Today’s (Thursday) guilty verdict brings to an end a 27-year mystery that rocked two communities in a small corner of West Dunbartonshire.

Robert O'Brien, Andrew Kelly and Donna Marie Brand all played a part in taking the life of 14-year-old Caroline Glachan at the River Leven on Sunday, August 25, 1996.

Her body was found the next day, a human chain of locals forming at a steep embankment to recover her from the water.

It truly was the most horrific end to a situation many in the community had feared was building to some sort of violent crescendo.

Drugs, young children, inappropriate relationships, and a young girl being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Caroline, who lived in Bonhill, was said to be “infatuated” with Robbie O’Brien of Renton, four years her senior and already in a relationship with Donna Brand.

When Brand, who was 16, would go home, O’Brien would duck out and meet Caroline, often at the ‘Black Bridge’, a structure that links the two areas.

That was the dynamic of the group, with Andy Kelly and now deceased Sarah Jane O’Neill friends with O’Brien and Brand.

A cold case

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Grainger, of the Major Investigations Teams, became the senior investigating officer on the case when he began reinvestigating it in June 2019.

Describing it as the “largest inquiry” he had ever investigated due to the sheer volume of material he and his team had to sift through from the original investigation, the experienced cop quickly decided to strip the reinvestigation back to “conventional policing".

They were looking at a murder from 1996.

There were no mobile phones, dash cams, Ring doorbells or CCTV, so DI Grainger instructed his team to go door-to-door again.

Adults who had been children in 1996 were to be questioned and any person who had lived on Allan Crescent in Renton at the time of the murder was to be traced and interviewed in the hope of uncovering any new information.

Because it was that address, the home of Betty Wilson at 12 Allan Crescent, where the reinvestigation was focused.

On the night of August 24, Ms Wilson had left her two sons, Archie, 5, and Jamie, 2, in the care of Kelly and O’Neill as she went away for the night. The young couple had babysat for Betty before.

However, those who weren’t supposed to be there were O’Brien and Brand, with the four allegedly smoking heroin all night.

Their alibi - which they haven’t budged from in nearly three decades - was that they never left 12 Allan Crescent during the night of August 24 into August 25.

But a new “key witness” was set to cast new light on the supposed alibi.

New witness

Living above Betty Wilson was Linda Wood, who was in her house that night with her 10-year-old daughter, waiting for a film to come on Sky TV at midnight.

Shortly before 12am, Ms Wood heard the downstairs door opening and looked out into the street. She recognised Kelly and O’Neill but didn’t know O’Brien and Brand, only that it was a man and a woman standing beside the two she knew.

She told police she had witnessed the four leave the house, along with toddlers Archie and Jamie, and head down Allan Crescent towards the River Leven.

It was a moment described as “huge” by police. It was the first time anyone had committed, on record, to say the four had left the house, up until then an alibi police say they couldn’t disprove.

Around 12.30am, various independent witnesses reported hearing screams coming from the River Leven, female screams, with words to the effect, "I didn’t say that".

Police know that a message was passed to O’Brien on August 24 to say that Caroline would meet him at midnight at the Black Bridge.

Caroline was seen at the Ladyton shops in Bonhill with her best friend Joanna Menzies just before midnight, before leaving to head towards the bridge.

She walked there with two locals, Alison Curly and Jamie Docherty, who remember, despite being unable to make out the figure at the bridge, Caroline saying "There’s Robbie" as they left her.

We now know it was one of the last reported sightings of Caroline alive.  

Linda Wood went on to say that, after 1am, she heard the four returning to 12 Allan Crescent.

It was then the screaming and shouting started, with an audible line along the lines of: "That wasn’t meant to happen".

‘Living’ the murder

Five-year-old Archie Wilson was identified as integral to the reinvestigation by DI Grainer and his team.

Betty Wilson returned home on August 25 around lunchtime. The kids, who would usually be up and active, were still sleeping. Ms Wilson only found Andy Kelly in the home, drying his trousers.

The carpet was “sodden,” a detail Kelly blamed on Archie urinating on the area.

After Kelly’s departure, Ms Wilson quizzed son Archie on peeing on the carpet, where he revealed: "No mummy, Robbie was wet."

Archie also told his mum that he and Jamie were woken up and taken to the Leven, where he witnessed a girl being "battered".

Police say this is significant because Archie is telling his mum, at lunchtime on August 25, that a girl has been battered and put in the water.

Caroline wasn’t recovered until 4.10pm later that day.

How does he know that a girl has been put into the River Leven four hours before she has been found?

The five-year-old also described the girl he saw as having ‘metal in her eye.’

Officers say Caroline had an injury to her right eye, a detail that was never revealed to the public or the press. A detail Archie wouldn’t know unless he has lived the incident.


As O’Brien, Kelly and Brand always maintained their innocence, there was never a full explanation of the motivation behind killing Caroline.

The police argued that O’Brien, Brand, Kelly and O’Neill all believed Caroline was pregnant, with Brand described as going into a ‘jealous rage’ about O’Brien’s infidelities.

Brand and O’Neill were said to want to ‘batter’ Caroline due to her relationship with O’Brien, and it is the belief they headed to the Black Bridge at midnight on August 24 into 25 knowing she would be there with the intent to cause her harm.

Caroline was discovered not to be pregnant during the post-mortem, ironically, Brand was at the time of the murder.

DI Grainer put it bluntly when asked if Sarah Jane O’Neill would have been in the dock alongside the others had she not died in July 2019.

“Absolutely, she would have,” said the detective, a man with no doubt the four on trial committed this heinous crime.


The convictions may give mum Margaret, who celebrated her 40th birthday on the day Caroline was discovered, some much-needed closure.

Margaret has remained in the Bonhill area defiant, refusing to allow the cruel loss of her daughter to drive her from her home.

But she, like others, will still have queries as to why it took so long to find the people who took her girl from her.

The police line from the early investigations was "the answer lies within the community," and it was no secret that Caroline and O’Brien were involved.

Why didn’t Ms Wood give the police the information about the four leaving the house back in the nineties?

DI Grainer explained one explanation was the original door-to-door cops had told her they were investigating an assault, which may have then left the information about the four leaving Allan Crescent as not relevant.

The four were never ‘official suspects' or ever detained during the original enquiry.

Why not?

Why was five-year-old Archie Wilson’s evidence not taken more seriously at the time?

Why did it take the appointment of DI Grainger in 2019 to set about the turn of events that finally caught Caroline’s killers?

The most heartbreaking case, and a young life taken far too early, just because she fancied an older boy.

Today’s verdict may bring some closure to Margaret McKeich, but she, and Caroline, deserved so much more.