Police have tonight launched a murder investigation after missing schoolgirl Alesha MacPhail was found dead.
The six-year-old was reported missing from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute at 6.25am on Monday.
Her body was found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road by a member of the public at about 9am.
Following a post mortem which was completed at about 11pm, police confirmed that the death is being treated as murder.
Forensics officers have been conducting inquiries at several locations in Rothesay, and officers are continuing to carry out door to door checks while gathering any private or public CCTV footage for review.
Investigators are particularly keen to hear from anyone who was involved in searching for Alesha on Monday morning.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, said: “The body recovered in woodland in Ardbeg Road can be confirmed as that of Alesha MacPhail, who was reported missing around 6.25am on Monday.
“The investigation into her death is now being treated as murder.
“Alesha’s family is utterly devastated and we are continuing to provide them with the support they require at this incredibly distressing time.
“Alesha had lots of friends who will no doubt find it very difficult to comprehend why they will never see their friend again.
“Like any other six-year-old, Alesha was looking forward to enjoying her holidays from primary school and was only a few days into a three week summer break visiting relatives on the island.”
He added: “I would continue to appeal to those who took part in the search for Alesha when she was reported missing.
“Those individuals may have critical information which could assist with our inquiries.
“For such a young girl to have her life taken away is incomprehensible.
“Again, I would like to reiterate that I am particularly interested in speaking to anyone who was involved in the search for Alesha.
“What did they see? Where did they search? Please let us know.
“You may think that the information you hold is insignificant, however, please contact us and let us be the judge of that.
“Did you see anyone acting suspiciously in the vicinity of Ardbeg Road, where she was staying on Sunday evening, into the early hours of Monday morning or where her body was found? Please get in touch.
“Any information, however small, may help this investigation. I would urge anyone with information to contact the police as soon as possible. It is imperative that we find who is responsible for Alesha’s murder.”
Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, Divisional Commander of Argyll and West Dunbartonshire said: “Every available resource from across Police Scotland is being made available to this major investigation. Our absolute priority is catching the person responsible for this horrendous act as quickly as possible.
“I understand that there will be a high level of concern among people living in this close knit community but I want to reassure people that everything possible is being done.
“Incidents such as this are extremely rare but we are still in the early stages of this investigation and we would ask people to be vigilant about their children and also their household security.
“The island community needs to pull together at times like this and we need their help – anyone with any information, please come forward. We are working with a number of partner agencies during this inquiry including local authorities and health boards.
“Additional police officers and other resources have travelled to the island and high visibility patrols have been stepped up, with these additional officers patrolling 24 hours a day. If anyone has any concerns, or has any information, they can approach these officers. We also have an incident caravan situated on the island which is staffed 24 hours.”
People can phone the dedicated incident room at Rothesay Police Office via 101, quoting incident number 0695 of Monday 2 July.
Alternatively, please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be passed in confidence.