Murder accused’s phone used to google ‘how do police find DNA’, court hears

A phone belonging to a teenager accused of the abduction, rape and murder of a six-year-old girl was used to google “how do police find DNA”, a court has heard.

The Alesha MacPhail murder trial also heard evidence that fibres from clothes recovered from the shoreline of Ardbeg, Isle of Bute, were “indistinguishable” from those discovered on her vest, shorts and pants, found near her body.

The schoolgirl was found dead in woodland on the island on July 2, having arrived to spend part of the summer holidays at the home her father, his partner and grandparents shared.

A 16-year-old boy has lodged a special defence of incrimination, blaming Toni McLachlan – the girlfriend of Alesha’s father Robert MacPhail – for the killing.

Cyber crime team leader Peter Benson told the High Court in Glasgow he helped compile relevant information following a forensic investigation of the accused’s phone.

From the device’s internet history, two items were deemed relevant for inclusion including the Google search “how do police find DNA” at 12.32am on July 3, the day after Alesha’s body was found.

Mr Benson said this would be “something you type in”.

A minute later the internet history shows a page on collecting DNA evidence, which Mr Benson said indicates “the person using the phone has gone to one of the hits”.

The former policeman was also questioned about any communication on Instagram between the accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and the person who the teenager blames for Alesha’s death.

Advocate Depute Iain McSporran QC asked Mr Benson if there was Instagram communication between the accused and Ms McLachlan.

He replied: “I can say there was no indication of that at all.”

Brian McConnachie QC, for the accused, questioned this and Mr Benson said: “There’s no Instagram communication on the phone between them. What’s on the internet, I can’t help you with.”

He said he was unable to access Instagram messages which were online.

Giving evidence earlier in the trial, Ms McLachlan refuted suggestions from Mr McConnachie that she and the accused 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.

Forensic scientist Sarah Jones also gave evidence on the sixth day of the trial.

She said her studies showed a total of 69 black and grey fibres from jogging trousers and boxers recovered from the shoreline at Ardbeg were “indistinguishable” from those found on Alesha’s vest, shorts and pants.

She said this was “strong evidence” these black and grey fibres were from the clothes recovered from the shoreline, earlier said by the accused’s mother to “look like” his.

The scientist told the court the number of fibres found were “extremely indicative of direct physical contact” between the jogging trousers and Alesha’s clothes.

She said she could not entirely exclude the possibility the fibres being passed from a third party, though this would have to have taken place within three hours of initial transfer.

Ms Jones said no fibres from a black hooded top recovered from an evidence bag in the bin outside Rothesay police station matched Alesha’s clothes.

Questioned if she would have expected transfer from a person wearing this top to someone in direct contact with it, such as a child being carried, she replied: “Yes, I would.”

“The absence of a transfer would point to me that the vest had not been in contact with that hooded top,” she added.

The court heard earlier the accused’s mother believed the top was “similar” to her son’s and a police officer said he recovered it from the shoreline after it was found by a dog walker but threw it out as he thought it was not relevant to the inquiry.

Detective Constable Ian Wilson also gave evidence on Monday and said the accused gave a “no comment” response during a police interview after being arrested on July 4 and on being charged with Alesha’s murder.

The detective said this was not unusual and was within the teenager’s rights.

The teenager denies abducting, raping and murdering Alesha, and attempting to hide evidence.

The trial, before judge Lord Matthews, continues on Tuesday.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) John Linton / PA Wire.