Murder of teenager could not have been prevented, review finds

The murder of a 14-year-old girl by another teenager in a park could not have been predicted or prevented, a Serious Case Review has found.

Although the review of the death of Viktorija Sokolova made eight recommendations to improve practices by agencies which had contact with her, it concluded there were “no indications that her life was at risk” from Ayman Aziz.

Aziz, who was 16 at the time of the killing, is serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of Viktorija in Wolverhampton’s West Park late on April 11 last year.

The killer, now aged 17, launched a “truly shocking” attack on the schoolgirl in a pavilion after arranging to meet her via Facebook Messenger, eventually leaving her body on a bench.

An independent review published by Wolverhampton Safeguarding Children Board on Friday, which referred to Viktorija as Child N, described her killing as a “tragic loss of a young, vibrant life.”

The review stated: “There were no indications that her life was at risk from the person convicted of her killing.

“Neither evidence from the review nor criminal proceedings shows that Child N’s death could have been predicted or prevented. Despite her vulnerabilities, there is no evidence that her murder was a result of either criminal or sexual exploitation; nor is there evidence of criminal or sexual exploitation.”

Body found in West Park – Wolverhampton
Ayman Aziz, who was handed a life sentence for murder at Wolverhampton Crown Court in February this year (West Midlands Police/PA)

Viktorija, originally from Lithuania, had lived with her mother and stepfather in the UK for seven years.

The review was commissioned to ascertain the involvement of agencies with Viktorija and to determine if any lessons could be learned about the way in which professionals work together to safeguard children.

It considered the 12 months leading up to Viktorija’s death, covering the period in which concerns about her were raised and agencies became involved.

Commenting on the report, Linda Sanders, Independent Chair of Wolverhampton Safeguarding Board, said: “Our thoughts are with the victim’s family and friends today.

“What happened to her highlights the risks which vulnerable children and young people can find themselves subject to – and sadly she experienced the dreadful and worst possible consequences which can result.

“The Serious Case Review was commissioned to see what, if anything, agencies involved could have done differently which could have led to a different outcome.

“She was clearly vulnerable, but despite this, there was no evidence of criminal or sexual exploitation in her life; nor was she involved in gangs. And while she knew her killer, they were not close friends and there was nothing to suggest that, on meeting her, he would embark on such a horrific attack.

“This was a very complex case and the review found a number of areas of good practice by professionals, for instance the good work of her schools in reporting and following up episodes in which she had gone missing, the use of a variety of methods by police including social media to find her when this happened, and the efforts of professionals who built good working relationships with her.

“It also made a number of findings, primarily around the limitations of one of the assessments of her, the way in which agencies respond to missing children reports, misperceptions around what constitutes good attendance at school, and communication and engagement with children, young people and their families – including the need to involve interpreters when English may not be a family’s first language.

“Importantly, the review makes eight recommendations for ways in which practice can be improved going forward, and these either have been or are being implemented by the Board and the agencies themselves.

“As a Board, we have also held an internal learning review process in relation to the perpetrator; this has recently been concluded and has also identified a number of actions which are being implemented.”

The review noted that Viktorija’s family’s first language was Lithuanian, although she spoke English, Lithuanian and Russian.

The report said: “There wasn’t consensus amongst front line practitioners who came into direct contact with the family about how well Mother or Stepfather understood English.

“It was identified that interpreters were not used by professionals consistently or effectively and there was a belief that the availability of Lithuanian interpreters was limited.”

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