Suzanne Pilley murder: David Gilroy found guilty of killing former girlfriend

Suzanne Pilley murder: David Gilroy found guilty of killing former girlfriend
Jury finds 49-year-old Gilroy guilty of killing Edinburgh bookkeeper, who went missing in May 2010
15 March 2012
Severin Carrell

Suzanne Pilley vanished without trace nearly two years ago after making a routine journey to work in Edinburgh city centre.

A man has been found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend in a rare case in which detectives were unable to find a body or any forensic evidence proving he committed the murder.

David Gilroy, 49, was found guilty on Thursday of murdering Suzanne Pilley, a bookkeeper, after a high court jury in Edinburgh deliberated for eight hours, weighing up a mass of circumstantial evidence which finally convinced them of his guilt.

As the jury read out its verdict, Gilroy, described in court as "controlling and possessive", stared stonily ahead while Pilley's mother began crying in court.

In a statement after his conviction, Pilley's parents, Sylvia and Rob Pilley, said:
"This day has been a long time coming but finally Suzanne has received the justice she deserved. 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. [Although] the trial has ended, our ordeal goes on, and we hope that one day we can lay our daughter to rest."
Pilley, 38, disappeared on 4 May 2010, only yards from the Infrastructure Managers Ltd offices in central Edinburgh where she and Gilroy worked, sparking a huge search and then, after no trace of her could be found, a full-fledged murder inquiry.

Detectives carried out a series of inconclusive searches across hundreds of square miles of remote mountains around the Rest and Be Thankful and Hell's Glen areas in the south-western Highlands of Argyll, west of Loch Lomond, after Gilroy's car was traced to the area.

Her body has not yet been found. Six times since then, the police have investigated discoveries of other human remains in the region, none of which were Pilley's.

Gilroy, from Silverknowes, Edinburgh, was convicted after police were able to establish that he behaved extremely oddly in the hours after her disappearance, inventing stories to account for his activities while being unable to account properly for long periods of time and 124 miles driven in his car.

The police and prosecution believe that Gilroy, then extremely jealous about a new boyfriend, met Pilley as she arrived at work and then enticed or coerced her into their office's underground car park.

After a row, he killed her, depositing her body in an alcove before heading home to pick up his car. The police established that he bought air fresheners. They allege he then put her body in the car and drove to Argyll on the pretext of making a business trip to Lochgilphead on Loch Fyne.

Gilroy has repeatedly denied killing her. After eliminating theories that Pilley had not gone into work or had met someone else, the police were able to reconstruct Gilroy's movements using CCTV cameras, his car's mileage and fuel usage, and his own admissions.

A team of 20 officers scoured CCTV footage from 250 cameras and uncovered a missing two-hour period in his journey that Gilroy failed to explain. His car also had damage suggesting he had driven it on rough tracks or off-road. During questioning, the police found he had disguised cuts and bruises on his hands using makeup.

The court heard that Gilroy, who was originally charged with offences of violence towards his wife and children, only for those charges to be dropped during the trial, had had an intense relationship with Pilley marked by bouts of violent, bullying and possessive behaviour on his part.

In the month after she ended their affair and met another man, Gilroy bombarded her with 400 text and voicemail messages. They stopped immediately when she disappeared. Her phone, on which she had texted her father just before arriving at work, has not been recovered.

Work colleagues described Gilroy, known for being extremely self-controlled, as looking "agitated", "shaking" and "in shock" on the morning she disappeared.

The police ruled out the possibility she had eloped or run away after establishing that no belongings were missing from her home: she had left money, medication and her passport at home; had made no arrangements to care for her cat and pet fish; and had used none of her credit cards or her bank account. She had failed to tell her colleagues she would be late, her usual practice, and has made no contact since with any family members or friends.

The Crown Office, which put three prosecutors on the case full-time, admitted it was a very rare case, which relied entirely on reconstructing events using circumstantial evidence.

Stephen McGowan, the district procurator fiscal for Edinburgh, said:
"The sheer combination of these physical pieces of evidence have a particular significance, and in this case we were able to demonstrate to the jury that David Gilroy was in a jealous and possessive state of mind. All his actions before she disappeared and his actions after her disappearance shows she was murdered by him."
He added:
"David Gilroy was a deceitful and controlling individual who pestered Suzanne with hundreds of messages, and then killed her when she told him their affair was over. The calculated steps he took in the minutes, hours and days after her death to cover up his crime and maintain a front of normality reveals a cold and calculating personality."

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