Born evil: How Alesha MacPhail’s twisted killer – who bears an uncanny resemblance to fellow Scot Ian Brady – developed a fascination with the occult and violenceAaron Campbell, 16, received anonymity over the murder of Alesha MacPhail, sixThe teenager raped and murdered the girl on the Scottish island of Bute last yearCampbell could not previously…
Born evil: How Alesha MacPhail’s twisted killer – who bears an uncanny resemblance to fellow Scot Ian Brady – developed a fascination with the occult and violence
- Aaron Campbell, 16, received anonymity over the murder of Alesha MacPhail, six
- The teenager raped and murdered the girl on the Scottish island of Bute last year
- Campbell could not previously be identified because he is under the age of 18
- The sick killer was found guilty of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl
A jury had just pronounced him guilty of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl so brutally that a police officer who worked on the case broke down and wept while giving evidence, and a seasoned pathologist said he had never encountered such ‘catastrophic’ injuries in his entire career.
Yet on Thursday as the schoolboy from the scenic island of Bute rose to be addressed for crimes described by judge Lord Matthews as ‘some of the most evil and wicked’ in the long, grim history of Glasgow High Court, he looked so nonchalant that he might have been being ticked off by his form-master for failing to hand in his homework.
Aaron Campbell might only be 16 years old but he didn’t flinch or lower his gaze.
Left, Aaron Campbell and right, Ian Brady. Campbell bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Ian Brady, when the Glasgow-born Moors Murderer was of a similar age
There wasn’t even the merest hint of a blush to his milky, unshaven cheeks as the judge described how he had stolen ‘sweet, angelic’ Alesha MacPhail from her bed at dead of night, then carried her to a nearby woods to be defiled and smothered; an act of such calculated sadism that he might never be freed from prison.
Under Scottish law, no one convicted of a criminal offence under the age of 18 can ordinarily be identified.
Yesterday, however, the Scottish Daily Mail petitioned Lord Matthews to lift the ban and the judge decided this case was of such exceptional gravity that the public should know his identity. ‘I cannot think of a crime in recent times that attracted such revulsion,’ he said.
Indeed not, but having observed this chillingly youthful psychopath during the nine-day trial, and investigated his background, another young Scotsman comes readily to mind.
Campbell had received anonymity due to his age, over the murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail. He claimed he had secretly been having casual sex with the girlfriend of Alesha’s father for many months
With his pallid complexion, fathomless eyes, combed-over black quiff, slender build, and penchant for dressing smartly, in a tartan suit and tie, Campbell bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Ian Brady, when the Glasgow-born Moors Murderer was of a similar age.
Alesha MacPhail, six, is pictured above. A seasoned pathologist said he had never encountered such ‘catastrophic’ injuries in his entire career
They share many of the same personality traits, too. Campbell’s arrogance and narcissism, and his ability to concoct the most heinous lies and use them to his advantage, with utter disregard for the damage they will cause, are classic Brady. In attempting to cheat justice, Campbell claimed he had secretly been having casual sex with the girlfriend of Alesha’s father for many months.
On that hot summer’s night on the Isle of Bute in July last year, it was she, not he, who had killed the little girl, he maintained, suggesting she must have tainted Alesha’s body with DNA from a condom in an attempt to frame him.
Then there are their backgrounds. Just like Brady, there are indications that Campbell was deeply disturbed at an early age, with a penchant for inflicting cruelty became evident during his boyhood, when neighbours on the Isle of Bute discovered to their horror that he had stolen cats and skinned them alive before burying them in the garden.
According to one well-placed source, her killer Aaron Campbell developed a particular fascination for a sinister internet character called ‘Slender Man’
There are claims that he regularly carried a knife and a confrontational element developed in his stare. He would hold his gaze far longer than many considered polite, making them highly uncomfortable.
One local in his home town of Rothesay said: ‘He would always sit at the front of the bus and eyeball the whole bus. He would be looking at people’s shoes, what they were wearing, taking everything in. If you caught his eye, he would stare right back and hold your gaze.’
