Girl, 16, assaulted by gang before being stabbed to death

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The Independent Online

Mary-Ann Leneghan, the 16-year-old found dead in a Berkshire park, had been repeatedly assaulted before being stabbed once in the neck, police said.

Mary-Ann Leneghan, the 16-year-old found dead in a Berkshire park, had been repeatedly assaulted before being stabbed once in the neck, police said.

The teenager was found early on Saturday morning in a park in Reading after her 18-year-old friend, seriously injured with gunshot and stab wounds nearby, managed to call out to a passerby.

Police believe the girls may have been abducted by up to six men the previous evening and could have been held against their will for at least four hours.

The friend is in a serious condition in hospital, but has nevertheless managed to help detectives trying to piece together Mary-Ann's final hours. The attack on the girl, who is not being named, is being treated as an attempted murder because of the nature of the injuries, police said.

As three men arrested shortly after the girls were discovered were released on bail, Detective Superintendent Mark Warwick, leading the investigation, said detectives suspected they had not gone with the men willingly. "We're not sure whether they knew the males and we're certainly not happy that they actually went with consent."

Mary-Ann's father, Bertie Leneghan, 50, speaking at a press conference yesterday, described her as clever and artistic. He said she had left school but had not yet found work, and had "got in with the wrong crowd". The girl's mother, Sue, 54, from whom he separated nine years ago, was "like a zombie" and unable to talk through grief.

Witnesses have described how a group of men approached Mary-Ann and her friend as they sat in a white car in the car park of the Wallington Arms pub in Reading on Friday night. At about 11pm, the girls moved to another maroon or burgundy car, which had music blaring from it. They are thought to have arrived at Abbey Guest House in Reading, leaving with up to six men between 3am and 5am.

The car would have been extremely crowded and loud music may have again been played, police said.

Six hours after leaving the white car, Mary-Ann's friend raised the alarm, flagging down a motorist on Tilehurst Road, near the park, shortly after 5am.

Detectives say they are keeping an open mind about whether there was a sexual motive to the attack, but have confirmed that a room in the guest house was used by a member of the group, and were "working with" staff. Forensic officers were examining the room.

Det Supt Warwick described the murder as "rare and terrible" adding: "These girls may have been in some distress from the moment they left the white car. They may have been abducted. They suffered a series of assaults throughout the evening, culminating in the death of the 16-year- old. It would appear they had been in the company of this group of males and they had been assaulted during this time."

Relatives and friends gathered yesterday at the place in the park where she was discovered to pay their respects and lay flowers, shortly after midday. Adrian Buckeridge, a friend of Mary-Ann's, said she was "always happy", adding: "Mary was not the sort of girl who would go into a park by herself, day or night."