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21 MAR

Alesha murder: Aaron Campbell to be sentenced

by BBC

The teenager who raped and murdered six-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute last summer is to be sentenced.

Judge Lord Matthews will give 16-year-old Aaron Campbell a life sentence and tell him the minimum term he must serve before being eligible for parole.

Alesha, from Airdrie in Lanarkshire, was just days into a holiday when she was abducted from her bed.

Campbell was unanimously convicted after a nine-day trial last month.

The following day the judge lifted a ban on naming the schoolboy after a legal bid by media outlets, including the BBC.

Lord Matthews said: "I can't think of a case in recent times that has attracted such revulsion."

In a rare move a camera will be allowed in court to film Campbell's sentencing.

Previous cases where such access has been granted include the murder trials of Nat Fraser, Alexander Pacteau and serial killer Angus Sinclair, who died last week.

Alesha was reported missing from her grandparents' home on Ardbeg Road, Rothesay, at 06:23 on 2 July last year.

Dozens of islanders joined the the search for the child but at 08:54 her naked body was discovered in a wooded area in the grounds of the former Kyles Hydropathic Hotel.

A post-mortem examination later revealed she had suffered 117 injuries and died from significant pressure being applied to her face and neck.

The child's bare feet were unmarked which proved she was carried to her death, a walk which would have taken up to 17 minutes.

Campbell, who lived on the same street, was arrested after his mother contacted police.

She had become concerned about his movements in the early hours of 2 July after reviewing footage captured by CCTV cameras outside her home.

Initially she suspected he may have seen something as he came and went three times from the detached property between 01:54 and 04:07.

But the truth was more sinister.

The CCTV allowed officers to compile a timeline of Campbell's movements.

Separate footage from two houses on Marine Place captured an eerie figure walking along the shoreline at about 02:25.

The individual appeared to be carrying something in front of them.

Campbell's DNA was later found on Alesha's body and on the clothes she had worn to bed.

The jury were told the odds of the samples belonging to anyone else were more than one in a billion.

The teenager lodged a special defence of incrimination naming Toni McLachlan, the 18-year-old girlfriend of Alesha's father Robert MacPhail, as the killer.

Ms McLachlan, who was the last person in the flat to see the child alive, denied having anything to do with the crime.

The court also heard Campbell had fallen out with Alesha's father in February 2018 over a £10 cannabis debt.

On the night of the murder Campbell had hosted a party at his home and was drunk when he messaged the couple in a bid to source the drug.

But when they failed to respond he walked along the road to their house armed with a kitchen knife.

Campbell abducted Alesha, without waking the four adults in the flat, and then carried her to lonely spot where she was raped and murdered.

During the savage attack the child suffered injuries the pathologist described as "catastrophic".

The jury took just three hours to find Campbell guilty.

Lord Matthews told the killer he had stolen Alesha's life by "committing some of the most wicked and evil crimes this court has ever heard of in decades of dealing with depravity".

He said he had "no idea" why the teenager carried out the murder, and described the evidence in the case as "overwhelming".

In a witness impact statement, Alesha's mother Georgina Lochrane said she had suffered nightmares about what happened to her daughter.

In a statement released after the verdict, Ms 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."

Alesha's father Robert MacPhail said day-to-day life was "almost impossible".

Prosecutor Iain McSporran QC, told the court the loss of a child would be hard to bear in any circumstance, but the "bestial manner" in which Alesha was murdered was "simply unfathomable".

The senior investigating officer on the case, Det Supt Stuart Houston, said the "senseless and barbaric" murder had shocked people across Scotland.

"The effects of her death are still being felt today," he said.

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