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Key evidence as Alesha MacPhail's killer appeals sentence

Aaron Campbell will have his case heard before three judges in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Killer: Aaron Campbell raped and murdered Alesha MacPhail.
Killer: Aaron Campbell raped and murdered Alesha MacPhail.

The teenager who abducted, raped and murdered six-year-old Alesha MacPhail will appeal against his 27-year sentence on Wednesday.

Aaron Campbell, who was 16 when he killed the schoolgirl on the Isle of Bute in July 2018, denied the charges throughout a two-week trial earlier this year, but then admitted the offence during his sentencing hearing in March.

Judge Lord Matthews handed Campbell, now 17, a mandatory life sentence and ordered him to spend at least 27 years behind bars.

He is currently behind bars at Polmont Young Offenders Institution in Falkirk.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed that Campbell was granted an appeal, which will be heard by three judges at Edinburgh High Court.

'Cold-blooded' murderer

Alesha: The six-year-old was on a summer holiday when she was killed.
Alesha: The six-year-old was on a summer holiday when she was killed.

Armed with a knife, "cold-blooded" Campbell snatched Alesha out of her bed before carrying her to the former Kyles Hydropathic Hotel on the island where he raped and murdered her on July 2 last year.

He told the child he was a friend of her dad's and was going to take her home, before raping and murdering her.

Campbell then threw his clothing into the sea before going back to the scene to retrieve his phone.

During the sentencing, Lord Matthews told how he was "shocked" when he read the "cold-blooded and horrific" account given by the killer to a psychologist after his conviction.

Alesha's body was found in a wooded area of the island a few hours after her family reported her missing.

Campbell previously claimed Alesha's dad's girlfriend, Toni McLachlan, had "murder on her mind", blaming her for the killing.

However, it was reaffirmed during the sentencing hearing that Ms McLachlan had nothing to do with it.

Catching a killer

Several key pieces of evidence was presented by the Crown during the trial which helped to convict the killer.

1. Googling 'how do police find DNA'

A cybercrime expert told jurors the search was made on Google at 12.32am on July 3 last year, the day after Alesha's body was discovered.

He said the phone was then used to access a How Stuff Works article, entitled "collecting DNA evidence".

The evidence came from cybercrime team leader Peter Benson.

It was contained in an 89-page report which was compiled after a forensic examination of an iPhone 6, said to belong to Campbell.

2. Snapchat: 'Found the guy who has done it'

The teenager sent a selfie-style video to a Snapchat group with the message: "Found the guy who has done it."

Giving evidence, a friend of the accused said the post was sent hours after Alesha's body was discovered in a wooded area on the island.

She said it was posted to around 25 young people who were part of the Snapchat group.

The silent footage was shot in a bathroom and featured the top half of murderer's body, but not his face.

The girl said: "He was saying what he thought happened and was questioning how she could've got out the house".

A second young witness also said he privately contacted her just three hours after Alesha was found dead.

She said: "During the conversation he started to get anxious and he said the police were going to blame it on him."

Investigation: Forensic teams scoured the shore.
Investigation: Forensic teams scoured the shore.

3. 14 samples of DNA found on Alesha

DNA was found on various parts of Alesha's body, including intimate areas, with 14 samples matching the accused.

Alesha suffered 117 injuries and died from significant pressure being applied to her face and neck.

DNA samples from the accused, his mother, Alesha's grandparents, her father and his girlfriend were taken for comparative purposes.

The jury was told various samples were taken from the child's body, with the murderer's DNA being detected on the front and back of Alesha's neck as well as her face.

The odds of it being from anyone else were more than one in a billion.

Bute: Police searched gardens for evidence.
Bute: Police searched gardens for evidence. STV

4. Mum's call to the police

Campbell's mother contacted the police after Alesha's body was found.

The teenage boy voluntarily spoke to officers at around 1am on July 3 at his home.

His mum had been drinking when she phoned Rothesay police station in the early hours of the morning after Alesha's body was discovered.

She told officers her son had been out of the house in the early hours of July 2, which was captured on CCTV.

The accused was described as "confident" and "very co-operative" by PC McKellar and asked his mum to leave the room while he spoke to officers.

5. Similar knife in murderer's house

A knife which was discovered on the beach opposite where Alesha was last seen had the same design as those found in the accused's house, the trial heard.

Four knives from a block of five were found at Campbell's home.

6. CCTV sightings during night

CCTV showed the killer leaving and returning to his home several times on the night Alesha disappeared.

It had been checked by his mum who wanted to see if she could spot any traces of the schoolgirl.

Instead, the CCTV showed her son leaving and returning to the property on three occasions throughout the night.

Clothes found: Jogging bottoms were recovered from the shore.
Clothes found: Jogging bottoms were recovered from the shore. Crown Office

7. Clothes found on shore

A pair of jogging bottoms intertwined with a pair of boxer shorts were discovered on the shoreline near to where Alesha's body was found.

A black hoodie which was heavily salt stained was also discovered on the shore.

Alesha's family 'destroyed' by Campbell

Alesha's mum Georgina Lochrane told STV News that Campbell had "destroyed" her family but the help of charity Families Against Murder and Suicide (FAMS) had made her determined to help others in a similar situation.

She said: "He has gone in with a wrecking ball and destroyed us all but it's up to us to pick ourselves up.

"Every day shocked me. I would go in to the courtroom and I would think 'right I've heard the worst' and then I would hear even more.

"He went in to the trial with a shot in the dark and hoped he would win.

"To be honest, I wasn't shocked when he admitted it. I was more shocked at how quickly he admitted it because that was all I wanted. I just wanted to know why."

Ms Lochrane believes Campbell is only making things worse for himself by appealing.

She stated: "He put us through the most horrific thing ever by taking Alesha, then he put us through a trial, turned around and admitted it right at the end.

"Now he wants to appeal against his sentence. He is only making it worse on himself and when it blows up in his face, I'll be sitting there laughing.

"There is no point preparing, I just take each day as it comes and I know I'll have FAMS there every step of the way so I'll be ready for it."

Alesha's uncle, CJ MacPhail, has since called for changes to the law so children accused of the most serious crimes - such as rape and murder - can be tried as adults in court.

Campbell was sentenced as a child and initially could not be named because he was under 18. The judge lifted that restriction after a challenge by media outlets, including STV News.

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