Indeed, some noticed that he did so even in court while standing trial for murder.
Back in the Fifties when Brady was growing up there wasn’t an internet to corrupt receptive young minds with violent videos and ‘games’. Campbell’s fascination with this sickening form of entertainment began when he was still an adolescent, and would shut himself in his bedroom with his computer after school.
Campbell is pictured in a YouTube video vlog. His mounting excitement, as he played and watched these terrifying videos are chilling
‘Hi guys, it’s Spicy here,’ he says, in an affected Scottish brogue, when introducing himself to his 50 followers. If we didn’t know what sort of young man he would become, it might almost be amusing
According to one well-placed source, he developed a particular fascination for a sinister internet character called ‘Slender Man’, about whom a Hollywood film was made.
In one film sequence, this faceless, spidery-limbed monster stalks little children and drags them off into the woodland. We can but wonder whether Campbell, who carried little Alesha — just 3ft 9ins and 3st — along the shoreline on the Isle of Bute before attacking her in the woods, set out to emulate the Slender Man
After all, this appalling creation has apparently turned other young minds. In America, in 2004, two 12-year-olds cited watching videos of this warped internet creation as their motivation for horrifically stabbing a schoolgirl.
Campbell also played other notoriously violent games, such as Fortitude, Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty, and regularly posted self-indulgent videos of himself on YouTube from 12 years old, using the menacing sign-on Poison3dApp13.
Alesha’s father Mr MacPhail with his daughter. That Mr MacPhail will have to live with the knowledge that he served as a drug dealer to his daughter’s killer is one of the many tragedies of this case
His mounting excitement, as he played and watched these terrifying videos are chilling. Commenting on a creepy film of some faceless person unlocking a blood-streaked door, for example, he can be heard to exclaim the words ‘stab’ and ‘shank’.
He was then still in the first year at secondary school.
Campbell also developed a fascination for the occult and voodoo which perhaps explains the animals he tortured and buried.
Aligned to all this was his pathetic craving to be noticed. One YouTube video he posted shows him shirtless, performing somersaults to a rock music backing track on the trampolines in his back garden.
‘Hi guys, it’s Spicy here,’ he says, in an affected Scottish brogue, when introducing himself to his 50 followers. If we didn’t know what sort of young man he would become, it might almost be amusing. But this narcissistic streak has led some members of Ayesha’s family to the belief that he is enjoying his notoriety.
Among those who remember him on Bute, Campbell’s sadistic streak is said to have emerged when he was six or seven, and tried to drown a little girl of similar age at the local leisure centre, holding her head beneath the water so long that she emerged gasping for breath.
Her mother, who had been looking after him, apparently reported the incident to his mother, Janette Campbell, but it seems nothing was done.
Set against the backdrop of Bute, a natural playground for an adventurous teenager, he seems to have enjoyed every advantage. By his early teens, however, there was clearly something very wrong with this outwardly confident, and — for a backwater such as Bute — relatively sophisticated young man
In court, Janette Campbell, 54, whose husband Christopher works for long periods on overseas oil-rigs, cut an inadequate and rather pathetic figure.
Several references were made to her heavy drinking, and a CCTV video — installed for the benefit of his late grandmother, who was then living with them on Bute and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease — showed mother and son engaging in an explosive, four-letter row shortly before he murdered Alesha.
Furious his friends had broken furniture during a weekend party at their house, and that he had allowed his younger sister to walk into the nearest town, Rothesay, for a late-night takeaway, Mrs Campbell was seen to storm into his bedroom to admonish him.
From his aggressively shouted response — “Shut the f*** up!” — it was patently clear he was beyond parental control. Islanders portray her as a well-meaning, but doting and inadequate mother.
Superficially, however, Campbell appeared to have had an advantageous start in life.
Born in May, 2002, he spent his earliest years in Shrewsbury, Shropshire but his family moved to Bute when he was five. Apparently oblivious to the irony, Mrs Campbell — bleary-eyed and careworn when I spoke to her at their home last weekend — told me they had done so to afford her son a secure upbringing and a good education.
