MORE than 300 witnesses are expected to give evidence when a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths of two teenagers who plunged from the Erskine Bridge takes place.
Niamh Frances Bysouth, 15, and Terrie Faye Oliver, 14, who were both residents at the Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton, died on October 4, last year.
It is believed the two friends walked from the care centre to the 180-ft-high Erskine Bridge and jumped to their deaths in the River Clyde.
At a preliminary hearing staged at Paisley Sheriff Court yesterday, Sheriff Ruth Anderson told legal representatives that she hopes the FAI into the girls’ deaths will be concluded before the second anniversary of the tragedy.
The inquiry is to begin at Paisley Sheriff Court on June 15 next year and almost eight weeks have been set aside to hear all of the evidence from more than 300 witnesses.
At yesterday’s preliminary hearing, the Crown revealed there were currently 417 witnesses on the list but it was hoped that, through the drafting of joint minutes of agreement with other parties, that number could be whittled down.
Both Niamh – who came from Helensburgh and was also known as Neve – and Terrie Faye – who hailed from Hull and was also known as Georgia – were in care at the ‘open’ wing of the Good Shepherd Centre, as opposed to the secure unit there, at the time of their deaths.
That building has subsequently been closed and is due for demolition but Sheriff Anderson may decide on a site visit to see the property for herself before that takes place.
The FAI will examine any defects in the working system that was in place at the Good Shepherd Centre at the time and consider if any steps could reasonably have been taken to prevent the girls’ deaths.
Two further preliminary hearings are to take place in February and April and, once the inquiry gets under way in June, it is scheduled to run until July 29, with a break for most of August, before resuming again on August 29 until September 13.
Sheriff Anderson said she hoped that, by the end of July, the court would be in a better position to know how much time would be required to hear the remainder of the evidence.
If it is felt the FAI is unlikely to be concluded by September 13, further court time will be set aside.
Sheriff Anderson stressed, however, that she hopes to have the inquiry concluded and findings issued before the second anniversary of the girls’ deaths if at all possible.