Boy, 15, is charged with murder of pupil in school corridor

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The Independent Online

Police investigating the death of a pupil at a secondary school charged a 15-year-old with murder last night.

The teenager who was charged had been in custody at a police station since Tuesday morning, after the death of 14-year-old Luke Walmsley at Birkbeck School, in North Somercotes, Lincolnshire. Luke was stabbed in the heart during an altercation in a corridor near the school's science laboratory.

After the boy was charged, at Skegness police station, a spokesman for Lincolnshire Police said: "A 15-year-old boy has now been charged with the murder of Luke Walmsley." The boy will appear at Skegness magistrates' court at 10am today.

The development came at the end of an emotion-charged day in which Luke's tearful mother told how her family had been "ripped apart" by the tragedy.

Jayne Walmsley, a solicitor, broke down in tears outside the home of her former husband, Paul, as she described her son ­ a "high-flyer" at school who was a member of Grimsby judo club and played football for North Somercotes Under-15s.

"Yesterday I woke up with two children but today I only have one," she said. "Our family has been ripped apart and will never be the same again. Luke loved life and loved sport. He had his whole life mapped out and wanted to become a policeman when he left school.

"Luke's future has been taken away and Luke has been taken away from us. Our lives will never be the same again. Luke did not deserve this to happen and we, as a family, just want justice to be done."

Chief Superintendent Phil Carter, of Lincolnshire Police, confirmed that a post-mortem examination, by the Home Office pathologist Dr Al Alusiu, had established that Luke died from a single stab wound to the heart.

"We have recovered a knife but we are not prepared to release any description of it," said Ch Supt Carter, who refused to say whether the murder weapon was school property or had been carried on to the premises.

Gary Loveridge, the headteacher,denied vehemently that there had been any hint of trouble at the school before. But John Stevens, chairman of the governors of Birkbeck School, admitted on Tuesdaythere had been some previous incidents.

He said: "Obviously, there have been the odd occasions when there's been a little bit of, say, bullying, but there has never been anything of this scale. It's never worried us. There's never been any suggestion ... that we would have something so serious and devastating as this."

Outside the school yesterday, a steady stream of grief-stricken pupils and their parents arrived to place flowers on the grass verge just inside the gates in memory of the football-mad schoolboy. Many tributes described him as "fun- loving" and a "great mate" who would be sorely missed. There were tears and prayers as many of the children read the messages.

At a service at the nearby Trinity Methodist church, where up to 80 of Luke's friends gathered to remember him, Deacon Jane Cole said it had been a very quiet and very emotional morning. "We wanted this to be an open service for everyone to attend but particularly the younger people to come together."

Although Luke lived most of the time in Cleethorpes with his mother and her partner, Mark Rowbotham, he continued to spend time with his father, who lived a few hundred yards from the school and was a popular figure in the North Somercotes community.

Mr Rowbotham, 32, said: "It's such a waste of a life. Luke was a quiet lad and everybody liked him. You drop them off at school in the morning and expect them to be there at the end of the day."

Mr Loveridge, clearly emotional, said: "Luke was a strong and positive boy, who was liked by all the staff. He was very good at sports and was a boy who shone. We will miss him very dearly."

He said the school would be open today and tomorrow, not for lessons but as fellowship days for those students, parents and staff who wanted to attend. "We pride ourselves as the most caring of schools and I would not want to leave out parents," he said.

"Professional help will be available. We intend to open on Monday but, at the moment, we are taking each day at a time. Things will never be the same but I am determined to build again with both staff and pupils for the future they deserve."

The headteacher was supported by Cheryle Berry, director of education and cultural services at Lincolnshire County Council, who described the school as small, with a friendly and "caring ethos". She confirmed there were "several lines of inquiry the police are pursuing" and suggested it would be inappropriate to start speculating.

The Rev Andrew Wickens, a vicar in Louth, summed up the feelings of many when he said the tragedy had touched the lives of almost everyone in the community. He also extended his sympathy to the family of the boy held by police.

Government ministers are considering a review of school security in response to the incident. Teachers' leaders have demanded the reconvening of a top-level security working group set up after the murder of the headmaster Philip Lawrence outside his school in Maida Vale, London, in 1995 and the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the death of Luke was "a horrific event".

In its previous existence, the group recommended spending more than £20m on extra security measures in schools, including increased use of closed circuit television. A spokeswoman for the Education Department praised the work that had been done by the NASUWT in promoting school safety and said its plea would receive "careful consideration" from ministers.