Police investigating the death of a six-year-old girl whose body was found in woodland on an island are urging anyone who helped in the search to contact them.
Alesha MacPhail, from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, was reported missing at 6.25am on Monday.
The body of a young girl was found in woodland on the site of a former hotel in Ardbeg Road by a member of the public at around 9am.
Formal identification is yet to take place but it is believed to be that of Alesha.
Police are treating the death as unexplained and have launched a major investigation.
The head teacher of Alesha’s primary has said the girl will be “greatly missed” by everyone at her school, in North Lanarkshire on the mainland.
Wendy Davie, the head of Chapelside Primary School in Airdrie, described the six-year-old as “considerate” and “popular”.
In a statement issued via the local authority, Ms Davie said: “Alesha started with us at Chapelside Primary 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.
“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.”
Many local people helped search for the missing child on Monday and police urged anyone who helped to speak to officers.
Speaking outside Dumbarton Police Station on Monday evening, Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, from Police Scotland’s major investigation teams, said: “A number of people through social media were alerted to this missing child and came to assist in the area.
“I would really like those that have not spoken to the police to come forward so we can establish who was in the area and they may have critical information of what has taken place.”
Police could not comment on how the child died or what happened to her, and said that a post-mortem examination will be carried out.
Extra officers including forensics specialists have been sent to the island to help with the investigation.
No-one is in custody in connection with the incident.
Houston said: “This death of a six-year-old child has shocked the tight-knit community of Rothesay and it is imperative that we find out what has happened.
“This investigation is at its very early stages, however I am appealing for information in order to piece together Alesha’s last-known movements.”
He added: “I must reiterate that this death is still being treated as unexplained at this time, however I would like to reassure the public that this type of incident is rare.
“I understand that there are real concerns in the community, however please be assured that a team of detectives are working on this investigation to ascertain the circumstances leading up to death of this young child. Specially-trained officers are supporting the family during this incredibly difficult time.”
High Road in Arbdeg, near Rothesay, was shut by a police cordon and a floral tribute had been laid near police accident signs.
A police car blocked the road and several other police vehicles could be seen in the area.
A separate cordon has been set up outside numbers 50-53 Ardbeg Road and police tape has also been set up at the seafront on the opposite side of the street.
Messages on the floral tributes laid outside the homes read “sleep tight little angel” and “forever in our thoughts”.
June McKenzie, who lives near Alesha’s grandmother on Ardbeg Road, was one of those searching for the youngster.
She said: “We were woken up at 7am and we were told she was missing, could we look for her.
“I looked in the garage and workshop and we saw that the search and rescue helicopter was out.
“I can’t believe it. Her poor parents and gran. It’s just appalling – somebody that young.
“The island’s just down and will be for some time. Everybody just sticks together.”
Superintendent Brian Gibson said: “I’d like to reassure the public that whilst they will be very concerned, additional officers will be in the area if anyone has any specific concerns, so please speak to them.”
Anyone with information is asked to call officers at the Major Investigations Teams via 101 quoting incident no 0695 of 2 July 2018.