In Depth

Alesha MacPhail murder trial: what the court has heard

The 16-year-old suspect blames schoolgirl’s death on her father’s girlfriend

A 16-year-old boy has gone on trial accused of the rape and murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute in July last year.

The schoolgirl, from Airdrie in Lanarkshire, “was found dead in the grounds of a disused hotel near her grandparents’ seafront home, close to the ferry port of Rothesay, where she had arrived a few days previously to spend a three-week summer break”, says The Guardian.

The suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, denies raping and murdering her, and attempting to hide evidence. He has lodged a special defence claiming the killing was committed by the girlfriend of Alesha’s father, Toni Louise McLachlan.

Prosecutors at the trial, in the High Court in Glasgow, allege that the teenage suspect took Alesha from her bed at her grandparents’ home in Rothesay after arming himself with a knife.

He then carried the young girl to the site of the former Kyles Hydropathic Hotel on the island, the court heard. There, he is alleged to have taken off her clothes and shaken her violently, “before placing his hands over her nose, mouth and around her neck”, reports the BBC.

Jurors were told that Alesha’s naked body was found by a man in the hotel grounds at around 9am on 2 July, hours after she was reported missing.

Prosecutor Iain McSporran said: “She had been murdered. Following a post-mortem examination of her remains, the cause of death was established as pressure to neck and face.”

‘On-off relationship’

Alesha’s father, Robert MacPhail, told the court that he had put Alesha to bed at around 10.30pm or 11pm on the night when she was allegedly taken. MacPhail, 26, said he then went back to the bedroom he shared with 18-year-old McLachlan, “where they ‘watched some porn’ before going to sleep”, reports Metro.

They were woken the following morning by his parents, who told them that Alesha was not in her bed.

McLachlan, who gave evidence from behind a screen, said that she and MacPhail had an “on-off relationship”.

When asked about the night before Alesha went missing, she said: “I loved her to pieces. I went through and gave her a kiss and a cuddle before she went to sleep.”

McLachlan later “broke down in tears as she denied ‘brutalising’ Alesha”, says the Daily Mirror.

McLachlan told the court: “I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m angry. Especially when it’s somebody you love so much, but she knew I loved her.”

Father sold suspect cannabis

Alesha’s father has admitted doing “deals” with the 16-year-old suspect.

Identifying the accused in the courtroom, MacPhail told the jury: “I used to sell him cannabis.”

MacPhail, who is unemployed, said he had last sold him the drug a few months before Alesha’s murder.

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