A police cordon at Ardberg on the Isle of Bute during the investigation last July. During the nine-day trial, it became clear from the evidence of his friends that Campbell used such forums as Snapchat to bolster his image and try to impress
‘I brought Aaron to live here because I wanted him to live in a safe place, a peaceful environment,’ she said, speaking proudly about his prowess at school — ‘he was especially good at maths’ — and his ambition to become an engineer.
Aggrieved that he had been in solitary confinement for months while on remand, for his own protection, Mrs Campbell was still protesting his innocence, even at that stage when the evidence against him seemed, to everyone watching, unassailable. ‘He wasn’t a violent boy,’ she told me. ‘He was very normal.’
Normal is not the word others would use. The mother of a fellow pupil at Rothesay Academy, where he had just completed his fifth year exams, says her son thought him ‘weird’. Others used more pejorative words.
Another parent claimed Campbell videoed himself abusing a teenage girl, and brazenly showed the footage to his friends.
Quite why he would have done this when he was popular among the girls in his peer-group, and considered as something of a catch, is anyone’s guess.
When he was 14, by his own account in court, he began a relationship with a striking, flaxen-haired Highland dancing champion; one of the prettiest young girls on the island. Though they occasionally broke off, it lasted a year in all.
And at the time of the murder, he was ‘talking to’ another attractive, personable girl in his year group with a view to starting a steady relationship.
Unlike many of his friends, who lived on the unprepossessing estate above Rothesay, Campbell was brought up in a fine Victorian house, on the coastal road out of the town, with stunning views of the firth and the hills beyond. As it had extensive grounds, with trampolines and a gazebo, his friends would congregate there.
He was strong and sporty, too. He had installed a punch-bag in his house, strove to strengthen his wiry frame with weight lifting sessions, and got an adrenalin rush from daredevil stunts such as jumping into the firth from rocks and piers and scaling seemingly impossible trees and buildings.
Set against the backdrop of Bute, a natural playground for an adventurous teenager, he seems to have enjoyed every advantage. By his early teens, however, there was clearly something very wrong with this outwardly confident, and — for a backwater such as Bute — relatively sophisticated young man.
Though his mother assured me he was not a regular drug-user, he began smoking cannabis, developing a liking for a super-strength strain which he and his friends called ‘pollen’.
He also began drinking heavily, and on the night he took Alesha had mixed a bottle of Echo Falls wine with a fruity wine popular among teenagers called Mad Dog 20/20.
The trial heard that he sometimes bought cannabis from Alesha’s father, Rab MacPhail, who lived just along the road. That Mr MacPhail will have to live with the knowledge that he served as a drug dealer to his daughter’s killer is one of the many tragedies of this case.
Of course, we cannot know how smoking cannabis at a formative stage of his development affected Campbell’s state of mind.
However, from the sort of sick computer games he played, we can hazard a good guess the internet played some part in this horrific case.
During the nine-day trial, it became clear from the evidence of his friends that Campbell used such forums as Snapchat to bolster his image and try to impress.
A 16-year-old female school friend shocked the courtroom with the admission that they had spent months exchanging Snapchat messages about committing ‘the perfect murder’. Campbell boasted he would be able to get away with it, given the right ‘plan’.
To the girl, who admitted to sharing his ‘dark sense of humour’, it was all just a joke.
Yet to Aaron Campbell — who boasted with breath-taking insouciance during these chats that he might kill ‘for the lifetime experience’ — it must have been thrillingly serious.
We can only wonder what further atrocities he would have committed, if his mother — in an attempt to clear his name, she said — had not drawn the police’s attention to CCTV footage showing his furtive comings and goings from the house in the small hours, when Alesha was taken.
Yesterday, however, this plausible-looking young man — who will be sentenced next month — was described by a source close to the case as ‘a serial killer on his first murder’. In other words, another Ian Brady in the making.
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