A teenage boy has been charged with the murder of a “much loved” girl who was stabbed to death on her way to school.
Elianne Andam died from a severe neck injury after being attacked in front of horrified school friends at around 8.30am on Wednesday.
Her death has prompted an outpouring of grief from the community, with her family saying “their lives have fallen apart” after her tragic and sudden death.
A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested in New Addington just over an hour after the attack outside of a shopping centre in busy Wellesley Road, Croydon.
He has since been charged with the murder and possession of a knife and has been remanded in custody. Scotland Yard discovered a knife hidden in nearby Cedar Road the day after the killing. The suspect is due to appear at youth court, sitting at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
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Elianne 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.”
Her family visited the scene where she died in Wellesley Road on Thursday evening as crowds gathered outside the police cordon and prayers were said.
A large group of relatives could be seen next to a bus stop, inside the cordon, where Elianne died.
Some put their arms around each other as flowers were put on the ground.
A statement was read out by a church leader on behalf of the family at the edge of the crime scene.
The statement, which was read out while family members cried and consoled each other, 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. It is our request that you keep our cherished daughter Elianne and our family, in your thoughts and prayers.”
Elianne’s friends were “sobbing” and “so emotional” at her school on Thursday, Donna Murray-Turner, chairwoman of the local Safer Neighbourhood Board, told crowds after visiting Old Palace of John Whitgift School earlier in the day.
She said she read messages in a book of condolence and they “talk about her laugh”.
She added: “Staff, teachers, talked about when she entered a room you knew she was there. And her friends, as you can imagine, were sobbing. They were so emotional.”
Dozens of bunches of flowers have been left at the scene after the teenager’s death.
Police officers who were among the first on the scene and battled to try to save Elianne appeared visibly moved as they laid flowers.
Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Woodsford, who is leading the investigation, said: “My thoughts and the thoughts of my team are with Elianne’s family.
“This is a deeply upsetting time for them and we will do everything we can to support them.”
A Met spokesman added: “Officers were at the scene within two minutes of the call being received. They worked with emergency service colleagues to provide first aid.
“Despite their efforts, Elianne sadly died at the scene. “An investigation was launched by homicide detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command. A 17-year-old male was arrested in New Addington around 75 minutes after the incident.
“Elianne’s family continue to be supported by specially trained officers.”