Community 'stunned' at murder of six-year-old Alesha on island
4 July 2018, 12:26
An island community has been left "stunned" after a six-year-old girl was murdered while on holiday.
Alesha MacPhail was reported missing from her grandmother's home in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute at 6.25am on Monday.
Her body was found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road by a member of the public around two-and-a-half hours later.
Following the results of a post-mortem examination on Tuesday, police confirmed they are treating the schoolgirl's death as murder.
Police have warned islanders to be vigilant about the safety of their children and the security of their homes as investigations continue.
Islanders have spoken of their shock at the death of the girl, who was a few days into a three-week break to visit family.
Reverend Owain Jones has opened his United Church of Bute in Rothesay to allow people to visit at any time.
He said: "We're all absolutely staggered, we have no words for this and it's beyond any power of words to express.
"We're all just really sitting in a kind of shared stunned silence just trying to uphold each other.
"Bute is one of these places that is incredibly safe, you take all sorts of things for granted here and don't panic if you forget to lock the house or whatever.
"It's not a remote island in the classic sense - it's only 90 minutes to Glasgow - but even so it is an island and we all know each other at least by sight, and it's an extremely safe place and there is no context for this.
"We wondered what we could do as a church by way of a response and we have opened the church, after the news overnight, to people of all faiths and none to just come and sit and use the space as is helpful to them."
Meanwhile, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston said Alesha's family are "utterly devastated" at her death, and he appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
He is still keen to speak to people who were involved in the search for the missing girl that was conducted early on Monday morning.
He added: "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."
Tributes have been paid to Alesha, who was a pupil at Chapelside Primary School in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, where the headteacher said she would be "greatly missed".
Flowers, teddies and balloons have been left on the pavement outside a property on Ardbeg Road, with messages attached reading "sleep tight little angel" and "good night little angel".
There was increased police activity at the property where Alesha had been staying on Wednesday morning.
More than a dozen officers entered the back garden of the Ardbeg Road property with long sticks to search the garden at the back and side of the building.
Anyone with information is asked to call officers at the major investigations teams via 101, quoting incident no 0695 of July 2.