Four members of a gang that raped, tortured and stabbed to death a 16-year-old girl before shooting her teenage friend in the head and leaving her for dead were on probation at the time of the attacks.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said it was "vital" that lessons were learnt from the murder of Mary-Ann Leneghan. But David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, accused the Government of mishandling the probation service and highlighted a series of other recent killings by offenders being supervised in the community.
The argument erupted after a jury at Reading Crown Court convicted a sixth gang member of murdering Mary-Ann in a park in Reading in May last year. Four men had already been found guilty of stabbing the teenager to death and a fifth admitted the crime.
After the jury delivered its final verdict it was disclosed that four of the gang had been under the supervision of probation officers for previous crimes when Mary-Ann was murdered. One of the men, a Kosovan, was living in Britain illegally.
The case has caused widespread revulsion and shock. The London-based gang kidnapped Mary-Ann and her 18-year-old friend, who could not be named for legal reasons, raped and tortured them for three hours in a room in a guest house. They were then taken to a park in the early hours where Mary-Ann was repeatedly stabbed and her friend was shot in the head. The older girl survived because the home-made bullet broke into fragments on impact and failed to penetrate her skull.
The girls were targeted by the gang leader because he believed they had helped a rival drug dealer get into his flat, where he was attacked.
The disclosure that four of the killers were supposed to be on community supervision will further undermine the probation service as well as put the system under fresh scrutiny.
Mr Clarke said that he would be studying the case as part of a review of the system of managing criminals on probation. He said: "It is always disturbing when a serious crime is committed by offenders under supervision in the community.
"It is vital that we learn any lessons we can from these cases and take any steps necessary to ensure that offenders are properly managed and the public are properly protected."
At the end of the trial it was revealed that Adrian Thomas, 20, Michael Johnson, 19, Jamaile Morally, 22, and Indrit Krasniqi, 18, were all serving community sentences at the time of the murder. Krasniqi is a Kosovan who came to the UK aged 13 illegally, but was granted leave to remain until his 18th birthday. By the time of Mary-Ann's murder, this had expired.
Thomas, Morally, Morally's brother Joshua, 23, and their friend Llewellyn Adams, 24, were found guilty of the killing last week while Johnson confessed during the eight-week trial.
They were also convicted of rape, assault, kidnap and attempted murder. The case finished yesterday when Krasniqi was also found guilty of murder and attempted murder. He was cleared on two counts of rape. Last week he was convicted of kidnap and assault.
The defendants will be sentenced at a later date.
Having returned all the verdicts, the jury was told of the men's previous convictions. Johnson, when he was 13, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in 2001 for abducting a 13-year-old boy with learning difficulties, hanging him upside down and beating him up.
In May 2002 Johnson was given a conditional discharge for assaulting a fellow care home resident and was then given an 18-month detention and training order in 2003 for assaulting two minicab drivers.
Just over a week before Mary-Ann's murder, Johnson was given community service for assaulting a policeman. Thomas had drugs convictions. In 2004 Jamaile Morally was given a community rehabilitation order for handling stolen goods. Joshua Morally has robbery convictions dating back to 1999. Krasniqi received a referral order in 2004 for two common assaults.
Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, said two were on community punishment orders, one was on a probation order and the fourth on a combination of both. "This is an appalling case but the conditions of probation supervision appear to have been adhered to," he said.
Mr Davis said: "It is about time the Government realised the shocking consequences of their policy of allowing dangerous criminals out of prison and owned up to their complete mismanagement of the probation service."
The case follows a series ofkillings by criminals under supervision in the community, including that of the financier John Monckton, who was murdered at his home in Chelsea. In February, Andrew Bridges, the chief inspector of probation, published a report on the Monckton case that said there had been a "collective failure" in the supervision of his killers, Damien Hanson and Elliot White.
Detective Superintendent Mark Warwick, who led the investigatation into Mary-Ann's murder, said: "I think it is one of the worst [cases of my career], the fact is the duration of the torture, the humiliation, the fear and the ultimate death in the park is horrendous."
During the trial the older girl wept as she recalled seeing Johnson stab Mary-Ann on "her upper body, her chest, her breasts, everything ... She was crying and pleading 'please not there'." She said one of the man placed a gun at her head. "He said, 'these are gonna be your last memories. Your friend being butchered',then he shot me."
The survival of the 18-year-old was crucial for the police investigation and allowed them to identify five of the six killers within hours of the young woman being found staggering along the road covered in blood.Reuse content