“Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.”
-Arthur Conan Doyle
It was the 4th of May 2010. A Tuesday. Thirty eight year old bookmaker Suzanne Pilley was due at work at 9am that morning. She worked at Infrastructure Management on Thistle Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom and had worked there for almost two years. When her coworkers realized that Suzanne wasn't at her desk that morning, it was so out of character for her, that they contacted her parents. Her parents, Robert and Sylvia Pilley, had last heard from her that morning at 8.30am when she sent them a text message and in that message she told them she was on her way to work so the fact that she didn't start her work day as normal made her parents concerned that something happened to her on the way into work. They had not heard from her since that early text message and they reported her missing to the police that afternoon.
In the days that followed, police put out appeals and spoke to those who knew Suzanne. There was no activity on her bank cards or her mobile phone, she didn't use her bus pass and she didn't contact any of her friends or family. Her family did not believe she would have decided to leave without telling anyone either. She had fish and a cat and they were still at home. Her father Robert said at the time:
"It's as if she has been swallowed up by some sort of Bermuda triangle. It's beyond belief. She texted me and her mum but, within half an hour, she was gone. How someone can vanish into thin air, I don't know. She has no history of anything like this. Suzanne was not depressed or worried. It is so out of character. She was just Suzanne, the same as usual, as she left for work."
Police obtained CCTV footage from the area and due to that, they discovered that Suzanne started her day as normal and took her usual route into work that morning. Suzanne left her apartment in Whitson Road at 8am. Twenty minutes later, she boarded a No2 bus at Stevenson Drive before taking the No4 on Dalry Road, opposite Caledonian Terrace. Suzanne got off that bus on Princes Street, outside Jenners, at 8.48am. She then went into a Sainsbury's convenience store beside her workplace, something that she did most mornings, and was seen on CCTV there at 8.51am. She then made her way to her work at Infrastructure Management on Thistle Street. She was last seen on CCTV footage at the building on the corner beside the building where she worked just 50 metres from her office front door before she seemingly vanished.
A black cab was stopped close to where Suzanne was last seen at 8.55am. Police did not believe the driver was involved in Suzanne's disappearance but appealed for him to come forward to assist with their investigation.
As the search for Suzanne went on, police believed they were dealing with foul play. They began looking into Suzanne's personal life and discovered that she may have been involved in a love triangle. Suzanne was a single woman but police discovered that she had dated a coworker and that relationship had recently ended when Suzanne met a new partner. The police looked at her mobile records to try to get a better understanding of Suzanne's personal life. They spoke to those closest to Suzanne and her neighbors confirmed they had seen a man apparently living with Suzanne for around six months.
A couple of weeks after Suzanne went missing, David reported a break in to police. He told police that someone broke into his house while he was asleep and stole his mobile phone and laptop. According to David, when his wife got up, she found the back door had been broken in. They heard a small noise but nothing major. When asked if he believed the break in was connected to Suzanne's disappearance, he said:
The investigation then took a more worrying and sinister twist. Police revealed that they were looking for the driver of a silver car that may have stopped in a remote forest. They announced that they were looking into the movements of a car on remote roads across Argyll and Bute on the afternoon and evening of the 5th of May, the day after Suzanne was last seen. In particular, they wanted to hear from anyone who saw that car between 1pm and 3.30pm and between 7pm and 9pm. The public were also informed that the police investigation had changed from that of a missing person case to a murder investigation. The police revealed they were conducting a search covering some 400 square miles of rural Argyll and Bute. Police believed that Suzanne was murdered and her body was dumped or buried somewhere around 90 miles away from where she was last seen. The investigation focused on the Rest and Be Thankful and Argyll Forest but despite extensive searches, nothing was found.
"I don't know."
Police later narrowed the search area to five square miles and believed that Suzanne's body may be buried in Glen Croe, Argyll and Bute.
It was the Prosecution's case that even though there was no body, the evidence would show that Suzanne had been murdered. It was their case that she was murdered by David. The Prosecution told the Court that David and Suzanne were in a relationship, having met at work, but Suzanne ended the relationship just before she went missing because she met someone else. Suzanne's mother testified. Sylvia told the Court that her daughter had been married in 2004 and got divorced. She bought her own apartment in Edinburgh and David moved into the apartment in 2009. Sylvia told the Court:
The Court heard that David was obsessed with Suzanne and sent more than 400 texts in the month before she went missing. He didn't want their relationship to be over. Phone records showed that David was in contact with Suzanne almost daily before her disappearance. He would text her more than 50 times a day. He last contacted her the day before she went missing, the 3rd of May, when he sent 15 text messages and one voicemail.
"He had left his wife and he was seeking a divorce. Suzanne was not the cause of the break-up."
