Annalise Johnstone’s best pal thought the couple accused of her friend’s murder were “pulling her leg” when they gave garbled accounts of where she had gone, a court heard.
Donna Paton, 43, who was looking after Annalise’s pet dog Sadie, said she had phoned the dead woman’s brother Jordan Johnstone to try to find out what had happened after learning her friend was dead.
Giving evidence at the High Court in Livingston, she said Annalise had gone off with Johnstone and his co-accused, Angela Newlands, of Inchture, earlier the previous day, promising to return in an hour or so to collect her pet.
Ms Paton said: “She never ever asked me to watch the dog before, but if she’d ever made arrangements with me she was always on time. She was punctual.”
Ms Paton said there was “no hint” that Annalise would not be returning to her home in Ardrossan that night.
She said she became concerned when Annalise failed to collect her dog as promised and even more worried the following morning when she found her friend’s phone was switched off and she was not active on Facebook as usual.
When Annalise’s sister Shabbana broke the news to her later that Annalise’s body had been found she asked for Jordan Johnstone’s number and phoned him.
She told the jury: “I asked where Anna was. He said that he dropped her off at their uncle’s in Beith somewhere. It wasn’t very clear. He said she’d gone hitch-hiking at 3am.”
Under cross-examination by Johnstone’s defence counsel Keith Stewart, Ms Paton added: “I never thought anything untoward had happened. I just thought it was a prank at first, that they were just pulling my leg. (It was) maybe a bit sick and I thought they were having me on.
“She was taking the phone when Jordan was being confused and stuttering. He was trying to talk to me. He was nice on the phone.
“But the phone would get grabbed off him and she’d say: ‘We haven’t seen her’. She would take the phone off him and help him along.”
Under questioning by Mark Stewart, counsel for Newlands, Ms Paton admitted that Annalise had self-harmed in the days before her alleged murder because she was anxious to return home from a holiday with the accused couple.
The trial continues.
Pair face five charges at High Court
Jordan Johnstone and Angela Newlands face a total of five charges.
It is alleged that on May 6 last year, at Bank Street, Coatbridge, they both assaulted Nadia Johnstone and threatened her with knives, repeatedly attempted to strike her on the neck with a knife, pushed her, threw liquid at her and punched her on the head, to her injury.
Johnstone is further accused of assaulting his sister Annalise Johnstone at Denholm Way, Beith, Ayrshire, on May 8 last year.
It is alleged he seized hold of her and pulled her from a Ford Galaxy car.
Prosecutors also claim that Johnstone stole a Hobby Caravan, and its contents, from Carmichael Place, Irvine, on May 9 last year.
It is alleged that on May 10 last year, both Johnstone and Newlands assaulted Annalise at the Maggie Wall Memorial on the B8062 Auchterarder to Dunning road, repeatedly struck her on the neck with a knife or similar weapon and murdered her.
Johnstone and Newlands are further accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice on May 10 and 11, by (a) transporting Annalise’s body in the Ford Galaxy from the Maggie Wall Memorial and leaving her behind a stone dyke at the side of the B8062; (b) cleaning the Ford Galaxy; (c) setting fire to material, the nature of which is meantime not known to the prosecutor, and (d) falsely reporting Annalise as a missing person.