Glasgow & West Scotland

Alesha MacPhail: Pupils and teachers remember murder victim

A school picture of Alesha MacPhail is left outside the house on Ardbeg Road on Bute Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alesha MacPhail was a pupil at Chapelside Primary in Airdrie

Teachers and pupils at Alesha MacPhail's school have been celebrating her life ahead of the first anniversary of her murder.

The six-year-old had just finished primary two when she was abducted and killed on the Isle of Bute last summer.

Aaron Campbell, 16, was later sentenced to a minimum of 27 years after he finally admitted his crime.

Wendy Davie, head of Chapelside Primary in Airdrie, said the happy, chatty youngster would never be forgotten.

A large wooden playhouse inspired by the children's memories of Alesha and decorated with their pictures of unicorns and butterflies has been built in the school playground.

Ms Davie said it was a lasting tribute to the child with an "infectious smile".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The playhouse is decorated by pupils' artwork which was inspired by Alesha MacPhail

The project was led by the children, who wanted a meeting place where they could make friends and have a chat.

The head teacher is confident it would have won Alesha's seal of approval.

She told BBC Scotland: "She would want a place where she knows her friends can come and feel safe, and have a blether, and have giggle and play with slime, and draw and read books.

"She loved a good chat. She was always late for class in the morning because she would stay back at breakfast club to blether.

"She liked to get to know people and she was very, very caring towards everybody. She's sorely, sorely missed."

Image copyright Jane Barlow
Image caption The playhouse is a space for the children to meet friends and 'have a blether'

The playhouse was funded with £22,000 worth of donations from well-wishers from around the world following an online appeal.

Ms Davie said it was important that pupils took "ownership" of the project.

"Death is a very difficult thing for young children," she said.

"This was a very child-friendly way in which they could say goodbye and they could incorporate all their ideas and all their memories into something that is going to be lasting here for others to see who didn't know Alesha. "

Image caption Head teacher Wendy Davie said Alesha had an "infectious" smile

The children have also designed a special badge - a unicorn inside a pink heart - which they all wore at a special assembly on Thursday morning.

Members of Alesha's family joined them to remember the schoolgirl in the service where pupils shared their memories and sang her favourite song - Light of Mine.

The children also composed a version of the song Reach For The Stars and a specially-written poem incorporating the letters S,M,I,L,E was read out.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Children and staff will wear a specially-designed badge in memory of Alesha

Alesha was staying at her grandparents' flat on Ardbeg Road, Rothesay, when she was taken by Campbell in the early hours of 2 July last year.

The child was then carried to a wooded area where she was raped and killed.

A jury at the High Court in Glasgow later heard Alesha suffered 117 injuries, some of which were described by a pathologist as "catastrophic."

A major search was launched the following morning but shortly before 09:00 an islander discovered Alesha's naked body near her killer's home in Ardbeg.

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Campbell was arrested on 4 July last year, two days after the murder

Campbell was arrested two days later after his mother told police she had captured his odd movements on her home CCTV system.

Despite overwhelming forensic evidence the teenager, who gave evidence during his trial, repeatedly denied he abducted, raped and killed Alesha.

Campbell told the High Court in Glasgow he had never met his victim and lodged a special defence naming the 18-year-old girlfriend of Alesha's father as the killer.

But he later admitted his offences to a psychologist preparing a report for the court ahead of his sentencing.

Image caption The bench is located in an area where children come to play

Judge Lord Matthews said the background reports painted a picture of a "cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual".

The school event will be followed next month by a fun day organised by Alesha's mother, Georgina Lochrane.

The youngster has already been remembered on Bute with the unveiling of a pink memorial bench at the "children's corner" in Rothesay.

Last month, Campbell was given permission to appeal against his sentence.

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