Mystery of girl stabbed by intruder

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The Independent Online
A 12-year-old refugee girl who was strangled to death at her home by an intruder was described by her headmistress yesterday as an "exceptional pupil" and a great loss.

Police are hunting the killer of Katerina Koneva, who moved to Britain two years ago from the former Yugoslavian state of Macedonia, after her father found her dead.

Trajce Koneva returned home on Wednesday afternoon to find a man in his first floor flat in Hammersmith, west London. A scuffle followed and the intruder escaped through a window, but the father chased him into the street, apparently unaware that his daughter was dying.

Mr Koneva continued to chase the man until he hijacked a Fiat Uno, forcing the female driver out of the car. The man abandoned the car nearby and escaped on foot.

It was not until the father returned home that he discovered his daughter.

A man, who lived downstairs from the Konevas, said yesterday: "I heard the father shouting ... `please come and help me someone' ... We went to help him ... and then we saw Katerina on the floor. Her face was a strange bluish-purple colour. We didn't know if she was still alive, but we thought she was because she was still breathing.

"Then an ambulance came and they tried to give her the kiss of life. But a policeman said later that she was dead."

Mr Koneva came to this country about four years ago. His wife, daughter, and six-year-old son joined him two years later. The dead girl was a pupil in the first year at Holland Park School in Kensington, west London, where headteacher Mary Marsh yesterday wrote to all parents saying: "It is with profound sadness that I write to tell you of the tragic death of Katerina Koneva.

"It appears that Katerina was attacked at home soon after she returned from school. You will share our shock and deep distress about this. Katerina was an exceptional student ... She is a great loss to us."

The motive for the attack remains unclear. Police have yet to say whether there was any indication of sexual assault, or whether the flat was burgled.

The suspect is of Greek or Arabic appearance and in his middle to late forties. He was of stocky build, 5ft 6in tall, with receding hair, short at the sides.

Neighbours have laid flowers outside the dead girl's house.