The parents of a teenage girl stabbed during morning rush-hour have described her as the “light of our lives” before visiting the site of her death in south London.
Elianne Andam was named as the 15-year-old victim of the daylight attack on Wellesley Road in Croydon on Wednesday morning.
A 17-year-old boy, whom the police said knew the victim, was arrested nearly five miles away in New Addington on suspicion of murder just over an hour after the attack. A 12-hour extension to his custody time limit was granted on Thursday.
The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, told the BBC he was shocked and appalled by the attack.
On Thursday evening, her parents, Michael and Dorcas Andam, appeared at the scene of the stabbing accompanied by about 20 family members and friends. They stood behind a police cordon and next to a bus stop, where a stationary number 60 bus has been parked since the incident.
The family were touching each other’s shoulders in support, hugging and consoling each other, while some laid flowers alongside where it is believed she was stabbed, all under the gaze of dozens of photographers and camera operators before taking shelter in the Whitgift shopping centre.
Later, Bishop Rosemarie Mallett read a statement on behalf of the family, with Elianne’s aunt Marian by her side.
The statement said: “We as a family are struggling to comprehend this painful tragedy that has happened to our beautiful daughter and beloved sister Elianne. Our hearts are broken. And we are overwhelmed by sorrow and grief. Our faith in the Lord is strengthening us.
“We would like to express our gratitude to those who have taken the time to send us thoughtful and compassionate messages and prayers. We kindly ask for your consideration to also respect our need for privacy as we attempt to come to grips with our deeply devastating loss.
“Elianne was a beautiful person inside and out who loved Jesus. She was intelligent, thoughtful, kind and had a bright future ahead of her. It is our request that you keep our cherished daughter Elianne and our family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Before they appeared in Croydon, the family released a statement through the Metropolitan police.
A spokesperson for Elianne’s family said: “Our hearts are broken by the senseless death of our daughter. Elianne was the light of our lives. She was bright and funny, with many friends who all adored her.
“She was only 15 and had her whole life ahead of her, with hopes and dreams for the future. All those dreams have now been shattered. Our lives have fallen apart, along with that of our wider family. We ask the media to please respect our privacy as we try to grieve the short life of our beautiful child.”
Elianne’s father is a writer of Christian teachings, while her mother works as an NHS specialist nurse safeguarding children. Both are of Ghanaian heritage and are active in the Christian community.
Croydon church leaders have said a prayer for a 15-year-old girl who was stabbed to death on her way to school on Wednesday.
Leading a vigil next to the police cordon in south London where Elianne died, Bishop Mark Nicholson from Acts Christian church said: “Our hearts are burning. It doesn’t matter if you are related or not … Another life lost. In our city always, majoring on knife crime. I don’t have the solution but I can pray to bring solace. Not just one side of the family, both. Loads of things are going on in their mind at the moment.”
More than 40 bunches of flowers and a number of cards and candles have been placed close to where Elianne was stabbed. One card said: “Rest in peace angel, condolences to your family at this very sad time.” Another said: “So sad your life is taken away at your prime. You have touched my soul.”
DCI Rebecca Woodsford, who is leading the investigation, said: “Our investigation continues and we are making good progress. We have recovered CCTV from the area and have spoken to a number of witnesses. Forensic scientists have also examined the scene. From these inquiries we are now confident Elianne was attacked outside in Wellesley Road near to the bus stop rather than onboard the bus.
“We know many people were in the area at the time and would have witnessed the attack. This would have been distressing and traumatic and I would encourage anyone who needs support to contact us and we will help to arrange this.
“I know that Elianne’s death has left many people feeling upset and I would like to thank the people of Croydon for the support they have shown us as we have carried out our inquiries in the town centre. I know this work has been disruptive, however it has been vital and your patience is appreciated.”
A postmortem examination was taking place on Thursday and further inquiries were taking place to establish the exact relationship between the victim and suspect, the Met said.
A large police cordon was in place outside the Whitgift shopping centre on Wellesley Road and a bus remained inside the cordon.
Anyone with information has been asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference CAD 1601/27Sep, and those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online.