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Bute murder police examine information from public appeals

Alesha MacPhail, six, was found dead just hours after going missing from her grandmother’s home.

Police investigating the murder of a six-year-old girl that has stunned an island community say they have had a “very good” response to public appeals and are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry.

Alesha MacPhail was reported missing from her grandmother’s home in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute at 6.25am on Monday.

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(PA Graphics)

Her body was found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road by a member of the public around two-and-a-half hours later.

Following the results of a post-mortem examination on Tuesday, police confirmed they are treating the schoolgirl’s death as murder.

Islanders have been warned to be vigilant about the safety of their children and the security of their homes as investigations continue.

There was increased police activity at the property where Alesha had been staying on Wednesday morning.

More than a dozen officers entered the garden of the Ardbeg Road property with long sticks to search the gardens and bushes surrounding the building.

A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed a number of items, including a vehicle, have been recovered as part of the investigation.

The car is believed to have been removed by officers on Monday or Tuesday.

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Police vans on Ardbeg Road on the Isle of Bute (John Linton/PA)

The force spokesman added: “The response from the public following our appeals has been very good and we would like to thank those who have taken the time to contact us with information so far.

“A number of lines of inquiry are being followed up, however we continue to appeal to those who have not yet spoken to police and may have information to get in contact with us.

“We would like to speak to anyone who may have CCTV at their home or business or any motorists who have dashcam footage which might help with our investigation.”

The island community has been left in shock by the murder of the six-year-old, who was a few days into a three-week break to visit family.

Reverend Owain Jones 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.

“It’s not a remote island in the classic sense – it’s only 90 minutes to Glasgow – but even so it is an island and we all know each other at least by sight, and it’s an extremely safe place and there is no context for this.”

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Forensic officers at the police cordon on Ardbeg Road (Jane Barlow/PA)

Meanwhile, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston said Alesha’s family are “utterly devastated” at her death, and he appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

He is still keen to speak to people who were involved in the search for the missing girl that was conducted early on Monday morning.

He added: “Alesha had lots of friends who will no doubt find it very difficult to comprehend why they will never see their friend again.

“For such a young girl to have her life taken away is incomprehensible.”

Flowers, teddies and balloons have been left on the pavement outside the property on Ardbeg Road, with messages attached reading “sleep tight little angel” and “good night little angel”.

A school picture of the six-year-old has also been placed on the street, while her headteacher at Chapelside Primary School in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, said Alesha would be “greatly missed”.

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