Suzanne Pilley trial: ‘Cadaver’ sniffer dog reacted to accused’s car

Suzanne Pilley trial: ‘Cadaver’ sniffer dog reacted to accused’s car
24 February 2012
John Robertson

A dog trained to find dead bodies reacted when sniffing in the boot of the car belonging to the man accused of murdering book-keeper Suzanne Pilley, a jury has heard.

Two specialist cadaver dogs from an English police force had been brought in to help in the search for the missing woman, and areas of “specific interest” were also identified in the garage of the office where she and David Gilroy worked, a court heard.

Gilroy’s car had not been particularly clean and tidy when it was examined by experts, but a fresh fragrance wafted from the boot after the lid was opened, a witness claimed.

Ms Pilley, 38, of Whitson Road, Edinburgh, went missing on 4 May 2010, apparently on her way to work at Infrastructure Management Ltd (IML) in Thistle Street, Edinburgh.

Gilroy, 49, of Silverknowes Brae, Edinburgh, denies murdering her by unknown means, and concealing the body within IML’s premises before taking it in the boot of his silver Vauxhall Vectra to various locations in Scotland. Her remains have never been found.

Mark Heron, 47, a senior scene examiner with the Scottish Police Services Authority, said he had gone with forensic scientists on 9 May 2010 to the garage in Thistle Street used by IML and other offices in the block.

Also, there were two dog handlers from South Yorkshire Police with specialist cadaver dogs. Each dog was used independently of the other.
“The dog handler released the dog just inside the garage door and the dog made its way around the garage sniffing the floor, the corners, piping ducts. The dog sat down or paused at three specific areas in the garage and the handler indicated these were of interest. We chalked these areas for specific examination,” said Mr Heron.
One area was at a door which led to the building’s internal stair, and two were in parking bays.

Later that day, said Mr Heron, he went to a garage in the Sighthill area of the city where the police impounded vehicles for forensic examination, and searched Gilroy’s car.

It was not a “pristinely clean” car and the interior was not particularly tidy, he agreed.

The advocate-depute, Alex Prentice QC, asked:
“When you opened the boot, could you tell us what you experienced?”
Mr Heron said:
“I could smell either a cleaning fluid or an air freshener-type smell… a fresh, clean fragrance.”
Mr Prentice asked:
“Did you experience that anywhere else in the car?”
Mr Heron replied:
He added that a cadaver dog went into the boot and “showed interest” in two areas, at corners diagonally opposite each other.

Mr Heron confirmed to the defence counsel, Jack Davidson QC, that he and others had examined the stair, the garage and the basement in Thistle Street on numerous occasions. He estimated the number at between ten and 15.

Mr Davidson suggested there had been an extensive amount of activity, and it was detailed and meticulous.

The witness agreed, and said there had been special chemical tests for the presence of saliva and blood, as well as high-intensity lighting which could show up marks invisible to the human eye.

“There was no forensic link from examination of items from the staircase, basement and garage to Mr Gilroy in relation to this inquiry,” said Mr Davidson.
“Not as far as I am aware,” said Mr Heron.
“I am 100 per cent certain when I opened the boot I could smell a clean or fresh smell. It did dissipate when the boot was opened for a period of time,” said Mr Heron.

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