Alesha MacPhail

Alesha MacPhail

July 27, 2020

“I just want to know, why her? Why Alesha? I have questions that I need answered and he is the only one who can answer them.”
 
-Georgina Lochrane
It was the 1st of July 2018. A Sunday. Six year old Alesha MacPhail was having a great time on the Isle of Bute. Alesha lived in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, United Kingdom with her mother Georgina Lochrane but had arrived in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute to spend a few weeks with her father Robert MacPhail, his girlfriend Toni McLachlan and Robert's parents . The Isle of Bute is an island in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, United Kingdom.
 
Alesha MacPhail
 
Robert and his parents had a lot of plans for Alesha. She was due to stay there for a three week Summer holiday. That evening, she went to bed around 11pm with her favorite Peppa Pig playing on a DVD. She fell asleep watching it.
 
The next morning, the 2nd of July, at 6.23 am, Alesha's grandmother, Angela King, opened Alesha's bedroom door to see if she was awake. Alesha wasn't in bed. Angela panicked and woke everyone up. She reported Alesha missing to the police and within a very short space of time, a helicopter was out searching the area. Angela appealed for help on Facebook and the community got together to search the area. 
 
Just two and a half hours after Alesha was reported missing, a volunteer helping with the search made a devastating discovery. They found Alesha's naked body at 9 am that morning. She had been raped and murdered.
 
 
It was a crime that shocked the community of 7000 residents. And it was so savage that police knew they needed to find whoever did it fast before they harmed anyone else. Due to the time frame and the area, police believed that even though the community was a tight knit one, the killer lived among them.
 
Georgina Lochrane
 
Janette Campbell lived around a ten minute walk from the MacPhail house and she had helped search for Alesha. When Alesha's body was found, she went home to take a look at her CCTV footage to see if she would be able to identify anything that would assist police with their investigation. 
 
 
Alesha MacPhail
 
Janette had installed CCTV cameras at the front and back of her house because her mother lived with her and she had dementia.
 
The night Alesha went missing, Janette's sixteen year old son Aaron Campbell had a party at their house. He had invited around 15 friends over and they were celebrating the end of their exams. They partied and drank until around midnight. When they left, Janette argued with Aaron as some of his friends had caused damage to her furniture and she thought that he went to bed straight afterwards. But the CCTV footage from the house revealed that that was not the case. 
 
When Janette saw the CCTV footage, she asked Aaron about it. Janette saw Aaron 
coming and going from the house several times between 2am and 4.30am on the night of the murder. Aaron told her he didn't know why he went out but was probably looking for his phone. He later told her he went out to try to get "weed."
 
 

CCTV Footage

Janette asked him if he knew anything about the missing girl. She asked him:

"Have you seen this little girl? Do you or your friends know anything?"

He said no. 

Aaron Campbell

Janette told Aaron that whoever was involved in Alesha's disappearance and murder would have left DNA behind and they would be found out but Aaron did not know anything about DNA. But he said there would be none of his DNA found anywhere anyway as he did not see the girl.

Janette gave the CCTV Footage to police. Police questioned Aaron. 

Aaron Campbell

DNA found on Alesha's body was a match to Aaron's DNA. He was charged with her abduction, rape and murder. Aaron denied any involvement. He pleaded not guilty and claimed that someone else killed Alesha and framed him. The person he named was Robert MacPhail's girlfriend Toni McLachlan. Aaron claimed that Toni killed Alesha and then tried to frame him. 
 
 Robert MacPhail and Toni McLachlan
 
It was the Prosecution's case that Aaron Campbell was drinking the night of the 1st of July with friends celebrating the end of exams. At some point during the night, he wanted cannabis. He went to the MacPhail house, which was a ten minute walk from his own house, to get some.
 

The party ended at midnight, and a friend described Aaron as being "worringly depressed." A short time later, Aaron sent a few text messages to several people to ask if they had any cannabis. He sent a text message to Robert MacPhail and Toni McLachlan as he claimed he bought drugs from them before.

