tragedy: Sophie Taylor was accidentally shot by her boyfriend. Picture: Newsline Scotland
Sophie Taylor, who celebrated her 16th birthday just days ago, died from gunshot wounds at a cottage on Glenavon estate near Tomintoul.
Her boyfriend, Calum Murray, 18, is thought to have panicked and shot himself. The double tragedy was witnessed by two friends of the young couple.
Ms Taylor was a pupil at Speyside High School in Aberlour and had been dating Mr Murray for less than a year.
In a statement, her parents David, 41, and Katie, 44, said: “We are devastated at the loss of our beautiful daughter Sophie, who will be greatly missed by us, her brother and her grandparents as well as her many friends.”
Dru McPherson, who runs the Clockhouse restaurant on the main square in Tomintoul, said: “She was a fantastic girl. Sophie was a great-looking girl, decent, vivacious and bright. Everything was in front of her and was all just blown away in a second.”
Her parents added: “She was studying for her standard grades at Speyside High School and had plans to continue working towards becoming a social worker. Sophie was bright and bubbly and loved spending time with her family and friends. We are immensely proud of her.
“We are a close family who will miss her very much and are completely shocked to have lost her so prematurely.”
Mr Murray, believed to be from the north-east of Scotland, had been posted to the estate as a trainee gamekeeper and was attending North Highland College in Thurso.
He was described as a model pupil by the college principal last night. His body was found in the property’s surrounding land.
Ms Taylor visited her boyfriend’s cottage with a friend on Tuesday. The girls cooked dinner at around 6pm, with Mr Murray and his colleague returning soon afterwards.
At around 6.45pm, Grampian Police received a call from the ambulance service stating that two people had been shot dead.
A police spokesman said: “Officers attended the scene alongside paramedics and both injured parties were pronounced dead a short time later.”
Police said nobody else was being sought in connection with the deaths.
Ella Grant, depute head at Speyside High School, said: “Sophie was well liked, both by her fellow pupils and by the staff and she will be sorely missed. She was a credit to herself, her family and the school.
“Our thoughts and condolences go out to Sophie’s family.”
Dr Gordon Jenkins, principal at North Highland College, said: “Everyone has been shocked and saddened by this and we send our sympathies to the families. Calum was a model student.”
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association last night described “widespread shock and sadness” over the loss of the two young lives.