Mhari O'Neill: Ewan Fulton jailed for 38 months over schoolgirl's Calton Hill death
A man was jailed for 38 months today after buying an underage schoolgirl drink and leaving her to die at a city beauty spot on a winter night.
Ewan Fulton, then aged 18, left Mhari O'Neill in an intoxicated state at Edinburgh's Calton Hill where her body was later found by a dog walker.
Fulton had met the 15-year-old from Willowbrae on the social media app Yubo, which he later described as being like "Tinder for teenagers", before they met up in the city and he bought a litre of vodka.
He later told police that he left her to get a train home to Livingston but said she was "unable to speak" and he propped her up against a bench.
He earlier admitted at the High Court in Edinburgh killing the girl on December 7 in 2018 after culpably and recklessly endangering her health and life and exposing her to risk of injury and death.
He provided her with alcohol resulting in her becoming intoxicated and incapable of looking after herself and abandoned her "in a remote and exposed location in a state of partial undress" without the means to summon assistance, the culpable homicide charge stated.
Fulton, formerly of Eagle Brae, Livingston, was accused of behaving with an "utter disregard for the consequences" of his actions towards her and failing to get help for her.
During his time with her he engaged in sexual activity with the under age child and bit her breast and compressed her neck.
A judge told Fulton: "You were not prepared to take any responsibility for getting help for Mhari at a time when she was at her most vulnerable."
Judge Norman McFadyen told the first offender that he considered that a custodial sentence was the only appropriate sentence and said he would have ordered his detention for four years but for his guilty plea.
The judge said Fulton could have stayed with her and sought help even by an anonymous call. He added: "But you essentially did nothing for her. You panicked and left her."
He told Fulton that Mhari's mother had said their lives will never be the same without her.
Mhari had told her mother that she was planning to visit the city's Christmas market before meeting Fulton at Waverley train station.
In the lead up to the meeting he had messaged her saying: "It is freezing today should've worn my pimp coat."
She replied: "DW I'll freeze with you." He responded: "Ur gonna freeze to death. OMG."
They were later seen on Calton Hill that night by a homeless man, Lee McLaughlin, who noticed that Mhari was slouched forward and her speech was slurred.
Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC said: "He described the evening as cold and stated he was surprised that the female had no jacket on and felt she may be at risk of hypothermia. He stated that she appeared drowsy."
Fulton arrived back at the city's main railway station alone shortly before 11pm and did not appear to be unsteady on his feet in CCTV footage, said the advocate depute.
Mhari's mother, Donna O'Neill had made several attempts to contact her daughter but failed to receive a reply. After she failed to return home at an agreed time her family began looking for. She was reported missing at about midnight.
A dog walker found the Portobello High School pupil lying face down shortly after 6am the following day in front of a park bench. She was lying on top of a vodka bottle which still had a small amount of liquid in it. Her mobile phone was lying nearby with its screen completely smashed.
Fulton went to work at a shop in Edinburgh that day but later asked to go home, claiming that he felt sick. He sent Mhari a message asking: "Are you alive?"
He was traced by police as a recent contact of Mhari's and said he had drunk vodka with her at Calton Hill.
Mr Prentice told the High Court in Edinburgh: "He told the police officers that he had left her extremely drunk at Calton Hill before getting the last train home."
He said they took part in "heavy petting" but after they drank almost all of the large bottle of vodka the affection stopped.
Fulton told a friend: "That girl has a family and if I had stayed she would be alive." He told another friend that he had "no choice but to leave", but added: "I got her drunk she's 15."
Mr Prentice said that pathologists involved in the case considered that on balance hypothermia, with intoxication playing a role, was the most probable cause of death.
The advocate depute 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 during which, 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," he said.
Defence counsel Shelagh McCall said the author of a background report prepared on Fulton had concluded that the offence was "a one off".
She said: "He is a young man who has made a bad decision with catastrophic consequences to make his way to the station."
"Clearly he was aware of her significant intoxication and incapacity as a result of alcohol and he was aware of it being a cold night," she said.
The defence counsel added that Fulton, now 20, was "full of remorse" and had made a suicide attempt.
Fulton was told that he would be on the sex offender's register for an indefinite period.