Murdered teenager was tortured, say police

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The Independent Online

The uncle of Mary-Ann Leneghan, the 16-year-old abducted by a gang, multiply raped and murdered, has told of the family's grief about their "happy-go-lucky girl".

The uncle of Mary-Ann Leneghan, the 16-year-old abducted by a gang, multiply raped and murdered, has told of the family's grief about their "happy-go-lucky girl".

Police said Mary-Ann and her 18-year-old friend were picked up from a car park in Reading, tortured and repeatedly sexually assaulted before being left for dead in a park. Mary-Ann was stabbed several times and her friend was shot in the head. She is seriously ill, but stable.

Mary-Ann's uncle, Tony Harris, said she was a popular girl who had many friends and was looking forward to starting college in September. He added: "She was a bubbly and happy-go-lucky girl. She did not deserve what happened to her. Our close-knit family is united in our grief." He appealed for anyone with information to assist detectives.

Three men, held after the attacks, were released on police bail, as was a fourth, arrested in south London and freed on Monday. A fifth man, in his twenties, was arrested at lunchtime yesterday in London and is being questioned.

Detective Superintendent Mark Warwick, leading the investigation, said the girls had been subjected to a "horrific and distressing ordeal" while held prisoner for three hours in a hotel room in Reading. He refused to comment on reports that the girls had their heads shaved by their attackers and that they had been forcibly drugged.

Det Supt Warwick told a press conference yesterday that the girls had been at the disused Wallingford Arms pub car park near their homes on Friday night, "chatting, just sitting and talking, causing no harm to anyone".

They were forced into a maroon car by about six men. He said police believed several witnesses saw the girls being dragged into the car, but had not acted. "We know they were forced into a burgundy or maroon four-door vehicle which may have contained up to six men in their late teens or early twenties. Some were black, at least one was white and some were of mixed race. The car was playing very loud music. Someone must have seen or heard it."

The men drove the girls to the Abbey House Hotel in Connaught Road where they were repeatedly sexually assaulted. They were then dumped in Prospect Park, Reading, early on Saturday.

The disused pub in central Reading is a known haunt for drug-users and Det Supt Warwick said he "could not exclude drugs" from the investigation.

The officer said he thought Mary-Ann and her friend, who is not being named, were "left for dead" in the park. "I believe the acts of violence at the park were attempts to kill them both," he said. Despite insisting it was not a random attack, Det Supt Warwick said he was still trying to discover a motive and whether the girls were known to their attackers.

He said a suspected arson attack at the 18-year-old survivor's house was "being looked into" to see if it was connected to last weekend's attack. The injured girl, who is under police guard, has been providing details of the attack. Police are investigating a car found dumped in the Thames on Saturday morning after Mary-Ann's death from a stab wound to the neck.