Girl's family 'ripped apart by murder'

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The parents of seven-year-old Sophie Hook, who was found strangled on a beach at Llandudno, North Wales, spoke yesterday of how her murder had "utterly ripped apart" their close-knit family.

Her mother Julie, in her second appearance before television cameras, said her other daughter Jemma, nine, said she "wanted to be in heaven with Sophie".

Police spent a fourth day questioning a local man about the murder. If they do not charge him by today, he will have to be released.

Sophie's naked body was found on Sunday on a beach half a mile from the garden of the house where she had been camping with Jemma and two cousins on Saturday night. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Mrs Hook, 34, told an emotionally-charged news conference of the last time she saw Sophie alive and the pain and guilt the family was suffering.

With her husband Christopher, 37, at her side, she said: "Jemma is coping extremely badly. She is totally and utterly distraught and it is very difficult to comfort her. She is so utterly sad and angry," she said.

"We are such a close family - we have been totally and utterly ripped apart. We know it is something we will never get over. We will never allow ourselves to forget Sophie."

Mrs Hook said she and her husband and their relatives Fiona and Danny Jones, in whose garden the children had been camping, were haunted by feelings of guilt over the death. She condemned the killer as the most "evil and horrendous monster in the world".

"I just feel numb, totally and utterly numb," she said. "I think most people believe in good - it is very difficult to comprehend that somebody could be so evil."

She told how she kissed Sophie goodbye when they left her to camp in the garden overnight with the others in the tent given to Luke for his birthday.

"I kissed them goodbye. 'Have a good time, I'll see you tomorrow'," she said. "When Sophie needed us the most we were not there for her - that is so difficult to deal with."

"The worst of it all is that the only thing I want in my life now is Sophie. People can take anything from me but no one had the right to take our child. Why any child, why Sophie?"

Detective Superintendent Eric Jones, leading the investigation, suggested Sophie might have been sexually assaulted at an unknown location, rather than at the garden where she had been camping or the beach where her body was found.

He issued an even more urgent appeal to the public for help in finding Sophie's Pooh Bear nightdress and cream socks, which he said were crucial to the inquiry.