving her to drown in the River Leven in West Dunbartonshire on August 25, 1996.

The 14-year-old sustained at least 10 blows to the head and extensive skull fractures having been punched, kicked and had bricks thrown at her as well as suffering other "blunt force" trauma.

Caroline was knocked unconscious and ended up in the river before her body was discovered later that afternoon lying face down in the water.

The murder remained unresolved despite several high-profile appeals through the years including by the teenager's heartbroken mother Margaret McKeich - Caroline was her only child.

O'Brien - who was 18 at the time - had always been a prime suspect due to his relationship with Caroline in 1996.

The killer - who boasted of having several girls on the go at the same time - had also been seeing Brand.

It is thought his close links to a feared family - one member since been convicted of murder - may have influenced what locals told police at the time.

Jurors heard how the teenager had been "infatuated" with heroin addict O'Brien and had been "excited" to see him that night.

Instead, that meeting at the river turned out to be what prosecutors called a "brutal and horrific attack" at the river towpath.

The cold-case murder was re-investigated again in 2020 as part of the huge Operation Fairing police probe.

Witnesses were spoken to again and fresh accounts given.

The evidence of four-and-a-half-year-old Archie Wilson - who detectives had met in 1996 - was pivotal to the prosecution.

He and his brother had been babysat that night by Kelly and his then-girlfriend Sarah Jane O'Neill, who has since died. O'Brien and Brand had also ended up at Archie's house.

Now in his 30s, Archie was unfit to testify during the trial.

But, his mum Elizabeth Wilson recalled how her son told her how he had been taken down to the River Leven late that night before witnessing a "lassie" being "battered" and fall into the water.

O'Brien, Kelly - 16 at the time - and Brand - then 17 - ended up in the dock at the High Court in Glasgow 27 years after Caroline's death.

They all denied being involved insisting they had not left Miss Wilson's home that evening.

Jurors returned unanimous guilty verdicts on Wednesday on the murder charge for all three following a harrowing two-week trial.

Mrs McKeich and other family and friends of Caroline were in court.

After the verdicts, it emerged O'Brien tried to kill a stranger a decade after he murdered Caroline.

He shot Thomas McGlinchey with a crossbow in Dumbarton in September 2006.

O'Brien was jailed at that time for 10 years described by a judge then as a "violent man prepared to use serious violence".

He had also since committed offences since the killing including being caught with an offensive weapon.

Brand had no convictions.

The trio were all remanded in custody and each face a life sentence when they return to the dock in the New Year.

Lord Braid told them: "You have all been convicted of what can be described as the brutal and depraved murder of Caroline Glachan."

O'Brien and Kelly showed no emotion - Brand started sobbing as they were all lead handcuffed to the cells.

Caroline's mum had been the first witness in the trial.

She told how she did not approve of Caroline seeing known drug user O'Brien. 

The pair had first met around two months before the schoolgirl's death.

Mrs McKeich soon became aware O'Brien had been violent towards the teenager.

Caroline had also confided in at least one friend that she was "scared" of O'Brien after he assaulted her. He also threatened to kill her if she kissed another boy.

Prosecutor Mr Prentice asked Mrs McKeich had she raised concerns with her daughter.

She replied: "Absolutely - on more than one occasion."

On the night of August 24, 1996, Mrs McKeich had gone out to celebrate her 40th birthday.

The plan was for her daughter's best friend Joanne Menzies to have a sleepover with Caroline.

But, instead, Caroline left her in the company of two boys while she went to meet O'Brien - known as Robbie.

Miss Menzies told the trial: "Caroline was very impressionable. I think she was infatuated with Robbie."

She had begged her friend to "stay away" from O'Brien - but she did not "heed the advice".

Caroline intended to return to her home in Bonhill, also West Dunbartonshire, before her mum was in.

But, when Mrs McKeich got back, only Miss Menzies and the two boys were there.

She was told Caroline had gone to see O'Brien. The mum then sat up waiting for her daughter to get back.

Mrs McKeich said: "I was angry and upset that she would stay out so late."

As the hours ticked by, Caroline had still not come back. Other friends had not seen her. A search was then carried out in the local area in a desperate bid to trace her.

Prosecutor Mr Prentice asked Mrs McKeich: "Did she return home?"

She replied: "No."

Mr Prentice said: "Did you receive bad news?"

The emotional mum said: "Yes, later that afternoon. The police told me that they had found a body. It could be Caroline, but I had to identify the body."

Mrs McKeich was driven to the mortuary in Glasgow.

Mr Prentice said: "Did you identify your daughter?"

An upset Mrs McKeich replied: "Yes, I did."

Caroline had been found having initially been mistaken for a mannequin in the water.

Jurors watched footage of police divers later recovering Caroline's injured body which was fully clothed other than her trainers.

Pathologist Dr Marjorie Turner carried out a post-mortem of the teenager.

She told how Caroline had suffered "extensive fractures" to the skull most likely as a result of "multiple blows" with a "blunt weapon".

Other injuries included lacerations and bruising. Dr Turner said Caroline may have been alive when she entered the river, but would have been unconscious due to the severity of the attack.

The hunt began to capture those responsible for a crime which shocked the country.

A crucial witness ended up being young Archie Wilson.

His mum Elizabeth - known as Betty - had returned home hours after the killing to find Kelly sitting in shorts alone with her children.

He claimed Archie had urinated on him and the carpet.

The child insisted he did not and that it was a "wet" O'Brien who had also been in the house and soaked the floor.

Archie then went on to state he had been taken down the River Leven while apparently being looked after.

Asked what he said happened, his mum told jurors: "He said they were down the Leven...that they were fighting with the lassie, that she ended up falling in and that they had battered the lassie."

Archie also recalled the girl having a Chipie brand jumper on - the court heard Caroline had that type on when she was found.

Both Miss Wilson and her son were interviewed in 1996 - the mum again in 2020 when the case re-opened.

Miss Wilson admitted she had not wanted her young boy "involved" at the time.

But, asked by police what her reaction was when she discovered Caroline had been found in the river, she stated: "The blood just kind of drained from my face.

"I just knew that the story Archie had told us was related to the body."

Further crucial evidence emerged about the killers leaving Miss Wilson's home that night despite denials they had.

Neighbour Linda Dorrian recalled two males and two females leaving around 11pm to midnight with the children and then returning.

She recognised Sarah Jane O'Neill and heard her calling one of the males "a p***k". The other female - believed to be Brand - was described as "wailing".

O'Neill was then said to have stated: "That was out of order. That was not meant to happen. That was a set up."

O'Brien, Kelly and Brand were all charged in November 2021.

O'Brien was the only one of the three to give evidence during the trial.

He also denied confessing to two girls that he "f*****g did" use a baseball bat to hit Caroline that night.

O'Brien admitted knowing he was a suspect over the years but insisted he had not seen Caroline on the evening in question.

Asked by Mr Prentice what the row at the river had been about, he replied: "There was no argument. We were not at the Leven."

In his closing speech, the prosecutor said they had not planned to murder Caroline, but that there had been "a plot to do harm to her".

O'Brien was said to be the assailant who attacked the teenager with the other two responsible on an "art and part" basis.

O'Brien's KC Ian Duguid had suggested jurors were being asked to convict someone to "close the book" on a crime that had "tortured" a community for decades.