Police on the Isle of Bute have confirmed schoolgirl Alesha MacPhail was murdered.
Detectives said the investigation had become a murder inquiry after seeing the results of a post-mortem examination on the six-year-old.
Alesha’s body was found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road on Monday morning.
She had been staying at her grandmother’s house but was reported missing at about 0625.
Det Supt Stuart Houston, from Police Scotland’s major investigation team, said Alesha’s family is utterly devastated by what has happened and the news that we’ve had to give them this evening.
She 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.
For such a young girl to have her life taken away is incomprehensible.
He appealed for anyone involved in the search to come forward.
I am still keen to speak to people who were involved in the search that was conducted just after 6am on Monday, he said.
I’m keen to find out who was there that has not engaged with the police yet, what areas they maybe searched and anything they may have seen or heard at the time.
I am also now really keen to speak to anyone who was in the area of Ardbeg Road from late on the Sunday evening, into the early hours of Monday morning.
Det Supt Houston said he wanted to hear from anyone who had seen or heard anything unusual at that time.
He said police were exploring a number of lines of inquiry and were now trying to piece together the timeline between Alesha going missing and her body being discovered.
He urged people to come forward with information, no matter how insignificant they may consider it to be.
It is imperative that we find who is responsible for Alesha’s murder, he said.
Referring to rumours that Alesha sleepwalked, Det Supt Houston said police were looking at all possibilities.
He would not reveal the cause of death.
Ch Supt Hazel Hendren, the local police commander for Argyll and Bute, said officers would be on patrol in the area all day and night.
Every available resource from across Police Scotland is being made available to this major investigation, she said. 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.
She added It’s very important that people are vigilant. I would also ask the community and holidaymakers to look out for each other and please look out for your families and the security and safety of your homes.
Anything that is worrying or concerning please address the officers.
Earlier, the head teacher of the primary school attended by Alesha had described her as a happy, smiley girl who would be greatly missed.
In a statement released through North Lanarkshire Council, Wendy Davie, said Alesha started with us in August 2016 and had just finished Primary 2.
She loved being at school and enjoyed all aspects of literacy, in particular writing. She was such a perfectionist in her handwriting and was very proud of her work.
The head teacher added Alesha was very friendly and she welcomed everyone first thing in the morning at breakfast club. She was a very considerate child who loved being part of a group and she was popular with all the other children and was a smiley and happy young girl.
She was part of the family of Chapelside Primary and she will be greatly missed by everyone at the school. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and Chapelside Primary community at this very sad time.
The primary school is in Airdrie where Alesha’s mother is understood to live.
Tariq Ali is the shopkeeper at Lifestyle Express in Chapel Street next to the school.
He heard the news on Monday but did not realise it was the little girl he knew. He told the BBC It is very tragic, very sad. She would come in most mornings into the shop to buy snacks for playtime with her mum, sometimes with her dad.
She was a lovely wee girl, they are a very nice family. I’m just speechless to hear it was actually her.
She was a confident wee girl. She would know what she wanted, she would pick her snacks herself – just a happy normal six-year-old child. It’s just a shame.
Mr Ali said one of his customers had pointed out to him that it was the girl he knew who went to the school next door.
He said We are all in shock. Obviously they had friends and family here as well so it has had an impact on the community.
I can’t imagine what the family is going through.
It is thought the six-year-old had been staying on Bute with her father and grandparents.
Her grandmother Angela King posted an appeal on social media on Monday morning asking people to help search for her.
On Tuesday, a large police presence remained on the Scottish island, with local officers reinforced by colleagues from the mainland.
Forensic experts have been examining the area, while detectives carry out door-to-door inquiries and speak to people travelling on and off the island.
High Road in Ardbeg, near Rothesay, was shut by a police cordon and a floral tribute had been laid near police accident signs.
A separate cordon was set up outside houses on Ardbeg Road and police tape set up at the seafront on the opposite side of the street.
Messages on floral tributes laid outside the homes read sleep tight little angel and forever in our thoughts.
The death was said to have impacted all those living in the tight-knit community.
The Rev Owain Jones is parish minister at the United Church of Bute.
He said I think my personal reaction is just the same as everybody else’s – I am stunned.
And I am lost for words and this is not something we are used to in our community. Whatever it is, it’s just tragic.
Councillor Len Scoullar said Everyone is very shocked, very sympathetic and concerned.
We will all be offering our very sincere condolences to the family.
We are a very small island community, people are genuinely grieving for the family.
News Source BBCNews