A teenager has been found guilty of the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl whose bludgeoned body was found half-naked on a park bench.
The 16-year-old lived just two streets away from his victim Viktorija Sokolova, who he lured into a midnight meeting at a local park where he attacked her in “an explosion of violence” after she refused to have sex with him.
The schoolgirl’s body was found propped up on her knees near a pavilion known as “black house” in West Park, Wolverhampton, on April 12, by a dog-walker who mistook her for an inflatable doll.
The Lithuanian-born teenager, who had come to the UK in 2011, had been struck at least 21 times with a hammer which broken her spine and “smashed” her face, leaving some of her teeth scattered metres from her body.
On Friday a jury of four women and eight men at Wolverhampton Crown Court took 7 hours 24 minutes to find the accused, of Iraqi origin whose family had moved from Holland where he was born, guilty of murder and rape.
Wearing a blue jacket, white t-shirt and grey jogging bottoms, the baby-faced killer shook his head as the unanimous verdict was read out.
Sat in a packed public gallery, Victorija’s mother Karolina Valantiniene looked away as the foreman of the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on a charge of sexual penetration of a a corpse.
Judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker remanded the defendant in custody for sentence on February 22, warning him he is facing a life sentence.
The three-week trial heard how Viktorija had a “turbulent” relationship with her mother and step-father and had been reported missing on several occasions since December 2017.
Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said that four days before her murder Viktorija was arrested on suspicion of stealing her step-father’s bank card and using it to withdraw £250 to buy clothes.
Giving evidence, Victorija’s tearful mother said she gave her daughter a hug in bed at home, on the evening of April 10, before heading off to sleep.
The following morning, she got up early to work an early shift as a packer in a factory but checked on her sleeping daughter before leaving.
It was the last time she saw her alive.
The court heard Viktorija had known her killer for a few months but had lost contact until he messaged her on April 3 telling her he was moving to London and wanted to meet.
“An examination of that phone revealed that within about 15 minutes of the defendant contacting Viktorija that day the phone was used to access material about what anal sex felt like,” said Rees QC.
A day before the two finally met he messaged her again saying “I just wanna chill with you for memories” and sent her a short video of himself, bare-chested, lifting some weights.
Victorija in turn sent him selfies wearing a baseball cap, as she spent the hours before her death with local friends.
One girl said Viktorija was exchanging messages on her newly-acquired Vodafone smart phone with someone on Facebook known as ‘Lazy Cho’, who she was planning to meet at the “black house” in West Park at midnight.
At 10.40pm Viktorija left the house of a nearby friend declining a lift home from her mother and dismissing warnings that it was a bad idea to go the park, replying, “Well, he’s only my mate.”
Five minutes earlier the defendant had messaged her to say he had left his house and the pair were later caught on CCTV walking in the direction of the park at the same time.
The footage also showed the killer wearing a pair of Adidas Gazelle trainers – which matched footprints found in blood by the body.
The court heard how he spent two hours in the park as he attacked Viktorija in the pavilion before dragging her dead body, naked from the waist down, by the ankles and on to a nearby bench.
Within hours of Victorija’s body being found police arrested him at his home and the boy, who has no previous convictions, admitted to police that he met Viktorija for consensual sex, but denied killing her.
He later told a nurse that he had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and was under the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
“He explained that he had been home-schooled for the past 12 months and had difficulties reading and writing and gave the nurse details of the medication he was prescribed,” said Mr Rees QC. He added: “This is as clear a case of murder as you can get.
“There is no question of Viktorija posing a threat to anybody nor is there a question of self-defence.
“The attacker intended to kill her. She bled heavily from her wounds. The motive for this attack was sexual.”
Prosecutors said the defendant had launched the “sustained and ferocious” attack before trying to discard evidence in a bid to cover his tracks.
Victorija’s bloodstained underwear and jeans were found dumped in a park bin while her mobile phone and shoes were discovered by a boating lake.
When police searched his house, the boy had got rid of the trainers, trousers and rucksack and deleted his Facebook account and messages to Viktorija.
Speaking after the trial, senior investigating officer Detective Constable Caroline Corfield described the violence inflicted on Viktorija as “incomprehensible”.
She said: “To this day I cannot see any explanation for the extreme level of violence. It was both unnecessary and beyond belief.”
She said CCTV showed him leaving his house near the park with a rucksack shortly after the murder returning home about an hour later without it.
“We believe the rucksack contained his bloodied clothes and sneakers and possibly the murder weapon, a blunt instrument like a hammer.
“We have never recovered the weapon or the clothes and sneakers he wore that night.”
She added: “When questioned he said his Facebook account had been hacked but we quickly established he had tried to delete his internet history.”
DC Corfield said Viktorija’s family had been devastated by her death and had to face accusations “from a desperate legal defence team” that they may have been involved in their daughter’s death after traces of Victoria’s stepfather’s semen were found on her underwear and jeans.
“Our forensic team said it was microscopic traces that could have been passed on from anyone sharing a house and washing facilities and the fact is there was never evidence to put the parents in the frame for murder.
“But the insinuations by the killer’s defence team obviously really hurt them and they are glad that then truth came out.
“It’s impossible to imagine what it is like to learn of a murder of your child – then to hear the horrific details of that murder presented in court.”