Family of murdered girl endured '17-year living nightmare'

The older sister of murdered schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton told a court yesterday that her family had lived a "17-year-long nightmare". At times close to tears, Sharon Brown, 37, recalled the last time she saw her sister alive in 1991.

Ms Brown, who now has two children, told the High Court in Dundee the pair hugged each other tightly before Vicky got on a bus home after a weekend with her sister. She said the 15-year-old was unsure of the route back to her mother's house and had been "really nervous" about the journey on Sunday 10 February, the day she is alleged to have been abducted and murdered.

Peter Tobin, 62, is on trial accused of abducting the teenager, taking her to his home, then in Bathgate, West Lothian, drugging her, indecently assaulting her and murdering her.

He is also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and charged with concealing Vicky's body, cutting it in two, and transporting and burying the parts. Mr Tobin denies all the charges and has lodged a special defence of alibi, saying he was in the Portsmouth area and travelling to Scotland when the schoolgirl vanished.

Ms Brown told the court how she was "absolutely delighted" to have the teenager come to stay with her for the first time at her flat in Livingston, West Lothian. She said they spent the evening of Friday 8 February and the following day together. They chatted, shopped and socialised, said Ms Brown, then Vicky packed her bags to return to her mother's house in Redding, near Falkirk. The schoolgirl was keen to get back to see a music awards ceremony on television on the Sunday evening, Ms Brown told the court.

She said she went with Vicky to a bus-stop near her flats. The pair made plans for Vicky to return to Livingston the following week, the witness said. "We hugged each other really tightly," Ms Brown said. "Vicky didn't know where she was going. She asked me to repeat and repeat and repeat where she would get off the bus and get on the next bus. She was really unsure."

Ms Brown said she asked the bus-driver to tell her sister where she should get off. "She was really, really nervous about the journey," she said. "That's the last time I ever saw her."

Solicitor General Frank Mulholland QC, for the prosecution, asked Ms Brown about the effect of Vicky's disappearance on her family. "It's been a 17-year-long nightmare," she replied.

The trial continues.