Mum turned detective and found out the killer was her own son

The murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail devastated a community

In July 2018, six-year-old Alesha MacPhail was snatched from her bed. The tight-knit community, just 7,000-strong, on the Isle of Bute were shell-shocked. How could a killer be among them? Then Janette Campbell checked her home CCTV to see if it had picked up anything.

Compiled by Russell Bell

Janette Campbell was having problems with her son.

She knew 16-year-old Aaron was smoking cannabis, drinking heavily and playing violent video games.

She also knew he had an unhealthy obsession with the character Slender Man, a fictional child abductor. 

But with her husband Christopher, an oil industry worker overseas for long periods of time, Janette felt powerless to take action by herself.

Instead, she kept quiet, hoping it was a phase her son would grow out of.  

And so, when Aaron asked if he could host a party for 15 of his friends at their home on July 1, 2018, she simply gave in. 

That night, Aaron smoked marijuana and downed wine. 

After arguing with him about the drinking and the noise, Janette went to bed, leaving her son to it. 

The next day, she woke to terrible news. 

A six-year-old girl who’d been on a three-week summer break at the nearby home of her father and grandparents, had gone missing from her bed in the middle of the night.

Alesha was just six years old

According to her grandmother, Angela King, Alesha MacPhail had fallen asleep around 10.30pm while watching Peppa Pig.

But when her grandfather, Callum MacPhail, got up for work at 6am, he realised she was no longer in her room.

It was a tight-knit community on the island where they lived and residents banded together to search for
smiley Alesha. 

It didn’t take one long to discover her lifeless body in the grounds of a hotel, close to her grandparents’ home, less than three hours after she was reported missing.

She was naked – her pink polka-dot pyjamas lying a short distance away.

The little girl had suffered 117 separate injuries, some of which were described as ‘catastrophic’.

A post-mortem revealed she’d been raped and her cause of death was ‘significant and forceful pressure to the face and neck’.

Janette heard the news from a neighbour and was in shock. 

Who, in their peaceful town, where many didn’t even feel the need to lock their doors, could be a killer?

Shaken, she decided to check the CCTV footage from the camera outside her home.

The camera had initially been installed because her elderly mother had Alzheimer’s and was known to wander off.

But maybe now it could help solve a murder…

Tributes were left outside Alesha’s grandparents’ home (Credit: Getty)
Alesha was abducted from her bed (Credit: Getty)

Winding the tape back, Janette got to 1.57am. 

The footage was grainy, but there was no mistaking it.

Her son Aaron could be seen leaving the house.   

The footage showed him returning again at 3.35am.

Ten minutes later, in just a pair of shorts, with a torch in his hand, he left the house for a second time, returning at 4.07am.

‘My heart dropped a bit when I saw that,’ Janette told the Scottish Sun. ‘I thought, Where is he going?’

Janette gave the CCTV footage to the police, in the hope that Aaron could be a helpful witness. She didn’t think for one second her own son had anything to do with the wicked crime.

But police felt differently and arrested Aaron.

Aaron Campbell’s police mugshot
Alesha’s mother Georgina at Alesha’s funeral (Credit: Getty)

They took a sample of his DNA. It was a match with the DNA they’d found on Alesha’s clothes and body.

On his phone, they also found a google search, How do police find DNA?

Aaron Thomas Campbell was charged with Alesha’s abduction, rape and murder.

In court, he pleaded not guilty and his trial began in February 2019.

He admitted that he knew Alesha’s father, Robert ‘Rab’ MacPhail, 26, and his girlfriend, Toni McLachlan, 18, saying he’d bought cannabis from them.

But he swore he’d never met Alesha. Instead, he pointed the finger at Toni.

He claimed he’d had sex with her when he’d gone to the house and said she must have planted his DNA.

Nobody was buying it.

After a nine-day trial, the jury took just three hours to unanimously find Aaron Campbell guilty of murder.

He could not be identified during the trial due to his age, but judge Lord Matthews lifted the ban due to the severity of the crime.

At the sentencing, Alesha’s family sobbed as they heard the teen had since confessed to the crime during an interview with a psychologist.

The court was told that Campbell said he’d been entertaining the thought of ‘doing something extreme’.

Alesha’s father Robert and his partner Toni at court (Credit: Getty)
Georgina Lochrane, Alesha’s mother, attending Campbell’s sentencing (Credit: Getty)

When he went to the MacPhail family’s flat hoping to buy cannabis, he’d spotted Alesha sleeping and saw it as ‘a moment of opportunity’.

He’d taken her from her bed using a knife to silence her, carried her to the disused hotel grounds, raped, beat and smothered her.

He’d even said he felt ‘satisfied with the murder’ and during the trial had to stop himself from laughing.

Judge Matthews said the reports presented Campbell as a ‘cold, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual…completely lacking in victim empathy’.

Campbell was jailed for life with a minimum of 24 years.

Alesha’s mum, Georgina Lochrane, has said she wants to visit Campbell in prison.

‘I just want to know, why her?’ she said. ‘Why Alesha?’

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