It was the Prosecution's case that Suzanne headed into work as normal on the 4th of May and they believed that David was waiting for her and strangled her almost as soon as she entered the office block after he possibly lured her to the basement. It was their case that he then hid her body in the basement level of their office and returned home to get his car, a silver Vauxhall Vectra. The Prosecution believed that David put Suzanne's body in the boot of his car. The Court heard that David bought air fresheners and repeatedly visited the basement and garage areas of the Infrastructure Management offices that same day. There was no reason for him to be in the basement that day. David then went about the rest of his day as normal. He went to a presentation at his daughter’s school with his wife and they then went for a meal at Vittoria on Leith Walk.
The Court heard that the night of the 4th of May he made an appointment to visit a school and went there the next day, the 5th of May. David claimed he was going on a site visit to a school in Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute. The school was a client of his employer but there was no need for him to be there that day. He called to the school and a cleaner gave him bin bags and cable ties. Police reconstructed his trip to Argyll via CCTV and his mobile phone records. The Court heard that there were gaps of several hours on both his outward and return journey between Lochgilphead and Inveraray. The journey took two hours longer each way than it should have. It was the Prosecution's case that he hid Suzanne's body somewhere in that area. It was an area he knew well and the Court heard he went on walking holidays there before with Suzanne.
When David's car was examined, vegetative matter was found on his car and there were three fractured coil springs which the Prosecution argued indicated it had been driven off road. The Court also heard that David had turned off his phone at one point during the journey.
The Court heard that cadaver dogs, which can identify the smell of human remains, showed interest in the boot of David's Vauxhall Vectra and areas in the basement at the office block.
David Gilroy's Car
The Court heard that it was observed on the 6th of May, when David went to the police station to give a statement, that David had scratches on his hands, a cut on his forehead, bruises on his chest and other scratches to his hands, wrist, and forearms and the Prosecution claimed that he tried to conceal this when he spoke to police by covering them up with makeup.
Gayle Hawkins, Suzanne's friend, testified and told the Court that Suzanne had previously told her that she was worried David had hacked her email account and was accessing her emails. The Court heard that it was the Prosecution's case that David did access her emails between the 24th of August 2009 and the 30th of April 2010. The Court also heard he accessed her account on an internet dating website.
The Court heard testimony from Helen Liddell. Helen was a financial administrator at Infrastructure Management and worked with Suzanne and David but she was not aware they had been in a relationship. She accessed the emails following Suzanne's disappearance and told the Court:
"I discovered emails from David Gilroy, to and from Suzanne."
Helen told the Court that she was "very surprised" by the contents of the emails and it was clear they were "having an affair, a relationship."
The Jury were shown CCTV footage of Suzanne and David two days before she disappeared. On the evening of the 2nd of May, David and Suzanne went shopping at a convenience store. That was despite David telling police their relationship ended in December 2009.
The Court heard that police narrowed the search area for Suzanne's body to five square miles based on David's phone records as they discovered his phone was pinging off phone masts in the Glen Croe area on the 5th of May. Glen Croe is a glen in the heart of the Arrochar Alps on the Cowal Peninsula, in Argyll and Bute and is surrounded by large and rugged mountains characterised by huge boulders.There was also a sighting of a silver family car parked on a track in the Glen Croe area that same day.
Glen Croe area
Despite the narrowing of the search area, the Court heard that it is still a vast and complex task to find remains there as there are mountains, steep terrain and dense forests.It was the Defense's case that there was no evidence against their client and the Prosecution's case was purely a circumstantial one. Suzanne's body had not been found and the Prosecution could only speculate that she was dead and how she may have died. There were no witnesses. There was no confession. There was no DNA or blood found. Everything the Prosecution had was circumstantial.
The Jury deliberated for two a half days and they were not unanimous in their decision. The Court agreed to accept a majority verdict and based on that, David was found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve a minimum term of 18 years.
To date, Suzanne's remains have not been found. Sadly, her father Rob died in 2019 without ever finding out exactly what happened to his daughter. Her mother Sylvia and sister Gail Fairgrieve hope that Suzanne will be found soon as the family wish to say a “proper goodbye”. Gail said:
“For the past decade we have lived in a state of limbo, waiting for the news that Suzanne’s body had been found, but we’ve never been able to get that closure. We understand that only one person can tell us where Suzanne is but he has refused to do so. Police Scotland will respond to any information and are committed to bringing us some form of closure.
Their investigation can only conclude when Suzanne is found and so I would plead with anyone who knows something but hasn’t come forward to search their conscience and get in touch.
Not for our sake, but for Suzanne’s. Please let us give her the burial and send-off she deserves.”
David has refused to reveal where Suzanne is buried as he continues to maintain his innocence.
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