Girlfriend of Alesha McPhail's father gives evidence in murder case
Alesha MacPhail was found naked lying face down in woodland near an abandoned hotel
The girlfriend of Alesha MacPhail's father sobbed as she told a murder trial today that she 'loved her to pieces' - and denied having anything to do with the six-year-old girl's death.
Toni-Louise McLachlan gave evidence at the trial of a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who has blamed her for killing Alesha.
Alesha was found naked lying face down in woodland near an abandoned hotel on the Isle of Bute on July 2, hours after being reported missing from her grandparents' house.
The teen accused of murder, rape, child abduction and defeating the ends of justice denies all the charges against him at the High Court in Glasgow.
The court heard that Ms McLachlan, 18, learned on Monday that the teenager - who she admitted she used to sell drugs to - had blamed her for Alesha's murder.
Ms McLachlan said she had received a Facebook message at about 1.45am that she had missed a call from the accused. She tried to call him back around 6am because she thought it was 'strange'.
Alesha's father Robert MacPhail (left, today) and mother Georgina Lochrane (right, yesterday) outside Glasgow High Court
In a Facebook message exchange shown to the jury, Ms McLachlan asked the teen to 'keep an eye out for Rab's wee girl' - before the following exchange:
- Accused: 'Sorry doesn't matter '
- Toni McLachlan: 'Want to keep and eye out for Rab's wee girl x'
- Accused: 'Yh how what's happened?'
- Toni McLachlan: 'She's went missing...the police helicopter is out x'
- Accused: 'Am sure she's not gone too far x'
- Toni McLachlan: 'Hopefully x'
Ms McLachlan said that on the night Alesha disappeared, she got out of bed to go to the toilet before going into the room where Alesha was sleeping, and switching off the child's Peppa Pig DVD, the court heard.
MacPhail with his daughter Alesha - found dead last July hours after being reported missing
She cried in the witness box as she recalled seeing Alesha sleeping, and said she fully closed the bedroom door.
Ms McLachlan admitted she 'used to sell weed' to the accused but stopped at his mother's request.
When asked how long she had sold cannabis to him, Ms McLachlan said: 'Not for a while, we had stopped selling to him because his mum told us to stop.'
She told the court: 'I just couldn't believe it, but I didn't think anything bad had happened. I had lived in Rothesay all my life and thought it was a safe place.
Alesha's grandparents Calum MacPhail, 49, and Angela King, 47, pictured at court yesterday
'I thought she might've been in the garden. Me and Robert went out. We walked around the park pit Ardbeg where she liked to play, we checked back gardens and sheds.
'From there we went into the town and we spoke to people at the ferry terminal and the shops.'
She said 'a lot' of people helped with the search.
When asked by advocate depute Iain McSporran QC whether she had anything to do with the murder, she replied: 'No.'
Alesha's body was found in woodland on the Isle of Bute (file picture)
Ms McLachlan told the court she 'had a bad feeling' that the accused had phoned on the morning of Alesha's disappearance, and told a friend of her concerns.
Under cross-examination by defence brief Brian McConnachie, Ms McLachlan said she received messages all morning from people claiming the accused was responsible.
Ms McLachlan said: 'Yes, I did but I didn't think anything after he said he didn't think she would have gone far.'
She agreed that she told a friend, Lindsay Calderwood: 'I've got a bad feeling'.
Police forensic team team at a house on the Isle of Bute outside Rothesay last July
And she denied that she had been the victim of domestic abuse from Alesha's father Robert MacPhail, saying: 'He's never raised a hand or I've felt I'm in danger.'
Ms McLachlan said she did not tell police about the couple's drug dealing as she did not think it was relevant.
She admitted the couple bought an ounce of cannabis for £200 - using her college bursary money, Mr MacPhail's benefit money and money occasionally provided to the two by each of their parents for living costs.
Asked about supplying cannabis to the accused via his younger sister, Mr McConnachie said: 'Instead of supplying to him you supplied it to his wee sister, who is 14.'
A police cordon at Ardberg on the Isle of Bute during the investigation last July
Ms McLachlan replied: 'Yes.'
But she claimed she did not know the girl was 14. Ms McLachlan claimed she originally didn't suspect anything because they had not sold cannabis to the accused is months.
She said: 'We didn't normally give him weed or anything at that time in the morning.'
She cried in the witness box when cross-examination ended. The trial continues.
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