Alesha MacPhail was found naked lying face down in woodland near an abandoned hotel
The teenager accused of raping and murdering Alesha MacPhail Googled ‘how do police find DNA’ the day after the six-year-old’s body was found dumped in the woods, a court heard today.
Alesha was found naked lying face down near an abandoned hotel on the Isle of Bute on July 2 last year, hours after being reported missing from her grandparents’ house.
The 16-year-old boy accused of murder, rape, child abduction and defeating the ends of justice denies all the charges against him at Glasgow High Court.
Meanwhile the court was told that fibres found on her vest suggested ‘direct physical contact’ with jogging bottoms found on a beach.
Giving evidence today, cyber crime expert Peter Benson told how he had examined the teenager’s iPhone6.
When internet history from the accused’s phone was presented to the court, Mr Benson confirmed a Google search on Tuesday, July 3 which said: ‘How do police find DNA.’
Among the accused’s contacts were Alesha’s father Robert MacPhail and his girlfriend Toni McLachlan.
At 1.40am on July 2, a final call was made to Mr MacPhail, before a message was sent to Ms McLachlan at 1.47am. A return call to the accused from Ms McLachlan’s number was made at 6.29am.
Alesha’s mother Georgina Lochrane (centre) and father Robert MacPhail (right) arrive at Glasgow High Court last Thursday
The IT expert said there was no evidence the accused and Ms McLachlan had communicated on Instagram.
Mr Benson said: ‘That did not feature in any of the evidence recovered from Toni Louise McLachlan’s phone.’
Questioned by advocate depute Iain McSporran if they had been connected on Instagram, he said: ‘I didn’t see any evidence in the contacts list.’
When asked by Mr McSporran if it is possible to delete communications or conversations on Instagram, he said: ‘It is possible.’
Detective Constable Graham McIlwraith said he searched the boy’s home and noticed one knife missing from a block of five.
Shown a photograph of a knife found on the shore opposite where Alesha had been staying with her father and grandparents, he said it ‘would appear to be the same design’ as the Jamie Oliver brand knives found in the boy’s house.
Cyber crime expert Peter Benson (pictured outside court today) said the boy’s phone had been used to search: ‘How do police find DNA’
Mr McIlwraith said: ‘It seemed reasonable that a knife might be missing and that could be important.’
Later, a scientist told the court that fibres found on the vest of Alesha suggested ‘direct physical contact’ with jogging bottoms found on a beach.
Sarah Jones, a forensic scientist with the Scottish Police Authority, gave evidence at the murder trial and said she her and her team focussed their examinations on the garments Alesha had been wearing the night of the abduction.
A vest and shorts worn by the six-year-old were analysed.
Ms Jones told the court: ‘Overall we consider the black polyester and black viscose fibres found on Alesha MacPhail’s vest came from the jogging bottoms found on the shoreline in Ardbeg.’
Some 30 black polyester fibres and 13 black viscose fibres were found on Alesha’s pants and shorts, which were discovered close by her body.
The scientist said: ‘If the black fibres came from the jogging bottoms, our findings would be as expected.’
A report stated there was ‘strong evidence’ to suggest the fibres came from the jogging bottoms.
Asked by advocate depute Mr McSporran if the number of fibres found, instead of just the comparisons, were significant, Ms Jones said the fibres revealed ‘direct physical contact’.
No fibres from a black Nike hoodie matched Alesha’s 6-7 years vest.
Alesha’s grandparents Angela King and Calum MacPhail outside the court last Thursday
The court also heard from Detective Constable Ian Wilson, who said the boy was taken to Glasgow for a police interview, where he responded ‘no comment’ to questions.
On being charged with Alesha’s murder, the boy also replied: ‘No comment.’ The detective said this was not unusual and was within the teenager’s rights.
Witness Karen MacBride, a fingerprint examiner with the Scottish Police Authority, told the court that fingerprints belonging to the accused had been found on the MacPhail property – but it was not possible to date them.
