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16-year-old sentenced to life for rape and murder of a child

At the High Court in Glasgow last Friday, Lord Matthews sentenced 16-year-old Aaron Campbell to detention without limit of time, with a minimum term of 27 years, after he was found guilty of the abduction, rape and murder of Alesha MacPhail.

During his nine-day trial, not only had Campbell repeatedly denied the offences but he claimed he had never met the victim. Campbell also accused Toni-Louise McLachlan, the girlfriend of Alesha’s father, to be Alesha’s killer.

However, during interviews that had been ordered by the judge, Campbell went on to confess. The report by forensic clinical psychologist, Dr Gary Macpherson, quoted Campbell as admitting: “If I was a year young, I don’t think I would have done it. All I thought about was killing her once I saw her.”

Six-year-old Alesha had been visiting her father and grandparents on the Isle of Bute when Campbell abducted her from her bed during the night. A post-mortem examination of Alesha, who was from Airdrie in North Lanarkshire, revealed she had suffered 117 injuries and died from extreme pressure to her face and neck.

Lord Matthews said the reports confirmed that Campbell was not suffering from a mental health disorder but that he showed a complete lack of empathy to the victim. On sentencing, Lord Matthews concluded:

“It is difficult to imagine the distress which her family must have suffered, not only when she went missing but when the awful news came in that she had been found dead. That distress can only have been intensified, if that was possible, by their finding out the extent of what you did to her, not only in the weeks and months immediately afterwards but in the course of the trial."

Judge Matthews described the “arrogance and callousness” of Campbell when he posted an image of himself in the mirror and joked of how the murderer had been found as “breathtaking.” Campbell also suppressed laughter and admitted in the reports that “it took everything” not to laugh as evidence was given to the jury of how he raped and murdered the young girl.

The anonymity that is usually granted for defendants under the age of 18 was lifted in this case due to a legal bid by media organisations, and became the first sentencing in the UK to be broadcast live online.

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