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14 December 2018, 14:24
A 16-year-old boy who used horrific levels of violence to kill a schoolgirl before dumping her body on a park bench has been found guilty of rape and murder.
The youth, who cannot be named because of his age, remained composed in the dock as he was unanimously convicted of murdering Viktorija Sokolova by a jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
Detectives believe the boy used a hammer, which has never been found, to launch a "ferocious and sustained" attack on the 14-year-old victim, who suffered a fractured skull and spine.
A three-week trial was told Lithuanian-born Viktorija was lured to Wolverhampton's
West Park late on April 11 after being contacted by her killer on Facebook Messenger.
Following the killing, the youth was caught on CCTV as he attempted to cover up the offence by hiding clothing, having deleted Facebook messages and hurled his victim's phone towards a lake.
The boy, who refused to give evidence, claiming to be suffering from learning difficulties, initially denied even meeting Viktorija.
He later told police that his Facebook account had been hacked - before changing his story and claiming consensual sex had taken place at the park, where he had left Viktorija unharmed.
Opening the case against the youth at the start of the trial, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said Viktorija's partially-clothed body was found by a dog-walker at about 7am on April 12.
Describing her injuries, Mr Rees told the jury of eight women and four men: "The post-mortem examination of her body revealed that she had been subjected to a sustained and ferocious attack to the head, which involved a minimum of 21 blows.
"The force of the attack was such that it caused multiple fractures of the underlying skullcap and her facial skeleton.
"In short, to put it into lay-person's terms, her head had been smashed in."
The trial was told that Viktorija had a turbulent relationship with her parents, who struggled to control her.
In the months before her death, she had been reported to police as a missing person after spending nights away from home, staying at friends' homes.
CCTV evidence presented at the trial showed the boy was carrying a backpack, and changed his trousers, while in the park between 10.44pm on April 11 and 12.44am on April 12.
Commenting after the case, Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield: "The impact on Viktorija's family has been huge.
"It's impossible to imagine what it is like to learn of the murder of your child, then to hear the horrific details of that murder - which are inescapable because they have to be presented in court.
"But in this particular case the defence pointed the finger of blame very specifically at Viktorija's parents - they were asked in court whether they had murdered Viktorija."
Ms Corfield said Viktorija's mother and stepfather Karolina Valantiniene and Saidas Valantinas, who had reported her missing, were eliminated from the inquiry at an early stage using CCTV footage.
The couple were called to give evidence after jurors heard that microscopic traces of Mr Valantinas' semen were found on Viktorija's underwear, believed to be from innocent transfer from clothing to clothing.
The defendant, who was cleared of sexual penetration of a corpse, faces an automatic life sentence when he is sentenced on February 22.
Adjourning the case for psychiatric reports, High Court judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told the boy: "As has been explained to you there is only one sentence which can be imposed upon you.
"However I do have to consider the appropriate minimum term that you will have to serve, and for that purpose I am going to ask for various pieces of information about you."