A 16-year-old girl was killed and her 18-year-old friend was seriously injured after they were abducted and sexually and physically attacked by a gang of at least six men, police revealed tonight.
Mary-Ann Leneghan, from Reading, Berkshire - whose father is from Co Mayo - died from a stab wound to the neck, while her friend is in hospital after being shot and stabbed.
The young women suffered “a disgusting ordeal” lasting “several hours” at the hands of up to six attackers in the early hours of Saturday, police said.
They were finally left at a remote spot in Prospect Park in Tilehurst, Reading.
The 18-year-old managed to make her way to a nearby road and flag down a passing motorist who rang for help.
Mary-Ann’s body was discovered in the park by police at 5.30am.
As a key witness, the 18-year-old, who cannot be identified, is helping police with their inquiries from her hospital bed where she is in a serious but stable condition.
Superintendent Dilip Amin, police area commander for Reading, said it was “very fortunate she was still alive”.
He said: “She is very ill from the injuries she has received, but she has been very brave in helping police.”
Police believe the two young women may have been deliberately targeted, though they were not able to confirm whether the attackers were known to their victims.
At a press conference held at Reading Police Station tonight, Mr Amin said: “Information we have suggests that this is not a random attack.
“We are keeping all our options open as to what the motive was.”
A Thames Valley police spokeswoman confirmed that both girls are thought to have been sexually assaulted.
She said: “It is believed that they were subjected to a sexual assault.”
A man in his 20s was arrested today at a south London address and is now in the custody of Thames Valley Police.
The pair’s ordeal began between 10pm and 11pm on Friday evening when they were approached by a group of men in a car park near a derelict pub in Caroline Street, Reading.
They were taken from a white car to a maroon car, which was parked in Wickes car park on Weldale Street, and arrived at the Abbey Guest House on Connaught Road in the red light district of Reading at 1am.
The vehicle, playing loud music being driven erratically and at speed, left the guest house between 3am and 5am.
CCTV footage is also being scrutinised in an effort to trace the vehicle.
Officers believe that it was at the guest house that the girls were subjected to numerous “horrific and terrifying” assaults.
Of the 18-year-old survivor, the police spokeswoman said: “She went through a pretty disgusting ordeal with them.
She added: “They were taken against their will. They were subjected to physical abuse throughout the evening.”
The 18-year-old girl was undergoing further tests to discover the firearm used to shoot her.
The family and friends of Mary-Ann have been laying tributes at the spot where her body was found.
Her father Bertie laid flowers at the scene and her mother Sue also left a floral tribute with a note which read: “Hope you are at peace, my darling. I love you and miss you babe.”
Another tribute from a school friend read: “You will always be in our hearts and our thoughts.”
Today, grieving pupils from nearby Prospect College, which was attended by Mary-Ann, placed their school ties on top of the floral tributes.
One pupil, Scott Yule, 16, who was in most of Mary-Ann’s classes, said that six months ago she had seemed happy but then things appeared to worsen and she started missing school.
“I saw her the day before she was killed. She looked miserable and sad,” he said.
Scott said Mary-Ann was confident and popular and “everyone knew her”.
Prospect College said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of Mary-Ann Leneghan.
“Mary-Ann was a year 11 student at the college. She was a popular and friendly student and was due to sit her GCSEs in a few days’ time.”
Tonight Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, branded it an “absolutely horrific murder”.
But he assured his constituents they could still feel safe to walk the streets.
He said: “We have not got people hiding in the hedgerows.”