The playground around the corner from Alesha MacPhail’s grandparent’s house on the Isle of Bute would normally be filled with children on a weekday after school. But, despite the heat wave temperatures on Wednesday afternoon, the park was empty.
Late on Tuesday, Scottish police confirmed that six-year-old Alesha had been murdered and that, as a precaution, told islanders to “look out for each other and please look out for your families and the security and safety of your homes.”
Last night, police announced that they had arrested a man on suspicion of Alesha’s murder.
Alesha’s grandparents Angela King, 46, and Calum MacPhail, 49, live in the Victorian seaside resort Rothesay, in a house that overlooks the Firth of Clyde and out towards the mainland.
Its front garden was supposed to be a place where Alesha’s laughter was heard this summer. But instead, the pavement nearby was yesterday lined with flowers, cuddly toys and messages. In the middle, her school photo rests next to two pink balloons. A message said: “So, so going to miss you.”
Across the road, a pebbly beach was roped off by police tape. A seagull bobbed lazily on clear waters as local resident Bob Mason, 73, looked at the crime scene.
“It’s paradise, it’s beautiful,” said Mason, who lived around the corner from the house. “There’s very little crime, I don’t lock my door, most people don’t.
“But everybody’s a bit jumpy now.”
Last night, police had shifted their focus away from the wooded area where Alesha’s body was discovered. A forensics team was seen at the grandparent’s house, where she had been staying along with her father, Rab MacPhail, 25, and his girlfriend when she went missing. Among evidence collected from the property were two cars that were removed over the course of the day.
The news shocked the residents of seaside town, which has long been a holiday resort off the west coast of Scotland. Locals commend the tight-knit community and its absence of crime.
Local councilor Len Scoullar said, “The community is very dismayed and disappointed that such a thing could happen here. We don’t have crime rates that include things like child abuse and murder.”
Alesha had come to Bute for the summer. On Monday morning, at 6:25am, Angela sent out a plea on Facebook asking friends and neighbours to help her find her granddaughter who had gone missing in the night.
Two and a half hours later, a neighbor discovered the girl’s body in public woods less than a mile away from the house.
Alesha lived on the mainland in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, with her mother, Georgina Lachrane. The 23-year-old discovered her daughter was missing when she saw the Facebook message.
“Someone tell me what’s happened to my daughter,” Lachrane commented. “Angela answer me now.”
Police later brought Lachrane to the island, where she was seen in tears as she laid a tribute to her daughter.
Local resident Winnie Watters, 79, said: “They’re such a lovely family. The granddad plays bowls and everyone says he’s a great man. I get the bus with the grandma sometimes and she’s lovely too.
“lt was that little girl’s highlight, coming to see her grandparents in the holidays. I heard from someone that she’d sleepwalked and maybe got lost or fallen, but I don’t know. You hear a lot of rumours.”
Less than 7,000 people live on Bute, which is home to Mount Stuart House, the stately home where fashion designer Stella McCartney got married. Prince Charles is the Duke of Rothesay.
In the centre of town, near the seafront, three young local girls in summer dresses ate ice creams and kicked a balloon.
They seemed to have no cares in the world, but the eldest is the same age as Alesha, and was friends with her.
The girls’ father, who was sitting on a bench keeping an eye on them and did not want to be named, said: “It’s terrible. We know the family. It’s hard sleeping at night in case anything happens. I just hope they get who it was. I’ve never seen Rothesay like this, it’s in lockdown. I feel so terrible for the family.”
Former oil industry caterer Ian Colville, who runs a coffee shop on the seafront and lives near where the schoolgirl was staying said: “There’s a lot of young kids playing out there all the time but for the last three days there have been none at all.”
At Cafe Zavaroni’s on the seafront, owner Margaret Zavaroni, cousin of the late former Scottish child singing star, Lena Zavaroni, said the town was far quieter than usual.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening on the island. You can let your kids play out all night and if any kids went missing they’d be found in five minutes because everyone knows everyone. I don’t know if it’s out of respect but I’ve only had two lots of families with kids in today, normally it would be packed.”
Bute has a faded charm as an old seaside resort and remains popular with daytrippers from nearby Glasgow who still enjoy trips “doon the water” on the historic Waverley paddle steamer which still goes along the Clyde.
The last murder on Bute was 30 years ago, when two paedophiles killed Allison McGarrigle and dumped her body at sea, which has never been found. McGarrigle went missing in 1997 and was declared dead in 2005.
Councillor Scoullar said: “Rothesay has always been the safest place for ladies and children, but that’s been proved wrong.
“Let’s hope when the police get to the bottom of this it goes back to the way it has always been.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/04/alesha-macphail-scottish-island-lockdown-tight-knit-community/