WHEN Aaron Campbell told a pal he wanted to kill someone 'just for the experience', she dismissed it as a twisted, throwaway joke from a show-off teenager.
But just months later the 16-year-old would pluck sleeping six-year-old Alesha MacPhaill from her bed on the small island of Bute, before raping her, murdering her and mutilating her helpless body with more than a hundred sickening injuries.
The shocking crime – revisited in the Crime+Investigation documentary Kids Who Kill this Monday – devastated the sleepy small island community, where trusting neighbours habitually left front doors unlocked.
Alesha’s body was found with “catastrophic sexual injuries” in the woods behind a former hotel, 15 minutes’ walk from her grandparents’ seaside home on the idyllic Scottish isle, with a population of just 7,000.
YouTuber Campbell was convicted of her murder in March last year and jailed for life with a minimum of 27 years behind bars, later reduced to 24.
I would categorise him among the most dangerous killers ever born on this planet
Psychologist Emma Kenny, the programme’s resident expert, tells the Sun Online Campbell was a "once in a generation" killer.
"It's clear from the injuries that Alesha experienced that Campbell really enjoyed harming her," she says.
"To antagonise, sadistically harm, brutalise and to then murder and then to violate her – they’re things that are so far out of the realms of behaviour of any human that I would categorise him among the most dangerous killers ever born on this planet.”
Told pal he would kill 'for the experience'
Far from being the tormented loner that fits the stereotype of a potential killer, Aaron Campbell was a popular lad with a large group of friends and a strong following on social media.
He enjoyed sports, including trampolining and parkour, and frequently posted videos of himself performing stunts on YouTube.
His peers described him as “charming and funny”.
But he was obsessed with the online meme series Slender Man, which sees a tall faceless figure stalking and terrorising children.
In 2017, he unnerved a female friend by telling her he might kill one day, just for the "experience".
Former friends also revealed that, as well as killed and skinning cats, he had been accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl and showing off explicit pictures to his friends.
Kenny says that the cruelty to animals might have acted as a "red flag", indicating a psychopathic tendency that could lead to murder.
"A lack of compassion towards animals is one of the red flags in potential killers," she says.
"They might be interested in setting things on fire, or be nasty to their peers or have particular sexual interests and predilections very early on.
"With most killers there will have been some signs that don't fit in to the normal trajectory. But you can meet young people who've done quite a few of those things who don't then become problematic."
Silently stolen in the night
On the night of July 2, 2018, Aaron Campbell had been celebrating the end of his exams with friends, at home, until the early hours of the morning.
When they left he decided to walk the 10 minutes to the Rothesay home that 26-year-old Robert 'Rab' MacPhail shared with his parents and teenage girlfriend, Toni McLachlan, who had allegedly sold Campbell drugs in the past.
Intending to steal cannabis and some money, he was armed with a knife when he walked calmly in through the unlocked front door and opened to the door of the first bedroom.
Finding six-year-old Alesha, sleeping peacefully in her bed, his plans changed and he later admitted that once he had seen her, “all I thought about was killing her.”
He silently picked up the sleeping child, walked out of the house and along the seafront.
During the 15-minute walk Alesha woke up and sleepily asked what was happening.
Aaron told her he was a friend of her dad’s and was “taking her home.”
He wanted to fulfil an ambition to desecrate a very innocent little girl and took great pleasure in doing so.
The little girl, barefoot and in her pyjamas, complained she was cold and Aaron wrapped his jumper around her in an act of kindness designed to gain her trust.
“I think that Campbell knew he was going to get caught,” says Kenny. “I don't think that bothered him.
“He wanted to fulfil an ambition to desecrate a very innocent little girl and took great pleasure in doing so.
“That's highly unusual, and probably the most scary thing – because it’s so far removed from normal human behaviour it’s almost impossible to comprehend."
117 sickening injuries
At 6.30am the following morning, Rab MacPhail’s mum Angela King discovered her granddaughter’s empty bed and woke the household in a panic.
The family called the police and a local helicopter was scrambled to look for her.
