'Heartbroken' family lead tributes to Kayleigh, 15, after police discover body


The family of Kayleigh Haywood have said they are "heartbroken" and "devastated" after a body believed to be that of the missing teenager was discovered by police.

Flowers and tributes have been left for Kayleigh near the site where officers were carrying out an extensive search for her over the past week.

A body, which Leicestershire Police say they believe to be that of the 15-year-old, was pulled out from undergrowth near a lake in Ibstock, Leicestershire, on Thursday lunchtime.

The youngster, from Measham, in Leicestershire, had not been seen since 6pm on Friday November 13, when she was dropped off outside Ibstock Community College in Central Avenue.

Two men, aged 27 and 28, who were arrested in the early hours of Monday morning on suspicion of kidnap and who were yesterday rearrested on suspicion of murder, remain in police custody.

A statement released on behalf of the family said: "We are heartbroken, grief stricken and as a family, utterly devastated. There are no words to express the way we are feeling.

"We cannot even begin to thank the local communities and wider public for their messages of support which have helped us through the last week.

"We are also grateful for the publicity the media have given to Kayleigh's disappearance and the desperate search to find her."

On Thursday evening, hundreds of people poured into the grounds of the St Laurence Church in Measham to pay their respects to Kayleigh.

Among them was Gary Hill, who has lived in the village for 15 years and said the news of the body being discovered was "tragic".

He said: "We're a close community as you can see here and news like this will hit people hard because it's so close to home."

Reverend Linda Cox, from the church, said: "It was a very sombre atmosphere in there, but it was also a very supporting and loving atmosphere for each other and particularly for Kayleigh's family.

"It's mournful but respectful, and people want to come together to show their support."

And speaking about the family, Ms Cox said: "They are distraught and distressed at this time, but thankful for the support and the love that is being shown to them."

Outside the gates of the Sence Valley Forest Park, one of the sites where police had been looking for traces of Kayleigh, bouquets and messages had been left as well as purple ribbons - her favourite colour.

Among the tributes was one which said: "Heaven gains another angel too early."

Another said: "Thinking of you all through the most difficult times. Sleep tight angel, may the place you be now be a kinder one."

A third was addressed to Kayleigh's family and friends and said: "May you find comfort in the love you are surrounded by at this awful time. May the angels look after your baby girl."

Leicestershire Police said formal identification of the body discovered in the woodland near the parks late on Wednesday evening was yet to take place and a post-mortem will be carried out to determine the cause of death.

Just hours before the discovery of the body, Kayleigh's parents made an emotional appeal to the public to come forward with information, saying: "We just need to know what has happened to our baby girl."

In a statement, Stephanie Haywood and Martin Whitby added: "It is breaking our hearts and we are shedding tear after tear.

"We love Kayleigh so much and without her our family is incomplete. A big part of our lives has gone."

Detective Chief Superintendent David Sandall, head of crime for Leicestershire Police, said: "From the evidence available to us, we believe that the body found is Kayleigh.

"Understanding the events leading up to her death, and precisely how she died, is clearly our focus, as is providing whatever support we can to Kayleigh's parents, brothers and sister at this desperately bleak time for them.

"Last night many members of the community came together for a vigil and I know that this demonstration of support and care for Kayleigh's family will continue to be shown in the days, weeks and months to come.

"It remains vital that anyone who has any information at all about where Kayleigh has been since she was last seen outside the Ibstock Community College in Central Avenue, Ibstock, on Friday night and who has, for whatever reason, not yet come forward, does so without delay. We need to understand where she went and what has happened to her."

On the High Street in Measham, traders and shoppers said the discovery of a body had saddened the community.

One business owner, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's a very sad time for everyone.

"We all did our bit in trying to help - someone came in and asked if we could put stickers up saying For Kayleigh, and of course we did."

Tracey White, 60, from the village, added: "It's a close community here. Everyone knows someone who knows Kayleigh and you could see the purple ribbons everywhere.

"It's a sad time, but the community helped in the search and they will help and support the family now."

Kayleigh studied at Ashby College, and headteacher Eddie Green paid tribute to the teenager.

He said: "Kayleigh was a lively and fun-loving girl in her final GCSE year who had started Year 11 with a real determination to be successful.

"It would appear that this opportunity has sadly been taken away from her."

David Phillips, principal at Ibstock Community College where Kayleigh studied until 2013, said she would be remembered "with fondness".

He added: "The college community has greeted with great sadness the news that a body was discovered in the early hours of this morning. Our thoughts are with Kayleigh's family, friends and all in our wider community."