Woman denies murdering six-year-old Alesha Macphail and 'planting' evidence

Toni McLachlan partner of Robert MacPhail, father of Alesha MacPhail, outside the High Court in Glasgow where a 16 year old is on trial for the murder of the six year old.
Toni McLachlan partner of Robert MacPhail, father of Alesha MacPhail, outside the High Court in Glasgow where a 16 year old is on trial for the murder of the six year old.

A woman blamed by a murder accused for killing a six-year-old girl and "planting" his DNA on the child's body has told a court she had nothing to do with the crime.

Toni McLachlan, 18, was giving evidence at the trial of a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accused of raping and murdering schoolgirl Alesha MacPhail.

He denies the charges and has lodged a special defence blaming Ms McLachlan, Alesha's father's girlfriend.

Alesha was found dead in woodland on the Isle of Bute on July 2 last year, having arrived on the island to spend the summer holidays with her father and grandparents.

Asked if she had anything to do with Alesha's murder, Ms McLachlan replied: "No."

She told the High Court in Glasgow: "I loved her to pieces."

The court heard Ms McLachlan and her partner would deal cannabis to the accused, who phoned them in the early hours of the day Alesha was allegedly taken from her bed at her grandparent's house on Ardbeg Road, where the couple also stayed.

Ms McLachlan said she returned the accused's call at around 6.30am after being woken up to search for Alesha, who had been reported missing.

Call logs showed he messaged around 9am that day saying "sorry doesn't matter" with two laughing crying emojis.

Ms McLachlan asked him to keep an eye out for Alesha since she had gone missing and he replied: "Oh damn am sure she's not went too far."

She said she first had a "bad feeling" about the call but after the messages this went away.

Questioned on how it felt to be accused of murder, she said: "Horrible, especially when it is somebody that you do love so much.

"But she knew I loved her and that's what I'm trying to keep in my head just now."

She added that she was "sad, hurt and angry".

The court heard she had been in an on-off relationship with Alesha's dad for about two years.

In response to questioning from the accused's lawyer, Brian McConnachie QC, Ms McLachlan denied being jealous of Alesha or threatened by her.

She also denied the suggestion she had been in a sexual relationship with the accused for several months between autumn 2017 and early 2018.

Mr McConnachie suggested she messaged the accused on the night Alesha went missing asking him to meet for a cigarette, they then went to a shed and had sex using a condom she provided, which she denied.

He said she then went into Alesha's room, took her to the woods where she was found "attacked and brutalised her" and "planted" the accused's semen from the condom, then murdered her, all of which Ms McLachlan denied.

The court heard detectives went to the accused's home after his mum contacted police around 1am on July 3 and took evidence from him as a witness as CCTV appeared to show him leaving their Ardbeg Road house early the previous day.

His witness statement said his mum called police as she thought his behaviour was "suspicious".

In the statement, he told police he had been drinking with friends at his home and they left at around 12.30am, when he texted people looking for cannabis, met one of his dealers and smoked the drug on the way back, before having a shower.

His statement said he found out Alesha was missing when Ms McLachlan messaged him and had "never met her in person".

Detective Constable Gavin McKellar, who took the statement, said the accused appeared "confident" and was co-operative but did not mention anything about meeting Ms McLachlan during the time in question.

The court also heard from Jorge Williams, who found Alesha's body.

Mr Williams, 30, from Bute, said he did not know her but went out to search for her after seeing a Facebook message about her going missing.

He found her in woodland having searched the surrounding areas and phoned the police after finding no pulse, later flagging down a police car and showing officers to her body.

Judge Lord Matthews praised Mr Williams for his actions and said he was "salt of the earth".

The accused denies raping and murdering Alesha, and attempting to hide evidence.

The case continues on Thursday.