Members of the local community, including Campbell's mum Janette, responded to a desperate plea on Facebook and were soon combing the area.
Toni even received a chilling message from Campbell, saying, “I'm sure she's not gone far.”
He also liked a Facebook group message, replying to a friend with "She'll turn up."
Tragically, Alesha’s mother Georgina Lochrane, who lived in Airdrie, on the mainland, only discovered her daughter was missing when she read the social media pleas for help.
She replied: “That’s my daughter. Please tell me what’s happened.”
At 9am, just a few hours after she disappeared, Alesha’s body was found in the hotel’s ground.
A post-mortem revealed that there were 117 injuries on Alesha’s body, some of which had been inflicted whilst she was alive.
She had been raped, smothered, and then mutilated.
Bizarre condom alibi
Police began to look to the tight knit community, shaken by the brutal murder, to find a suspect.
It was Campbell’s mum, Janette, who led police to his door – after she watched CCTV footage at her own home, and saw her son coming and going from the house several times between 2am and 4.30am on the night of the murder.
Believing him to be innocent, she volunteered the video as a way of clearing his name – but instead he was arrested and questioned.
He knew he had done it and it was a matter of time, but it didn't matter. What mattered more was him still having centre stage
When the DNA found on Alesha's body proved a match, he tried to pin the crime on Toni McLachlan, claiming he had a sexual relationship with her.
In a bizarre twist he alleged Toni had sex with him in a garage and kept the condom before murdering Alesha and using its contents to implicate him.
“After killing Alesha he wanted the family to go through even more of the horror and the harrowing experience by placing the blame on Toni,” says Kenny.
“He knew he had done it and it was a matter of time, but it didn't matter. What mattered more was him still having centre stage.”
Killer had to 'zip his mouth not to laugh'
In court, Alesha’s traumatised parents had to leave the room several times as the details of her horrific ordeal were revealed, but Campbell displayed no emotion, sitting stock still and staring ahead.
He later told a psychologist he found it “mildly amusing” and had to “zip my mouth shut” to stop himself from laughing.
Even after the jury rejected his ludicrous story and he was jailed for life at Glasgow High Court, he put the family through further pain by winning an appeal to reduce his sentence, from 27 to 24 years, meaning he can apply for parole when he is 40.
“Disgusted” Georgina, who says she “struggles every day” since her daughter’s death, said “A life sentence should be a life sentence. He should have no human rights and doesn’t deserve anything because he is inhuman."
'Satisfied' with murder
The cold-hearted killer finally confessed his evil crime in interviews with a psychologist after his conviction, saying he was “quite satisfied with the murder" and revealing he still fantasised about killing and having sex with children.
In various reports, he claimed that he came from a dysfunctional family with a mum who was abusive when drunk – but local reporter Katie Glass told the programme his accounts were hard to believe.
He's one of those pivotal characters, like Moors murderer Ian Brady who is very rare
“He was a very manipulative young man. And so, it's hard to know if any of that can be taken at face value,” she says.
“I went and met neighbours who spoke very kindly about the family, about both the mother and father. I met Janette and she seemed to me a very kind, straightforward woman.”
Kenny says there was some "attachment issues" in the family, with his dad working on the oil rigs.
"He was obviously involved in gateway drugs, things like cannabis, but nothing that stands out as being, completely untypical for a child. What makes it horrific is that he really enjoyed what he did to that poor little girl."
To Kenny, his horrific crime puts him in a “once in a generation” category.
“He's one of those pivotal characters, like Moors murderer Ian Brady who is very rare,”she says.
“He stands out because he went for the most innocent type of victim, a little girl, and secondly, he did it in a way that was really sadistic. He seemed to take his time.
"That's so far away from the typical human response to a child in pain.
“The gratuitous violence and rage involved in those moments for that little child, that innocent defenceless child, is incomprehensible.
"The end that she met was something so far outside of what she deserved that it's hard to even imagine."
Kids Who Kill airs on Mondays, from March 23, on Crime+Investigation
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