Man jailed for leaving Edinburgh schoolgirl Mhari O'Neill to die intoxicated on Calton Hill
A teenager who killed an underage schoolgirl after buying her drink and abandoning her at an Edinburgh beauty spot on a winter's night was jailed today.
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Ewan Fulton engaged in sexual acivity with Mhari O'Neill before leaving her in an intoxicated state on Calton Hill where her body was found by a dog walker.
Fulton, then aged 18, had met the 15-year-old through social media site Yubo – which he later described as being like "Tinder for teenagers".
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that even before he met Mhari on the fateful day he sent her a message which read: "It is freezing today should've worn my pimp coat". In a later message he wrote: "Ur gonna freeze to death OMG."
After she was found dead he told police that he had met Mhari online and was aware that she was 15-years-old.
He said he had bought a large bottle of vodka for them to share after he travelled to Edinburgh from Livingston to meet up with the Portobello High School pupil from Willowbrae.
Fulton said after some heavy petting and consuming the drink about 50/50 between them Mhari was "obviously drunk".
He told police: "It was like she had lost all motor skills, she was too drunk to do anything." He said she was so intoxicated she kept falling off a bench and could not walk.
He claimed he was starting to panic and knew he needed to get the last train home. He maintained that he told her several times he was leaving but did not get a response as she was "unable to speak".
The following day the shop worker sent her a text stating: "Are you alive?" He said he was "freaking out" because he had not heard from her and meant 'talk to me when you are alive'.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court that after his meeting with Mhari, Fulton had been in contact with a friend the following day.
He sent her a message claiming he he was "going to end it soon". In other messages he wrote: "I had no choice but to leave what was I supposed to do" and "I got her drunk she's 15".
He told another friend: "That girl has a family and if I had stayed she would be alive."
Mr Prentice said that pathologists had decided that on balance they considered that hypothermia, with intoxication, was the most probable mechanism of the Portobello High School pupil's death.
Fulton, now aged 20, admitted killing Mhari, who died on December 7 or 8 in 2018, when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh today.
He took part in sexual activity with the schoolgirl and bit her breasts and compressed her neck and culpably and recklessly endangered her health and life and exposed her to risk of injury and death.
He provided her with alcohol which resulted in her becoming intoxicated and incapable of looking after herself.
Fulton, of Eagle Brae, Livingston, in West Lothian, abandoned the girl "in a remote and exposed location" in a state of partial undress without means to contact anyone and failed to seek help for her.
The culpable homicide charge stated that he behaved with "utter disregard" for the consequences of his actions towards her.
First offender Fulton had originally faced a string of further charges allegedly committed before and after Mhari's death which included assaults and sexual assaults on other young women.
They included claims of seizing and compressing the alleged victims' throats and necks and biting. On one occasion he was said to have licked blood. His pleas of not guilty to those charges were accepted.
The court heard that a dog walker found Mhari just after 6am on December 8 in 2018 at Calton Hill who formed the view that she was "obviously dead".
Mr Prentice said: "She was lying face down, with her arms underneath her body and her nose in the mud. She was lying on top of a vodka bottle with a small amount of liquid still within."
The teenager was wearing only pants, tights, a bra, a bralet type top and one shoe. Her other shoe and ripped skirt were lying nearby.
Mr Prentice said: "In a proportion of individuals in whom hypothermia is thought to have played a role in death a phenomenon referred to as paradoxical undressing occurs where, for poorly understood reasons, individuals remove some or all of their clothing during the later stages of hypothermia."
"Whilst it is not possible to prove on purely pathological grounds, Mhari's relative state of undress could, in part, reflect this," said the prosecutor.
Fulton told police that it was freezing and he tried to put her fleece back on her but she was so drunk that he could not get her arms in the sleeves.
Mr Prentice told the court that victim impact statements from Mhari's parents showed she was "a much loved daughter".
He said that after meeting online Mhari and Fulton had messaged each other at length via the Yubo app before having conversations on snapchat and via text.
The prosecutor said: "They discussed meeting up to go drinking together and arranged to meet in Edinburgh on December 7 in 2018. Fulton agreed to buy Mhari alcohol and cigarettes at her request."
Mhari had asked her mother, Donna O'Neill, for permission to go to the city's Christmas market with a female friend. Her mother agreed and told her she had to be home between 8pm and 9pm.
During the evening her mother sent her text messages but did not get any reply.
Mr Prentice said that after she failed to return home at the agreed time her family began looking for her and contacted her friends before reporting her to police as a missing person at about midnight.
Defence counsel Shelagh McCall QC told the court that Fulton, who was on bail, was not seeking to have his bail continued following his guilty plea.
Judge Norman McFadyen deferred sentence on him for the preparation of a background report and remanded him in custody.
He told Fulton that Scottish Ministers would be informed of his conviction under legislation aimed at protecting children and vulnerable groups.
Following the hearing, Detective Inspector Susan Balfour from the Police Scotland Major Investigation Team said: “This has been a distressing time for Mhari’s family and our thoughts remain with them and her friends. We welcome the conviction of Ewan Fulton and hope it brings some comfort to Mhari’s loved ones.”