But neither of them responded.

It was the Prosecution's case that when Aaron received no response to his text message about the cannabis, he decided to break into Robert MacPhail's house and take some. They believed that he walked into the house through an unlocked front door and nobody noticed. There was no cannabis inside but when he saw Alesha asleep, it triggered dark urges he had. 

Alesha MacPhail

People who knew Aaron knew him as a smart teenager, a popular one who had many friends and liked sports but he had a dark side. Some thought he was joking when he said things of a dark nature. Others did not know how to take it. 

Aaron was a keen gamer and wanted to be a successful YouTuber. He was obsessed with the meme series Slender Man which sees a tall faceless figure stalking and terrorising children. Friends revealed he had killed and skinned cats in the past and a friend said he told her he may kill one day just for the experience. 

It was the Prosecution's case that when Aaron entered the house, he took that opportunity. He saw a defenseless little girl asleep and knew that he would easily be able to overpower her. 
 
Aaron Campbell
 

Aaron did not know Alesha, he had never met her before. He knew both Robert and Toni. But, it was the Prosecution's case, that even though he didn't know Alesha he lifted her up from her bed and took her outside the house and carried her to the shore area and thence to a wooded area on the site of a former hydropathic hotel where her body was later found.

It was their case that Aaron abducted and raped Alesha and then murdered her. 

The Jury were shown the CCTV footage that Janette had provided to the police. The footage revealed that Aaron left their home at 01.54am on the 2nd of July. He was dressed in all black clothing. He returned to the house at 03.35 am. He was no longer wearing a black top. 
 

At 03.44am, a light was turned on in the bathroom inside the house. Just one minute later, the footage showed Aaron leaving the house again wearing shorts and carrying an item. At 4 am, he was seen on footage shining a torch and running off from his home. 

Jurors also saw CCTV footage from outside the house of Alexander McLachlan from the early hours of the 2nd of July.

According to Alexander, the footage showed:

"someone walking as if carrying something on the shoreline.I presumed that it was someone carrying a child."

This aligned with the timing from Janette's CCTV footage.  

The Pathologist, Dr John Williams, told the Court that Alesha died after suffering "catastrophic" injuries. He said the cause of death was significant pressure being applied to her face and neck. The injuries to Alesha's neck and face were consistent with being gripped, and those to her nose and mouth were consistent with smothering. It was also possible that her windpipe was pushed shut.

The Court heard that Alesha had 117 injuries. Some of the injuries could have been caused by vegetation. There were no injuries on her feet which was consistent with the Prosecution's case that Aaron carried her out of the house to the shore. 

 

Alesha MacPhail
 
Dr Williams testified that Alesha had catastrophic genital injuries, more severe than he had ever seen before. The injuries included tears to her private parts consistent with "severe and forceful inflicted penetration.”
 

The post-mortem report stated:

“External examination showed petechial (pin point) haemorrhages around the eye, within the lining of the eyes, within the mucosal lining of the mouth, and on the tongue .Internal examination has shown multiple foci of bruising to the anterior (ie front) neck structures, including bruising around her larynx and trachea. There was further bruising within the musculature on the back of the neck. There were areas of deep bruising within her face, including around the mouth and over the right cheek. The pattern of injuries to the face and neck is indicative of inflicted trauma, and is consistent with manual gripping of the neck and face with a hand(s) and the injuries around the mouth would be consistent with external covering of the mouth and nose (ie smothering). Examination of the spinal column within the neck revealed haemorrhage involving the intervertebral discs, along with a small amount of haemorrhage over the spinal cord. These findings are consistent with forceful movement of the head and neck, for example through shaking. There were severe injuries to the genitalia, including marked, deep, extensive lacerations (tears) to the vagina and anus, with obliteration of the perineum – the area of skin and tissue between the vagina and anus. These injuries are consistent with severe, forceful, inflicted penetration of the vagina and anus. There was only a thin film of tissue remaining between the vagina and anus and also between the vagina and abdominal cavity.The injuries to the genitalia would be expected to bleed significantly (the presence of associated bruising and haemorrhage confirming at least some of these injuries have been inflicted in life).”

