Fingerprint from phone video helps convict boy, 16, of murder and rape of 14-year-old schoolgirl

Footage of killer scrolling through iPhone used to bring him to justice in legal first

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Friday 14 December 2018 17:50
Teenage boy accused of rape and murder of Viktorija Sokolova in Wolverhampton

A 16-year-old boy who used “incomprehensible” levels of violence to kill a 14-year-old schoolgirl before dumping her body on a Wolverhampton park bench has been found guilty of rape and murder.

The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, was unanimously convicted of murdering Viktorija Sokolova by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Police believe the boy used a hammer, which has never been found, to launch a “ferocious and sustained” attack on the victim, who suffered a fractured skull and spine.

In what is believed to be a legal first, a fingerprint “lifted” from a mobile phone video helped bring the girl’s killer to justice. Officers spotted a recognisable print in a mobile phone film showing Viktorija’s murderer scrolling through his iPhone as he tried to delete evidence.

The footage did not show the boy’s face, meaning a fingerprint was the only means of proving he was using the phone.

The Lithuanian-born girl was lured to Wolverhampton’s West Park late on 11 April after being contacted by her killer on Facebook Messenger, the court heard during a three-week trial.

Following the killing, the boy was caught on CCTV as he attempted to cover up the offence by hiding clothing, having deleted Facebook messages and hurling his victim’s phone towards a lake.

The youth, who refused to give evidence and claimed to be suffering from learning difficulties, initially denied even meeting the schoolgirl. He later told police that his Facebook account had been hacked – before changing his story and claiming consensual sex had taken place at the park, before he had left Viktorija unharmed.

The victim’s partially-clothed body was found by a dog-walker around 7am on 12 April.

Describing her injuries, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC told the jury the post-mortem examination of her body showed she had been subjected “to a sustained and ferocious attack to the head, which involved a minimum of 21 blows... In short, to put it into lay-person’s terms, her head had been smashed in.”

Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield, who led the murder inquiry, says the girl’s murderer was clearly forensically aware and decided to dispose of bloodstained clothing, including a pair of Adidas Gazelle training shoes.

DI Corfield said the level of violence used was the worst she has encountered. One of Viktorija’s earrings was found ripped from her ear.

“The attack was so violent we found three of her teeth in the pavilion. To this day I cannot see any explanation for that level of violence. It’s unnecessary, it’s incomprehensible.”

The defendant – who was cleared of sexual penetration of a corpse – faces an automatic life sentence when he is sentenced on February 22.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said the video used to help convict the murderer was recovered from a Huawei mobile phone belonging to the defendant’s brother.

Viktorija Sokolova murder: Investigative officer says 'I cannot see any explanation for that level of violence'

The killer’s own iPhone was found behind a wardrobe, the court heard, and his brother’s mobile had been used to conduct a search for “How to delete your Facebook account permanently” in the hours after the murder.

At about 3am on April 12, the Huawei phone was used to film details in the Notes app on the defendant’s phone, relating to log-on details and email addresses.

Mr Rees told the court: “It has been established that the defendant is the person who is holding his iPhone and going through the notes because the images are of such good quality and definition, that the ridge detail of the left thumb holding the phone could be compared to the corresponding fingerprint of the defendant, and they were found to match.”

DI Corfield said the Viktorija’s mother and stepfather Karolina Valantiniene and Saidas Valantinas, who had reported her missing, were eliminated from the inquiry at an early stage using CCTV footage.

Additional reporting by Press Association