One man held in sex-murder case

Child killings: Police seek witnesses to weekend tragedies on Merseyside and in North Wales
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The Independent Online
Police in North Wales hunting the murderer of seven-year-old Sophie Hook last night obtained a court order to continue questioning a man in custody. He was described by police holding him in Rhyl, Clwyd, as "assisting with inquiries". A second man questioned in Llandudno, Gwynedd, was released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Few other details emerged from the police force where one senior officer, Detective Superintendent Eric Jones, had earlier described sexual assault on the young girl and her death as "horrifying" and the worst he had seen in 25 years' service. "Whoever was responsible for this crime is a very dangerous man, a brute who must be caught - quickly," he said.

At a news conference, held when both men were still being questioned, Det Supt Jones said the two were not connected to each other. He said : "As you can appreciate, the situation is very delicate, for obvious reasons. I cannot go any further than that. He said that appeals for information had drawn "a marvel- lous response" from the public.

Sophie, from Winsford, Che-shire, was snatched or lured to her death on Saturday night. She had been sleeping in a tent with her sister and a male cousin, both nine, in the back garden of her uncle's house in Llandudno. On Saturday night there had been a barbecue to celebrate the cousin's ninth birthday. The tent was a birthday present.

Sophie's naked body was found half a mile away on a beach by a man walking his dog on Sunday morning. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled. On the pebble beach near where she was found, a dozen bouquets of flowers last night expressed the fears, confusion and sadness the murder has caused in the community. Cards which accompanied the flowers expressed condolences for the child's family.

In blazing sunshine, a holiday atmosphere was nevertheless still evident. The town's paddling pool, initially closed by police, was reopened and gave cool relief to splashing children. However, most parents acknowledged they were keeping a watchful eye on them.

Eileen Philips, of Telford, Shropshire, on holiday with her two children, said she had heard about the horrific murder and was nervous about making sure they did not leave her sight. "You think it could be your children - it's a terrible thing. Both my two are now under orders not to stray at all but I haven't really explained why. It would be too frightening for them."

Police continued their house-to-house inquiries yesterday and were still searching for the pink-and-white "Pooh bear" nightdress that Sophie wore. Officers also patrolled the busy beach area checking with anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the last few days.

Among the prime concern of investigating officers is to fill in the missing seven hours between Sophie's disappearance from the back garden and the morning discovery of her naked body. They are expected to talk to the dead child's sister, Jemma, and her cousin, who were sharing the tent.