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Woman who helped authorities find body of charity cyclist killed by her boyfriend now to sue police

Caroline Muirhead left a Red Bull can at the spot where boyfriend Alexander McKellar admitted burying Tony Parsons, helping police to find the body and secure a conviction, but says she was then pressured to spy on her partner for more evidence

The girlfriend of a man who last month admitted killing charity cyclist Tony Parsons before burying the body, is to sue the police for causing her mental distress by allegedly asking her to spy on her boyfriend over a nine-month period to gather more evidence.

Caroline Muirhead provided a key breakthrough in the case, alerting police to the location of the body, and was a key prosecution witness after she left a Red Bull can at the spot where Alexander McKellar admitted to her that he and twin brother Robert had buried Mr Parsons after hitting and killing the charity cyclist while driving home on the A82 late at night in September 2017.

Alexander McKellar (Police Scotland)

[Alexander McKellar/Police Scotland]

However, the Sunday Mail now reports Ms Muirhead is to sue the police, with officers allegedly pressuring her to continue to spy on the McKellar brothers, who did not know she had contacted the police, in a bid to collect more evidence.

It is also alleged that officers threatened Ms Muirhead with legal action if she did not cooperate, with her complaints now reportedly being investigated by the police watchdog. 

"From the word go, the police were saying if I didn't co-operate with them, I could end up in trouble myself," she said.

"I put so much trust in them and they promised anonymity and support, yet the minute you give them what they want, you're hung out to dry. They suggested from the start that I could also end up in trouble with assisting a criminal, wasting police time, aiding and abetting.

Ms Murihead said the nine-month period was detrimental to her mental health, ultimately leaving her unable to work and close to a breakdown.

She explained: "They never said, 'You must record', but it was heavily insinuated that the first one was so helpful. They'd say: 'You must have more information, they must be talking about it. You're with them all the time'. I didn't have any mental health support. They said I wasn't allowed any because it could compromise the case."

Ms Muirhead's lawyer, Paul Kavanagh, said: "Without her there, they didn't have enough for the trial. She was absolutely crucial to the case and, when I was asked to go and see her with my advocate, we were shocked at the way she had been treated."

Police Scotland confirmed there are "a number of outstanding complaints" relating to the case which "will be progressed at the conclusion of all criminal proceedings". Alexander McKellar, who has pleaded guilty to culpable homicide, and brother Robert who admitted attempting to defeat the ends of justice will be sentenced on Thursday.

The family of Mr Parsons is to sue the brothers for damages under the Scottish law concept of "loss of society", in July filing papers with the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland's equivalent to the High Court, to initiate the legal action.

Explaining the background to the action, a source told the Scottish Sun: "Usually there are few, if any, means for a victim's family to sue the killer. But in this case a vehicle was involved, opening up the prospect of a civil action to recover damages as there is an insurance policy in place."

The action is being brought for what under Scots law is known as "loss of society", under which "damages are intended to compensate family members for the distress, anxiety, grief and sorrow caused by the wrongful death of their loved one, together with the loss of their guidance", according to the Law Society of Scotland.

Mr Parsons went missing while on a 104-mile charity bike ride from Fort William to his home in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, having been last seen at around 11.30pm on the evening of the 29 September outside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel in Argyll and Bute.

Repeated police appeals and searches failed to find the cyclist or his bike but, after the McKellar brothers were arrested in December 2020, Mr Parsons' remains were discovered on 12 January 2021 close to a remote farm on the Auch Estate.

Robert McKellar (Police Scotland)

[Robert McKellar/Police Scotland]

It is now understood officers were alerted to the location of the body by Ms Muirhead. It was covered with animal remains and bleach, and buried on a part of the estate used for the "purposes of disposing dead animals".

The brothers had been drinking in the same pub as Mr Parsons on the night of the fatal incident before driving home along the A82. Alexander, driving, hit Mr Parsons and rather than calling for help he and his passenger brother hid the body before returning with a different vehicle to move the body and the cyclist's bike.

Mr Parsons' body was then allegedly hidden under a tarpaulin in a wooded section, before being taken to the burial location. When the brothers took the vehicle they were travelling in at the time of the collision for repairs, they claimed that the damage had been caused by a collision with a deer.

Both men initially denied murdering the cyclist, with Alexander's KC last year offering to plead guilty to causing death by dangerous driving or, alternatively, careless driving while unfit through drink or drugs – though this plea was rejected by prosecutor James Irvine.

However, last month Alexander pleaded guilty to the reduced plea of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter in Scottish law, while both brothers admitted attempting to defeat the ends of justice. They will be sentenced on Thursday.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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Brauchsel | 9 months ago

"They suggested from the start that I could also end up in trouble with assisting a criminal, wasting police time, aiding and abetting."

I can't help but feel that if you near-as-damnit know that someone close to you has killed someone, but you obstruct the police by not telling them what you've heard etc, those are exactly the sorts of things you should end up in trouble for. 

I don't know the further details that have led her to believe she's got a viable case here, but this doesn't feel like a promising start. 

Off the back replied to Brauchsel | 9 months ago

I would think 'obstructing the police in the line of their duty' would be a reasonable prosecution. They must have known that she knew her BF was the killer to get her to spy and leave the can at the scene of the crime. She can hardly say she isn't going to help with that knowledge and the police aware she has it. 

Paul J replied to Brauchsel | 9 months ago

I had the impression from other reporting that the timeline was that the girlfriend had already been brought to the burial site by the killer-boyfriend, and had already left the can before going to the police. It was that disclosure and act of bringing her to the burial site that made her aware, and after this she went to the police.

If so, then the events in this report occurred there-after.

It's not very clear though, and perhaps someone knows of a clearer timeline?

Paul J replied to Paul J | 9 months ago

The Daily Record article (see ) that seems to be the source for this has a slightly clearer timeline:


"Their twins lived with their evil secret for just over three years until Sandy admitted it to Caroline in late November 2020 - as they spoke about plans to get married.

After Sandy’s devastating confession, his stunned fiancée spent a month gathering more information which included finding out where the burial was and dropping a can of Red Bull at the site so it could be found by police.

She then reported it to police on December 27, 2020 with the twins arrested and the bailed three days later."

So the confessions, the visit to the burial scene, the leaving of the redbull can, and other information gathering by Caroline preceded her going to the police.

It's of note she was actually arrested by the police during the trial, because she had a panic attack about there being a BBC crew to film the trial. She's also a forensic pathologist - not exactly an anti-policing profession.

If she was pressured by the police to stay in a relationship with a man, a murderer, against her will in order to acquire evidence, that's definitely abusive by the police.

HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago

Headline probably needs changing. It makes it sound as though the girlfriend has been killed by the boyfriend.

Off the back replied to HarrogateSpa | 9 months ago

A few commas would help. You would expect a journalist to have a better grasp of basic grammar.

sheridan replied to Off the back | 9 months ago

Off the back wrote:

A few commas would help. You would expect a journalist to have a better grasp of basic grammar.

I wonder if is like a newspaper, in that an editor writes the headline while the journalist has written the article?

hairyairey replied to sheridan | 1 week ago

Brackets around "killed by her boyfriend" I think makes it more readable. There's just too much going on in this sentence.

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