Alesha MacPhail murder: Aaron Campbell named as 16-year-old boy who killed and raped girl

Judge rules ‘substantial public interest’ in lifting anonymity order on teenager convicted of Isle of Bute killing

Tom Barnes
Friday 22 February 2019 14:26
Alesha MacPhail: CCTV taken from home of murderer Aaron Campbell

The teenage boy convicted of the rape and murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail has been named in court as Aaron Campbell.

Campbell, 16, had been afforded the statutory anonymity given to those under the age of 18 subject to criminal proceedings during his trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

However, following his conviction earlier this week for abducting, sexually assaulting and killing Alesha, Judge Lord Matthews ruled it was in the public interest to lift the ban on naming the teenager.

Campbell, from Ardbeg, Isle of Bute, was told by the judge during a hearing on Friday the case was one of the “wickedest, most evil crimes” ever heard at the court.

He had abducted Alesha in July last year, snatching her from a bedroom at her grandparents’ house on the island, where she had been staying during the school summer holidays.

Her naked body was discovered in a nearby woodland a day later, having been subjected to a total of 117 injuries, some of which were described as “catastrophic”.

During the course of the trial, a forensic scientist told the court DNA matching Campbell’s was found on Alesha’s body and clothes, concluding there was a billion-to-one chance the sample was not his.

Detectives later found the defendant’s phone had been used to Google the phrase “how do police find DNA” in the days after the murder.

Aaron Campbell was convicted of the rape and murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail

However, the teenager lodged a special defence, blaming Toni McLachlan, the partner of Alesha’s father, Robert, for the murder.

He claimed Ms McLachlan had planted the DNA evidence against him, a story prosecutors dismissed as a “pack of lies”.

Ms McLachlan denied responsibility, saying it felt “horrible” to be accused of the schoolgirl’s murder and telling the court she “loved her to pieces”.

Judge Lord Matthews said it was in part the allegations Campbell had made against Ms McLachlan, along with the extreme nature of the crime, that led him to lift restrictions preventing reporting of the teenager’s name.

Representing Scottish media organisations, Anthony Graham QC told the court that the claims had been a “substantial attempt to pervert the course of justice”.

“[Ms McLachlan] enjoyed no statutory protection and was named and photographed and had her photographs published,” Mr Graham said.

“[Campbell] has introduced the issue of sexual involvement with [her]. By the very nature of that defence and by finding him party to that defence, the panel has introduced to the trial adult themes.”

He added it would be “naïve” to think the teenager’s identity was not already well known on Bute and at Polmont Young Offenders Institute, where he will be detained until he is 21.

Six year-old Alesha MacPhail was murdered in July last year

No appeal against the request to strip Campbell of his anonymity was lodged by his defence, Brian McConnachie QC, but the barrister did warn Campbell was “at risk of attack” during his sentence.

Prosecutor Iain McSporran QC said he hoped the guilty verdict would remove any doubt Ms McLachlan could have been involved in the killing.

After the trial, the schoolgirl’s family on both her mother and her father’s sides spoke of their heartbreak at losing Alesha in statements released through Police Scotland.

Her mother, Georgina Lochrane, said: “Words cannot express just how devastated I am to have lost my beautiful, happy, smiley wee girl.

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“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.”

A statement issued by the MacPhail 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.”

Campbell is due to be sentenced on 21 March.

Additional reporting by agencies

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