Murder inquiry into island death of Alesha, 6


A murder inquiry has been launched following the death of a young schoolgirl on a Scottish island.

Alesha MacPhail, six, was reported missing from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute at 6.25am on Monday.

Her body was later found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road by a member of the public.

Following the results of a post-mortem examination on Tuesday, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston confirmed that Police Scotland is treating the youngster's death as murder.

Body found on the Isle of Bute
Body found on the Isle of Bute

He told a media conference on the island: "Alesha's family is utterly devastated by what has happened and the news we've had to give them this evening."

The detective said Alesha had just started her summer holidays and had travelled to Bute to stay with relatives.

He repeated a call for members of the public to come forward with any information that might assist officers.

Mr Houston said: "I am still keen to speak to people who were involved in the search that was conducted in the early hours of Monday morning.

"I am keen to find out who was there who has maybe not engaged with police yet, what areas they searched, and anything they may have seen or heard at the time.

"I'm also keen to speak to anyone who was in the area of Ardbeg Road from late on the Sunday evening into the early hours of the Monday morning.

"I'm really keen to hear from anybody who has seen or heard anything unusual from that time to come forward."

Body found on the Isle of Bute
Body found on the Isle of Bute

Tributes have been paid to the little girl, who was a pupil at Chapelside Primary School in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire.

Flowers, teddies and balloons have been left on the pavement outside a house on Ardbeg Road, with messages attached reading "sleep tight little angel" and "good night little angel".

Part of the beach front and a shelter opposite the house remained cordoned off with police tape, while cars were being diverted from the end of Ardbeg Road.

Four officers in white overalls entered the back garden of the house on Tuesday afternoon while another took photographs of the property which is thought to be made up of three flats.

Anyone with information is asked to call officers at the major investigations teams via 101, quoting incident no 0695 of 2 July 2018.

Mr Houston said Alesha was a few days into a three-week break visiting family on the island. Detectives have not specified the cause of death.

He said: "Alesha had lots of friends who will no doubt find it very difficult to comprehend why they will never see their friend again.

"For such a young girl to have her life taken away is incomprehensible."

Area police commander, Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, said local people should be vigilant about the safety of their children and the security of their homes.

Ms Hendren said in a statement: "Our absolute priority is catching the person responsible for this horrendous act as quickly as possible.

"I understand that there will be a high level of concern among people living in this close-knit community, but I want to reassure people that everything possible is being done.

"Incidents such as this are extremely rare, but we are still in the early stages of this investigation and we would ask people to be vigilant about their children and also their household security.

"The island community needs to pull together at times like this and we need their help - anyone with any information, please come forward."