Jury retires in Alesha MacPhail murder trial

The jury in the trial of a 16-year-old boy accused of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl has retired to consider its verdict.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is on trial at the High Court in Glasgow where he denies the charges.

Alesha MacPhail’s body was found in woods on the Isle of Bute on July 2 last year, hours after she was reported missing from the house her father shared with his parents on the island, where she was staying for part of the school holidays.

The accused denies abducting, raping and murdering Alesha.

Alesha MacPhail's mother
Alesha MacPhail's mother

A charge he faced of attempting to hide evidence was dropped by the Crown on Wednesday.

Directing the jury on Thursday, judge Lord Matthews said that the burden of proof rests with the Crown.

Lord Matthews said: “Sympathy for the accused, Alesha, members of the family or anyone else must play no part in your deliberations nor any preconceptions about the crime.”

He added: “Your duty is to return a true verdict according to the evidence.”

The accused has lodged a special defence of incrimination, blaming Toni McLachlan, the partner of Alesha’s father, for the schoolgirl’s death.

Giving evidence last Wednesday, Ms McLachlan denied being responsible for Alesha’s death, saying she “loved” the schoolgirl.

She also denied suggestions by the defence that she had sex with the accused on July 2, then planted his semen on Alesha, before “attacking and brutalising her” and murdering her.

The jury retired to consider its verdict on Thursday morning, the ninth day of the trial.