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A 15-year-old girl has been killed on her way to school after being stabbed in Croydon, south London.
Police cars and ambulances surrounded a red double decker bus in Wellesley Road, near the Whitgift Centre, following the attack at 08:30 BST.
A teenage boy, 17, believed to be known to the victim, was arrested shortly after the girl died at 09:21 BST.
A statement from Old Palace of John Whitgift School said it was “deeply shocked”.
The private girls’ school in Croydon said the victim was a “much-loved and valued friend and pupil.
“It will take some time for the Old Palace community to come to terms with this terrible news, and we will offer support to our pupils as we try to do so.
“Above all, we send our love and deepest sympathies to the girl’s family at this unimaginably distressing time.”
A bunch of flowers can be seen lying on the ground near a white forensic tent at the scene
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon the Met Police’s Ch Supt Andy Brittain said this was “every parent’s worst nightmare”.
“I know the officers who responded this morning, along with our emergency service colleagues, are devastated at the victim’s death.”
He said officers were on the scene within two minutes of the call being received and provided emergency first aid.
“Within 75 minutes a 17-year-old boy was arrested in New Addington, and remains in custody”, he added.
The force confirmed it was not looking for anyone else in connection to the offence.
A white forensic tent has since been erected within a police cordon outside the Whitgift Centre and a bunch of flowers can be seen placed next to the tent.
The cordon also surrounds a red double decker number 60 bus, and about a dozen police officers and several emergency vehicles remain in the area.
One eyewitness described seeing a bus driver and a woman trying to resuscitate the girl on the pavement.
The woman who only wanted to be known as Bridget, said: “I was on the bus before and came off and walked back down, I saw them resuscitating her.
“The driver was holding her and a lady. The emergency services were already here when I walked back.”
Local youth worker Anthony King, who runs a crime reduction organisation in Croydon, told BBC Radio London he had just met with the girl’s friends and family following this morning’s attack.
“This is the fourth or fifth time that I’ve had to look a parent in the eye and tell them their child has died. It’s the worst day of my life and I can’t imagine what that feeling is like [for them].
“The noises and screams I heard this morning will sit in my spirit indefinitely. Keep the family in your prayers and thoughts.”
He added that it had been 22 months since a teenager had been murdered in Croydon.
‘Happening too often’
This is the 15th teenage homicide this year. In 2022 there were 14.
According to Met Police data, between August 2022 and ’23, Croydon had more stabbings than any other borough in London, with 211 “knife crime with injury” offences recorded.
When population size is factored in, Croydon has 0.5 “knife crime with injury” offences per 1,000 people, making it the 10th highest rate out of London’s boroughs.
Croydon resident Georgina Slater, told the BBC the killing was “absolutely disgusting, and it’s just happening far too often in this area.
“I don’t understand how at this time in the morning a little girl’s been stabbed”.
Georgina Slater said the people of Croydon “need help – and no-one’s doing it”
“I don’t know what the police are doing… they’re just getting younger,” she added.
“We need intervention, we need stuff for the kids, they’ve got no guidance. The police turn up when it’s this – where’s the interventions in the schools?”
Another passer-by, Christopher Ita, said: “This will happen again next week, and next month, it’ll just be somebody else.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “absolutely heartbroken” by the killing and appealed for witnesses, adding he was in touch with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley.
“I promise to continue working day and night to end the scourge of knife crime in our city,” he told Greatest Hits Radio.
A cordon remains in place on the northbound side of Wellesley Road in Croydon
Croydon South MP and Minister for Policing Chris Philp said news of the girl’s death was “devastating”.
“Nothing can be worse for a parent than losing a child,” he said.
“We must redouble our efforts to take all knives off the streets of London, using every means available.”
Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, called it “another tragic, shocking and avoidable loss of life”.
Mayor of Croydon Jason Perry also said he was “devastated to hear that the teenage girl who was stabbed in the town centre this morning has tragically died”.
“The council are in touch with the police and will fully support their investigations. Our whole community’s thoughts are with the victim’s family and friends.”