She took fingerprints from the stairwell leading to the MacPhail family home, where prints from the accused’s right palm were discovered on July 11, above stairs 11 and 14.
Asked when they were there from, she said: ‘It’s not possible to age a fingerprint.’
Under cross examination by defence Brian McConnachie, she confirmed the prints were found on a ‘chair rail’ for a chair lift.
She reiterated it is ‘not possible to determine how long the print was there’. No other prints belonging to the accused were found in the MacPhail home.
Temporary Detective Inspector Monica Hagerty was based in Rothesay during the investigations, and was present when a pair of jogging trousers and boxer shorts were recovered.
She attended the boy’s arrest on July 4 at 5pm, at his home. He was then taken to Helen Street police station in Govan, Glasgow, for questioning.
Alesha (left) with Mr MacPhail (centre) and his girlfriend Toni Louise McLachlan (right)
Ms Hagerty was the family liaison officer for the MacPhail family, and was notified of a female who reported seeing an altercation outside between Mr MacPhail and Miss McLachlan.
Under cross examination, she claimed she could not remember when the witness’ statement was taken.
Detective Constable Lisa Whitelaw, stationed at the major investigations team, collected CCTV footage for a ‘viewing log’.
She said that footage was collected from the home of the accused, and from two homes on a named road.
While watching footage from the named road, Ms Whitelaw described seeing ‘a shadow moving across the shoreline’.
Ms Whitelaw said she could see ‘something hanging down from the front’ of the person walking.
She told the court the figure ‘slows down and appears to be carrying something in front of them’.
Mr MacPhail with his daughter Alesha – found dead last July hours after being reported missing
The court also heard that the boy lived less than six minutes away from the site where the child’s body was found.
Ms Whitelaw told the trial that it took five minutes and 49 seconds to walk between the lad’s home and the site of the former Kyles Hydropathic Hotel.
She agreed with Mr McSporran that it would be ‘significantly shorter’ were the person running.
The court heard it would take five minutes and 54 seconds to walk between the accused’s house, and the MacPhail family home.
And she said it would take 12 minutes and 43 seconds to get from the MacPhail house to the site where Alesha’s body was found.
Ms Whitelaw described watching CCTV footage from the accused’s property on the morning Alesha vanished, July 2.
Mr Macphail, who has been attending the trial in Glasgow, is pictured with his daughter Alesha
A dog could be heard barking as the accused returned to the property and audio caught a ‘shh’ sound. At 3.45am, the accused left the house again, leaving the bathroom light on.
Ms Whitelaw said he ‘is observed leaving the property from the back door wearing dark coloured shorts, no top on and no shoes – carrying a dark coloured item in his right hand’.
At 3.52am, the accused could be seen returning to the house, appearing from the left hand side and jumping over a garden wall before walking up the driveway.
Ms Whitelaw said: ‘He then enters the garden…by jumping the wall – he appeared to not be carrying anything.’
At 4.07am, the accused was wearing the same clothes, the officer said. She added: ‘He appears to be carrying nothing.’
Police forensic team team at a house on the Isle of Bute outside Rothesay last July
A police cordon at Ardberg on the Isle of Bute where the six-year-old girl was found dead
The teenager has lodged a special defence blaming Ms McLachlan for the killing.
Giving evidence earlier in the trial, Ms McLachlan refuted suggestions from the accused’s defence lawyer, Brian McConnachie QC, that she and the teenager had been in contact on Instagram in the early hours of July 2.
Mr McConnachie suggested they had messaged on Instagram, then met and had sex in a shed, before Ms McLachlan took Alesha from her room, ‘attacked and brutalised her’ and ‘planted’ the accused’s semen from the condom used earlier, then murdered her, all of which Ms McLachlan denied.
On Wednesday last week, Ms McLachlan told jurors she ‘loved’ Alesha and had nothing to do with her death.
Ms McLachlan was staying in the house Alesha’s grandparents shared with her partner when the schoolgirl went missing after arriving for the school holidays.
The trial, before judge Lord Matthews, continues.