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  1. ITV Report

Boy, 16, found guilty of abducting, raping, murdering six-year-old Alesha MacPhail

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

A 16-year-old boy has been found guilty of abducting, raping and murdering six-year-old Alesha MacPhail.

A jury at the High Court in Glasgow took three hours to find the teenager, who cannot be named due to his age, guilty unanimously, following a nine-day trial.

Alesha'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 and partner on the island, where the schoolgirl was staying for part of the school holidays.

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Judge Lord Matthews told the boy he had committed some of the "wickedest, most evil crimes this court has ever heard". He deferred sentence until March 21.

As the accused was led downstairs a man in the public gallery shouted "evil" and another said "f*****g scumbag".

In a statement issued by Police Scotland following the verdict, Alesha's family said: "We can't believe that we will never see our wee angel Alesha again. We miss her so much.

"We hope that the boy who took her from us is jailed for a long time because of what he has done to our family.

"Alesha may be gone from our lives but she will always be in our hearts." Her mother, Georgina Lochrane, said: "Words cannot express just how devastated I am to have lost my beautiful, happy, smiley wee girl.

"I am glad that the boy who did this has finally been brought to justice and that he will not be able to inflict the pain on another family that he has done to mine.

"Alesha, I love you so much, my wee pal. I will miss you forever."

Pathologist John Williams told the court Alesha had 117 separate injuries, and a post-mortem examination he conducted indicated she had died from "significant and forceful pressure to her neck and face".

Alesha's mother Georgina Lochrane. Credit: PA

He agreed the injuries to her private parts were "catastrophic" - more severe than any he had ever seen before - and were at least partially inflicted while she was still alive.

Giving evidence, the accused said he had "never met Alesha MacPhail in person" and denied abducting, raping and murdering her.

Asked if he "brutalised" her, he said: "It's not me, absolutely not. I would never do something like that."

Questioned if his "DNA is all over her" because he murdered and raped her, he said: "No."

A forensic scientist told the court DNA matching the accused was found on Alesha's body and clothes, with some samples at odds of a billion to one of being his.

The teenager had lodged a special defence of incrimination, blaming Toni McLachlan, the partner of Alesha's father Robert, or Rab, MacPhail for Alesha's death.

The court heard the couple used to sell cannabis to the accused. Giving evidence earlier, Ms McLachlan denied being responsible for the schoolgirl's death, saying she "loved" her.

Toni McLachlan Credit: PA

Advocate Depute Iain McSporran, who led the prosecution, said that to have a child taken in the "bestial manner" in which Alesha lost her life was "infathomable".

He read excerpts from a victim impact statement which said her mother suffered nightmares about what had been done to her daughter and her father had experienced "insufferable pain".

Members of the jury were offered a counselling service and were told they did not have to sit on a case again in future if they did not wish to.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, senior investigating officer in the case for Police Scotland, said: "I welcome today's verdict and hope that it will bring some comfort to the family and friends of little Alesha MacPhail who have been through the most horrific ordeal.

"Throughout the police investigation and this trial, Alesha's family have shown incredible bravery in the face of the most appalling circumstances.

"Alesha's senseless and barbaric murder shocked the small community on Bute and people across Scotland. The effects of her death are still being felt today."

Robert McPhail, Alesha's father. Credit: PA

Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, divisional commander for Argyll and West Dunbartonshire division, said: "I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to little Alesha.

"She was such a beautiful wee girl who was vibrant, funny and much loved. Her family have shown incredible bravery through what has been an unimaginable ordeal.

"I would also like to thank the local community of Bute, who pulled together and did everything they could to help both Alesha's family and the major police investigation which followed.

"This was an incident which shocked the tight-knit community of Rothesay to the core, but that community showed strength and determination to assist the police in any way they could, and I cannot thank them enough. The response to our appeals was significant, not only from Bute but from across Scotland.

"Alesha's murder has affected everyone and will continue to do so for a very long time. However, the resilience and unity of this community will help it recover in time."

Lord Matthews told the teenager: "I have no idea what made you do this but I do know that the evidence you did it was overwhelming."

The judge will on Friday consider an application from media outlets to lift a ban on identifying the boy.

Ms Lochrane, who sobbed in court as the verdict was announced, did not comment as she left the building later.