The Prosecution told the Jury that Aaron's DNA had been detected on 14 different parts of Alesha’s body along with a match for his semen which indicated he had raped her. Fibres believed to be from his trousers were also found on Alesha’s clothing.

Aaron's Clothes

It was the Defense's case that Toni McLachlan, Robert MacPhail's girlfriend, was the killer. Aaron gave evidence at his Trial. He claimed that he and Toni met for sex earlier that night. He believed Toni killed Alesha because she was jealous of the attention she received from Robert and after she killed her, she planted Aaron's semen at the crime scene. He told the Court that he believed she had his semen from a condom he had used when they had sex. 

It took the Jury just three hours to find Aaron guilty of the abduction, rape and murder of Alesha. 

 

After the Trial and before he was sentenced, Aaron was assessed by a Doctor and social worker. He admitted his involvement in interviews they conducted. They prepared reports for his sentencing. One of the reports referred to how Aaron had in the 12 months prior to the murder entertained thoughts of "doing something excessive", including rape. Aaron told Dr Macpherson and a social worker in some detail what he did. Aaron claimed that he had been drinking and wanted cannabis so he decided to break into Robert's house and take some. He said that he took a kitchen knife to protect himself but he disposed of it when he gained access. He returned to the house to take Alesha.

The Knife that was found

Aaron claimed that Alesha was dead before any sexual activity took place but that was wholly contradicted by the post-mortem report. He believed it happened because of "his alcohol misuse and his curiosity and desire to experience how it would feel to kill someone." He drank one and a half bottles of wine between 8pm and 8.30 pm on the night of the 1st of July. Aaron said that he did not feel intoxicated but he told the social worker that he felt the effects of it. He was not under the influence of any illicit substances.

In the report, it recorded Aaron's reaction when he saw Alesha: 

"A moment of opportunity.At any other time in life, murder wouldn't have been the conclusion. If I was a year younger I don't think I would have done it.All I thought about was killing her once I saw her."

Aaron told them that when he took Alesha from her bed, she was drowsy but became a bit more awake when he carried her outside. Alesha asked him who he was and he said he was a friend of her father's and told her he was taking her home. Alesha was barefoot and in her pajamas and was cold and Aaron said that he gave her his top. He raped and murdered Alesha and then threw his bloodstained clothing into the sea. He then had a shower and returned again to where Alesha's body was to get his phone. 

Aaron told Dr Macpherson that in the days that followed Alesha's murder, he was unconcerned but mildly amused that the police had not arrested him.

He also told him that at points during the Trial it took everything to stop him laughing and he had to zip his mouth shut. He revealed that he was quite satisfied with the murder.

Alesha's Funeral
 
The Judge read the report prior to sentencing and noted:
“The nature of these appalling offenses and what I have read in the reports make it clear to me that reintegration and rehabilitation, while these are important considerations, are remote possibilities and neither your best interests nor anyone else's will be served by a speedy return to the community.Nonetheless, the punishment part will not be as long as it would have been had you been an adult.”
The Judge noted that the evidence against Aaron was overwhelming yet Aaron had pleaded not guilty and tried to blame an innocent woman instead. He referred to his attitude before the murder, during the Trial and after the Trial. Aaron had shown no remorse and showed no emotion at Trial. The Judge said that his attitude was demonstrated by a video he had posted before he was arrested by the police. Aaron posted a video of an image of himself in a mirror with the caption that he had found where the murderer was hiding.
 
The Judge sentenced him to detention without limit of time with a punishment part of 27 years. 
 
Aaron appealed the severity of the sentence and it was reduced on Appeal by three years.


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