Murder inquiry into island death of Alesha, six
4 July 2018, 05:19 | Updated: 4 July 2018, 11:20
Police investigating the death of a six-year-old girl on holiday on a Scottish island have launched a murder inquiry.
Alesha MacPhail was reported missing on Monday morning while staying with relatives in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Her body was later found in woodland by a member of the public.
Police Scotland confirmed they are treating her death as murder following the results of a post-mortem examination but have not specified how she died.
Detectives are keen to speak to anyone involved in the search for Alesha, a pupil at Chapelside Primary School in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, while local officers urged island residents to be vigilant about the safety of their children and the security of their homes.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston said: "Alesha's family is utterly devastated and we are continuing to provide them with the support they require at this incredibly distressing time.
"Alesha had lots of friends who will no doubt find it very difficult to comprehend why they will never see their friend again.
"Like any other six-year-old, Alesha was looking forward to enjoying her holidays from primary school and was only a few days into a three-week summer break visiting relatives on the island.
"For such a young girl to have her life taken away is incomprehensible."
He added: "I would like to reiterate that I am particularly interested in speaking to anyone who was involved in the search for Alesha. What did they see? Where did they search? Please let us know.
"Did you see anyone acting suspiciously in the vicinity of Ardbeg Road, where she was staying on Sunday evening, into the early hours of Monday morning or where her body was found? Please get in touch."
Mr Houston told a media conference on Tuesday night: "We have officers supporting the family who are providing us with information and it's about trying to find if anyone else has been in Ardbeg Road from late Sunday evening to the early hours of Monday and may be able to shed that bit of light for us."
Alesha was reported missing at around 6.25am and her body was found less than three hours later in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road.
A forensic team arrived at a property on the street on Tuesday afternoon, where flowers, teddies and balloons have been left on the pavement.
Alesha's headteacher Wendy Davie described the pupil, who had just left Primary Two, as a "smiley, happy young girl".
Councillor Len Scoullar said members of the small island community had been left in shock and people were "genuinely grieving for the family".
Area police commander, Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, said: "Our absolute priority is catching the person responsible for this horrendous act as quickly as possible.
"I understand that there will be a high level of concern among people living in this close-knit community, but I want to reassure people that everything possible is being done.
"Incidents such as this are extremely rare, but we are still in the early stages of this investigation and we would ask people to be vigilant about their children and also their household security.
"The island community needs to pull together at times like this and we need their help - anyone with any information, please come forward."
Anyone with information is asked to call officers at the major investigations teams via 101, quoting incident no 0695 of 2 July 2018.
People on the Isle of Bute have spoken of their shock after police revealed that Alesha MacPhail was murdered.
Reverend Owain Jones said people had been "stunned" by the death and subsequent murder investigation.
He 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."
James Sharp read about the death as he travelled on the ferry to Bute on Tuesday to visit friends.
He said: "It's terrible obviously for the wee girl's family, but also for everyone who lives on the island because people won't forget about this and it will affect everything."