Police accused over murdered girl's stalker

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Police failed to act after the family of a teenager who was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack told them a stalker had threatened to kill her, a friend said today.

Arsema Dawit, 15, whose body was discovered in a lift in a block of flats near London's Waterloo station yesterday, had been attacked before, Simon Tesfaghiorgish told reporters.

Mr Tesfaghiorgish said: "I didn't know him but he had been harassing her.

"The mother told the police a number of times.

"The police said they couldn't take any action. What they want is, after things happen, they want to know."

"We are going to complain about this.

"He beat her and threatened to kill her," he said.

Arsema's body - still clothed in her school uniform - was found slumped in a lift in Matheson Lang Gardens at around 4.30pm yesterday. She had been stabbed repeatedly.

A man in his 30s, who was arrested last night, was being questioned about the murder at a south London police station today.

Neighbour Wayne Fort, whose partner and nine-year-old daughter found the body, said Arsema had been troubled in the past by a man.

"I encountered an incident about two months ago," he said.

He said he saw an argument between the man and a female member of Arsema's family in the stairway of the flats.

He said the girl was warning the man not to harm her sister again.

"There was a chap who seemed to be infatuated with her," he said.

"He seemed to have met her at the church.

"I could see from the efforts of the elders of the family they were trying to get rid of the man."

Mr Fort said his daughter was extremely upset.

"She is in a very bad state - she didn't sleep much last night."

After finding the body, Mr Fort said, his daughter came banging on the door of his flat, crying "Daddy, Daddy, quick, come! The girl's in the lift, she's on the floor, there's lots of blood."

The murdered teenager had celebrated her 15th birthday with her family on Saturday, he added.

A woman believed to be Arsema's mother was taken away from the flat in a police car today.

Family friend Berekati Asfeday said: "Her mother can't talk, just cry, cry, cry, non-stop cry.

"She was in the church with me, she was a singer.

"She was a beautiful girl, just a beautiful girl."

Mrs Asfeday said the teenager was a devoted churchgoer, attending St Michael's Orthodox Church in Camberwell every Saturday and Sunday.

A neighbour said she heard an argument raging in the staircase of the flats in the minutes before the teenager is thought to have been stabbed.

Cosima Paniza, who has lived in the block for 28 years, said she heard shouting sometime before 4pm yesterday.

"I went to put my rubbish in the chute and I heard the man and the girl arguing," she said.

Mrs Paniza continued: "I couldn't get the words of the girl because she was shouting so loud.

"It sounded like he was threatening her."

Mrs Paniza said she returned to her flat and later found out the girl had been murdered.

Cathy Loxton, the principal at Arsema's school, the Harris Academy in Bermondsey, described her as a popular pupil.

She said: "Arsema was a popular, friendly and well-behaved girl who had much to contribute to our school community."

Arsema's schoolmates were told of the teenager's murder during special assemblies today.

A spokeswoman for the school said many youngsters were extremely upset and some had been sent home.

She said: "This is being broken to them in year groups. It is very sad. It is very hard at the moment."

Police sources confirmed officers investigated a complaint of assault on Arsema in April. It is understood that no one was arrested.