Girl freed in 'hanged boy' probe

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The Independent Online

A 12-year-old girl arrested over the attempted murder of a five-year-old boy has been released by police, it was announced today.

A 12-year-old girl arrested over the attempted murder of a five-year-old boy has been released by police, it was announced today.

West Yorkshire Police said the girl had been freed after magistrates refused to grant a warrant to extend the time they could keep the child in custody.

Detectives are continuing to question a girl and a boy, both aged 11, over the alleged attack on Anthony Hinchliffe, which happened just 200 metres from his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire on Tuesday evening.

Anthony Hinchliffe is believed to have been taken from his mother's back garden and led to a nearby wood, where he suffered neck injuries and bruising to his body.

Detectives, who are treating the incident as attempted murder, have refused to confirm reports that the youngster sustained his injuries through being hanged.

Five children, aged between 11 and 12, were arrested and questioned over the alleged attack.

Two boys were earlier released without charge, while the 12-year-old girl was also freed after magistrates rejected an application by detectives for extra time to question her.

A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "A 12-year-old girl has been released following an unsuccessful application by police for a warrant for further detention from magistrates.

"An 11-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy are still being questioned by officers at Dewsbury police station."

She added that detectives were still attempting to trace three other people in connection with the incident and appealed for witnesses to come forward.

The incident bears chilling similarities to the 1993 murder of Merseyside toddler James Bulger, who was led away by two 10-year-old boys while waiting for his mother outside a shop.

Anthony was found in a distraught state by his 22-year-old cousin Tracey Jones in a wooded area close to the Earlsheaton Medical Centre in Dewsbury.

As well as the ligature marks, there was bruising on his body.

Anthony, who was released from hospital yesterday afternoon, had been taken against his will, according to his cousin.

Miss Jones told the Yorkshire Post: "He didn't want to go. It was just like Jamie Bulger."

She said the youngster had been playing in the back garden while his mother, Terri, washed the dishes when he disappeared.

The family then began a desperate search for Anthony, who was on a half-term break from Chickenley Primary School.

Miss Jones said Anthony had been taken to Earlsheaton Park by a 12-year-old girl he had been playing with in the garden and they then met up with a group of other children.

The child broke down in tears when she finally found him, she said.

She told the newspaper: "He just burst into tears. He was shocked and dazed. He was frantic and crying.

"I asked him: 'What has happened?' He said, Some boys and girls tied a rope around my neck and tried to tie me to a tree."

Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan, the senior investigating officer, said the young victim had suffered "horrific injuries".

Speaking yesterday he said: "He has got a number of bruises to his body and has a number of marks around his neck and clearly what we would hope to gain by interviewing him today and this evening would be to establish how he came by those injuries."

Asked if the boy had been hanged, Mr Brennan replied: "He has marks around his neck which could be consistent with ligature marks."

None of the children in custody are related to each other or to the boy, the detective added.

Anthony was taken to Dewsbury District Hospital, where he was treated overnight and discharged on Wednesday afternoon.

He is being interviewed by specially-trained officers, who will attempt to piece together exactly what took place.

Police said a "number of items" had been recovered from the scene, which backs on to parkland.

The boy's father Mark Hinchliffe, who lives apart from Anthony's mother, said he also believed his son had been taken from the garden of his mother's three-bedroom house and led to the scene where he was injured.

He said his son had been "taken" from the garden and led to the woods.

A neighbour living close to the boy's home said she had seen the youngster looking "in a bad way" on the night of the alleged attack.

Edna Gray, 79, said: "I saw his mum bringing him home last night. He was looking a bit dazed and in a bad way.

"She looked mad and she went to call the police and an ambulance arrived soon afterwards."

Mrs Gray, who said the boy's mother had four other children, described Anthony as a "lovely boy" who had never gone off on his own before.

"He's a nice lad, he comes and talks to you and shows you his toys. He's always playing with the little ones who are his own age but I've never known him to go off on his own or to play with older children," she said.

Police yesterday described the process of interviewing the children involved as "painstaking" and warned the investigation would take some time.

Kirklees councillor Paul Kane, who represents the Dewsbury East ward where the alleged attack happened, today said the local community was in shock.

"There's a general feeling of shock but the mood is calm on the street. I don't think people are looking for revenge or vendetta."

The Labour councillor admitted there had been problems with teenagers in the local community and revealed a number had recently been handed Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.