Mhari O’Neill: Lead detective says schoolgirl's family have shown ‘considerable strength’ during case as man jailed for Calton Hill death

A senior detective has highlighted the “considerable strength” shown by Mhari O’Neill’s family during the police investigation into the schoolgirl’s death – after a man was jailed for 38 months for buying her alcohol and then leaving her to die at Calton Hill.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 4:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 5:28 pm
DI Susan Balfour.
DI Susan Balfour.

Ewan Fulton left the 15-year-old schoolgirl from Willowbrae in an intoxicated state at the city beauty spot in December 2018. Fulton had met the schoolgirl on a social media app called Yubo before they met up in the city and he bought a litre of vodka. He was aged 18 at the time.

He later told police 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.

Fulton previously admitted at the High Court in Edinburgh killing the girl on December 7, 2018 after culpably and recklessly endangering her health and life and exposing her to risk of injury and death.

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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 also engaged in sexual activity with the underage child and bit her breast and compressed her neck.

Judge Norman McFadyen told the first offender 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 told Fulton that Mhari’s mother had said their lives will never be the same without her.

Following sentencing, Detective Inspector Susan Balfour, senior investigating officer, said: “My thoughts continue to be with Mhari’s family and friends who have shown considerable strength over the past two and a half years while this investigation and proceedings were ongoing.

“Ewan Fulton showed a disregard for Mhari’s safety, obtaining and consuming alcohol with her and then leaving her alone on Calton Hill, an isolated location while she was in a vulnerable condition.

“I would like to thank Mhari’s family, the local communities, media and our partners who assisted with our investigation, which has been challenging, complex and prolonged. As a direct result of our combined efforts, Fulton will have to face the consequences of his actions.

“Police Scotland is committed to protecting our young people from risk and harm and we work closely with partners to ensure the safety and wellbeing of communities across Scotland.

“If you have any concerns about public safety or criminality, please contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report these to us so we can investigate appropriately.”

Text said ‘you will freeze to death’

Mhari had told her mother she was planning to visit the city’s Christmas market before meeting Fulton, formerly of Livingston, at Waverley train station.

Prior to their meeting he messaged Mhari to say it was “freezing” and the he should have worn his “pimp coat.”

She replied: “DW I’ll freeze with you.” He responded: “Ur gonna freeze to death. OMG.”

The pair were seen on Calton Hill that night by a homeless man, Lee McLaughlin, who noticed Mhari was slouched forward and her speech was slurred.

Fulton arrived back at Waverley shortly before 11pm and did not appear to be unsteady on his feet in CCTV footage, said prosecutor Alex Prentice QC.

Mhari’s mother, Donna O’Neill, had made several attempts to contact her daughter but failed to receive a replay. After she failed to return home at an agreed time her family started looking for her. She was reported missing at around 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 some liquid in it. Her phone was lying nearby with its screen smashed.

Fulton was later traced by police as a recent contact of Mhari’s and said he had drunk vodka with her at Calton Hill.

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.

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