Australian boy, 14, convicted of stabbing infant girl to death

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A boy of 14 became one of Australia's youngest convicted killers yesterday after admitting the murder of a three-year-old girl in a case that horrified the country and evoked comparisons with the James Bulger case in Britain.

The boy, who cannot be identified, was 13 when he abducted the sleeping child from her home and stabbed her to death. He joined the search for the girl in January last year, but was arrested shortly after her body was found in long grass near her home in Point Clare, on the coast of New South Wales.

In the New South Wales Supreme Court yesterday, the teenager was asked how he wanted to plead. He stood up and whispered "guilty", before sitting with his head down for the rest of the hearing.

Justice James Wood ordered background reports to be prepared before a pre-sentencing hearing next month. The boy's solicitor, Peter Zahra, said he could face life imprisonment if sentenced as an adult. But another lawyer close to the case said he expected leniency because of his age."He can be given a sentence that will take him well into adulthood," he said. "The courts generally will give a much lighter sentence to younger people.

The judge ordered the girl's identity to be suppressed after the Crown prosecutor, Greg Smith, told the court that previous publication of her name and publicity generated by the case had caused considerable hardship to her family.

The girl's parents reported her missing after waking to find that she had vanished from her bedroom overnight. Her body was found on a vacant lot yards from her home, about 30 miles north of Sydney.