A teenage boy remains in custody being questioned by detectives after a 15-year-old girl with a “bright future” was stabbed to death on her way to school.
The “much-loved” youngster, named locally as Eliyanna, died after being stabbed in the neck with a foot-long knife during the Wednesday morning rush hour in Croydon, south London, a witness said.
More than 40 bunches of flowers had been left at the scene on Thursday, with touching messages to the teenager.
Among the floral tributes, cards and candles, one message read: “Rest in peace little princess so sad your life is taken away at your prime. You have touched my soul.”
A 17-year-old boy, who knew the victim, was arrested just over an hour after the attack which took place on busy Wellesley Road at around 8.30am.
Police have been given an extra 24 hours, until Friday morning, to question the suspect.
A steady flow of well-wishers left flowers and cards near the scene on Wednesday evening, and the girl’s school paid tribute to its “valued friend and pupil”.
Anthony King, chairman of My Ends – a project helping combat youth violence in Croydon, was with the girl’s family after the incident and said they were “heartbroken”.
He added: “She had a bright future ahead of her. She was in her GCSE year.”
Mr King described the girl as an “absolutely incredible young lady” and told of how others said she was “jovial, very comedic”.
He also said the arrested boy had been known to local community groups for the past couple of years.
Witnesses told the PA news agency the girl and her alleged attacker were not in a relationship.
One of the cards left near to where the attack took place read: “Sorry we live in this crazy world this makes no sense.
“Fly high up there my mummy will look after you. RIP beautiful, forever young, taken too soon.
“Thoughts and prayers are with your family and friends, God bless.”
Another said: “Rest in peace little princess. So sad your life is taken away at your prime you have touched my soul.”
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley visited the scene and said: “The senseless murder of a 15-year-old girl on her way to school is impossible to comprehend.
“It was moving and humbling to meet many members of the exceptional Croydon community who have come together in support of a family now dealing with the most unimaginable grief.”
The girl was a pupil at Old Palace of John Whitgift School, a private girls’ school in Croydon.
The school said in a statement: “We are deeply shocked by the senseless and tragic death of our 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.”
Security worker Victor Asare told PA that blood ran “like water” and members of the public rushed to help after the girl was attacked.
He said: “The blood was coming like water. A lot of people came, everyone came off the bus.
“(The suspect) ran away. Everybody was crying and screaming. The girl was on the floor.
“We tried to catch him and a lot of people tried to save the girl. I was so shocked, I was shaken. It’s somebody’s daughter.
“I finished work but couldn’t sleep, so came back, I wanted to see if the girl was OK.”
Mr Asare said the girl, who was wearing a green school blazer, looked as if she “didn’t want the boy to come closer” before she was stabbed in the neck with a knife that was “black, thin and about a foot long”.
Emergency services were called to Wellesley Road at around 8.30am but the girl was pronounced dead at the scene 50 minutes later.
A bus driver and a passer-by were seen desperately trying to save the girl before emergency services arrived, with police at the scene within two minutes.
A mother of two, who wanted to be named only 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.”
She said two other schoolgirls, believed to be the victim’s friends, were trying to get through the police cordon but were held back.
James Watkins, from Mainz World – which runs prevention and intervention projects for children and young people, was with the girl’s family at the scene between 9am and 10am.
He said: “They were devastated and I would say more importantly in shock, I don’t think it feels real for them.”
A red double decker bus on route 60, three police vehicles and about a dozen officers, as well as a forensics tent, could be seen in the taped off area outside the Whitgift Centre.
Met Police Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain told reporters at the scene: “This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and I know the officers who responded this morning, along with our emergency service colleagues, are devastated at the victim’s death.
“This is an emotion I share and I know people across Croydon will be feeling the same.
“The victim’s family has been informed and our thoughts are with them at what must be an incredibly difficult time.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “absolutely heartbroken” at the news of the girl’s death.
Witnesses or anyone with information can contact police on 101 quoting reference CAD 1601/27Sep, and to remain anonymous can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online.