The teenager who was arrested after the murder of a six-year-old girl on the Isle of Bute was known to the victim’s family, neighbours have said.
Police Scotland confirmed Wednesday night they had arrested a male suspect who was “under the age of 18”, without giving further details, while residents of the Scottish holiday island said he was 16 years-old and lived locally, according to reports.
Schoolgirl Alesha MacPhail was reported missing from her grandparents’ home in Rothesay, the island’s main town, at 6.25am on Monday.
— STV News (@STVNews) July 4, 2018
Her body was discovered a few hours later by a member of the public in woodland on the site of an abandoned hotel, reportedly around a mile from where her family reported she had vanished.
After receiving the results of a post-mortem examination on Tuesday, detectives announced they had launched a murder inquiry relating to the death.
Alesha had been just a few days into a three-week summer holiday on the “peaceful” island, which lies 90 minutes from Glasgow, and was staying with her father, her uncle, and paternal grandparents.
Speaking after the arrest, senior investigating officer Stuart Houston said: “The response to our earlier public appeals has been significant.
“However, despite this evening’s major development, I am still appealing for anyone who was in the Ardbeg Road area of Bute on Sunday night or in the early hours of Monday and who may have information about Alesha’s death to contact us.
“Anyone who has CCTV at their home or business, or indeed any motorists with dash-cam footage which might help with our investigation are also urged to get in touch.”
Previously, Houston said the Isle of Bute was an “extremely safe place”, where “we all know each other at least by sight”, noting there was “no context” for a crime of this nature.
Residents of the island “struggled to convey the deep sense of shock they felt” at news of the tragedy, the Scotsman said Wednesday, reporting that “violent crime is almost unknown in connection to Bute”.
Violent crime is extremely rare on Bute, but has happened beforehttps://t.co/9hcqmxY7eM
— The Scotsman (@TheScotsman) July 4, 2018
Provost of Argyll and Bute Council and a resident of the island for 49 years, Len Scoullar, said he was unable to recall any comparable incidents, describing “a trusting and caring community” where people do not feel the need to double-check locks and security.
“That’s what makes it so deeply shocking,” he told the newspaper.
But violent crime is not without any precedent on Bute, the Scotsman said, noting that two convicted paedophiles were jailed in 2010 after being found guilty of the murder of Allison McGarrigle, who was planning to report their sexual abuse of a young boy.
Charles O’Neill and William Lauchlan had denied killing the Rothesay woman in 1997 and throwing her body — which was never found — into the sea.