Community in shock at girl's savage murder

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The Independent Online
IAN MacKINNON

The bewildered parents of a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered spoke yesterday of their daughter through tears of grief.

Hours earlier, Naomi Smith's father and her closest friend had discovered her bloodstained body in a recreation area after she failed to return to the family home at Ansley Common, near Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Yesterday, as at least 30 officers scoured the area for clues, classmates of Naomi at Hartshill grant maintained school were comforted by staff.

Teachers advised children not to go out without an adult until the killer was found, while one of the detectives appealed for information about the murderer, who would have been blood-stained from the "savage" attack on Thursday night.

The girl had left home on the Bretts Hall estate at 9.45pm to post a letter for her mother in a mailbox just a few hundred yards away. When by 11.15pm she had failed to return, the girl's father, Brian, 45, and mother, Catherine, 47, called the police and began their search, joined by her best friend, Emma Jones,15.

Shortly before midnight, prior to the police arriving, Mr Smith and the girl discovered Naomi's body fully clothed under a climbing frame in the play area just 100 yards from the post-box. Sobbing, Mrs Smith told yesterday of the frantic search for their daughter - "an ordinary, quiet girl" - and fateful discovery.

Detectives yesterday said that a post-mortem examination showed that she had been stabbed. They added that she must have been attacked as she was returning home as they later recovered the letter from the box.

Ian Hecks, Hartshill's headmaster, yesterday said: "Naomi and her friend were always together at school. They did the same things and were inseparable. I would describe them as the closest of best friends almost to the exclusion of anyone else."

Many of the 700 pupils at Hartshill were in tears after learning of Naomi's death at morning assembly, and her friends were receiving help from bereavement counsellors.

"I have been advising pupils not to go out on their own at night unless they are with friends and to make sure mum and dad know where they are," said Mr Hecks.

"There is a lunatic out there who needs to be caught. I know some of the pupils are frightened and so am I."

Det Supt Tony Bayliss said: "It was a particularly savage attack. Until the person responsible is caught, people in the area should be extra vigilant."

At a police press conference yesterday Mrs Smith, a taxi driver like her husband, said: "Please help us catch our little girl's killer." In tears, she described Naomi's killer as an "evil person" who should "get life imprisonment at least - without any parole".

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