Police continue to investigate the death of a six-year-old girl whose body was found in woodland on the Isle of Bute.
Alesha MacPhail was reported missing from her grandparents’ home in Ardbeg, near Rothesay, at about 6:25am yesterday.
A body was found in a wooded area next to Ardbeg Road in the town by a member of the public at about 9am.
While formal identification is yet to take place, police believe the body is that of the six-year-old.
Yesterday, Alesha’s Coatbridge based mother, Georgina “Genie” Lochrane, 23, was taken to the island by police. Ms Lochrane had earlier posted on the Facebook page of Alesha’s grandmother Angela King: “Someone tell me what’s happened. That’s my daughter,” after Ms King had posted a plea for help to find her granddaughter.
Relatives of Alesha in Coatbridge were “devastated” by the news of the tragedy. Alan McGuire, partner of Alesha’s cousin Lisamarie, confirmed that the child was visiting her grandmother on Bute when the tragedy happened.
Alan told the Daily Record: “Alesha would go to Bute quite often to visit her gran and this was just a regular visit.
“We are devastated about what has happened because she was a lovely wee girl.
“At the moment we simply don’t know what is happening. We are waiting to hear if the police are treating it as suspicious or as a tragic accident.”
Last night investigating officers said the death was being treated as “unexplained,” with work under way to ascertain the circumstances.
Speaking outside Dumbarton police station yesterday evening, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, from Police Scotland’s major investigation teams, said: “A number of people through social media were alerted to this missing child and came to assist in the area.
“I would really like those that have not spoken to the police to come forward so we can establish who was in the area and they may have critical information of what has taken place.”
He added: “This death of a six-year-old child has shocked the tight-knit community of Rothesay and it is imperative that we find out what has happened. This investigation is at its very early stages, however I am appealing for information in order to piece together Alesha’s last-known movements.
“We know that once the alarm was raised about her being missing, there were a number of local people who assisted with the search. I would also like to speak to anyone who was involved in that search who have not yet been spoken to by the police.”
Det Supt Houston said the death was being treated as “unexplained” and sought to reassure the local community.
He added: “I understand that there are real concerns in the community, however please be assured that a team of detectives are working on this investigation to ascertain the circumstances leading up to death of this young child.
“Specially trained officers are supporting the family during this incredibly difficult time.
“If anyone has any information please contact police with that information. You might think it is insignificant, however please let us be the judge of that, and contact us immediately.”
Door to door
Police Scotland said officers would be carrying out door-to-door enquiries, and would be speaking to local residents and visitors coming to the island by ferry.
High Road in Ardbeg was yesterday shut by a police cordon and a floral tribute had been laid near police accident signs. A police car blocked the road and several other police vehicles could be seen in the area.
Police could not comment on what happened to the child.
A separate cordon had been set up outside numbers 50-53 Ardbeg Road and police tape has also been set up at the seafront on the opposite side of the street.
Earlier, Alesha’s grandmother, Angela King, posted a photo on Facebook with the message: “Alesha has gone missing from our house – please help look for her.”
She was later inundated with messages of condolence.
One wrote: “So sorry for your loss, hadn’t realised she was from Bute. We lived as a family there for a good few years so know how tight a community there is to help you through this horrendous time.”
Another wrote: “Thoughts and prayers with you and your family. Devastated to hear about Alesha.”
Mike Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, tweeted: “Desperately sorry to hear this – all thoughts with her family and the island community.”
Locals said the body had been found at the former Kyles Hydro estate, a derelict hotel dating back to the nineteenth century.
Superintendent Brian Gibson said: “Our officers have been working very closely with the detectives from the major investigation teams on this inquiry.
“I’d like to reassure the public that whilst they will be very concerned, additional officers will be in the area if anyone has any specific concerns, so please speak to them.
“Similarly, if anyone has any information they wish to provide to police, they can do so by speaking to any of these officers.”
Messages of condolence laid on the floral tributes outside the homes bore words of support and solidarity with the family.
One read “sleep tight little angel,” while another simply said “forever in our thoughts”.
June McKenzie, who lives near Alesha’s grandmother on Ardbeg Road, was one of those searching for the youngster. She said: “We were woken up at 7am and we were told she was missing, could we look for her.
“I looked in the garage and workshop and we saw that the search and rescue helicopter was out.
“I can’t believe it. Her poor parents and gran. It’s just appalling – somebody that young.
“The island’s just down and will be for some time. Everybody just sticks together.”