A man who killed an underage schoolgirl after buying her drink and abandoning her at a city beauty spot on a winter’s night has been remanded in custody ahead of sentencing.
Ewan Fulton bit Mhari O’Neill on her breast and throttled her before leaving her in an intoxicated state on Edinburgh’s 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 Miss O’Neill on the day of the attack he sent her a message that read: “It is freezing today, should have worn my pimp coat”.
In a later message, he wrote: “Ur gonna freeze to death OMG.”
After Miss O’Neill was found dead he told police that he had met her 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 her.
Fulton said after some heavy petting and splitting the drink about 50/50 between them Miss O’Neill 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 Miss O’Neill, Fulton had been in contact with a friend the following day. He sent her a message claiming 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 Miss O’Neill, who died on December 7 or 8 in 2018, when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday.
He took part in sexual activity with the schoolgirl, compressed her neck, 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 Livingston, 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 Miss O’Neill’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.
His pleas of not guilty to those charges were accepted.
Mr Prentice told the court that victim impact statements from Miss O’Neill’s parents showed she was “a much-loved daughter”.
He said that after meeting online, Miss O’Neill 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.”
Miss O’Neill 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 Fulton’s court appearance, detective Inspector Susan Balfour 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.”
Police Scotland also welcomed Fulton’s conviction.
Detective Inspector Susan Balfour from the 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.”
Fulton is due to be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh next month.
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