One of the six men on trial for the murder of teenager Mary-Ann Leneghan today admitted the killing.
Michael Johnson (aged 19) pleaded guilty to stabbing the 16-year-old and attempting to kill her teenage friend moments before barristers were due to open the defence.
The trial has heard that Johnson, of Southfields, south-west London, had confessed to both attacks to his social worker in the days after the stabbing in Reading’s Prospect Park on May 7 last year.
Mary-Ann’s friend, who “miraculously” survived being shot in the head, left court six at Reading Crown Court stunned and in tears as he whispered his guilty pleas.
Johnson stood with his head bowed, nodding as the court clerk entered guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping both friends.
Moments later the judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey selected a female juror to act as foreman to return guilty verdicts to the four charges.
Johnson continues to deny counts of rape and assault.
The trial, which began almost a month ago, has heard that Mary-Ann was found riddled with stab wounds in the park after being kidnapped and allegedly raped by a gang of men.
The schoolgirl was abducted alongside her friend, now 19, and taken to a hotel room where they were both allegedly abused before being taken out to die, the trial has heard.
While Mary-Ann died, a bullet shattered before entering her friend’s skull, lodging fragments of shrapnel inside her head, some of which remain there today.
Despite being left for dead, the teenager awoke, raised the alarm and went on to become the prosecution’s key witness in the trial.
During five days in the witness box she recounted in graphic detail how she saw a man wearing the bandana, whom she had identified as Johnson, repeatedly stabbing Mary-Ann before she, herself, was shot in the head.
She said that Johnson stabbed Mary-Ann all over her body as she lay curled up in a ball in the grass in Prospect Park.
She recounted that Mary-Ann had slumped on to her with blood pouring over her leg.
Johnson had flown into a rage because Mary-Ann would not sit up so that he could slit her throat, she told the court.
The teenager said that she, herself, was asked if she was “ready to die” and that her last memory would be her friend being “butchered“.
She was then shot in the head and blacked out.
Moments before Johnson’s admission the judge told the jury that he would be instructing them in due course to acquit all six men of causing grievous bodily harm on both girls and ask them to consider a separate charge of causing actual bodily harm to Mary-Ann’s friend.
The jury was told that the prosecution case had been opened on the basis that both had suffered grievous bodily harm specifically in the hotel room but that there was not enough evidence for them to consider on that point.
Johnson has been on trial alongside 20-year-old Adrian Thomas, of Battersea, south London, who is the alleged ringleader of the gang.
The crown’s case is that the kidnap and murder were a revenge attack for a robbery on Thomas in Reading the previous month which he believed may have been “set up” by one or both of the victims.
Also on trial are Jamaile Morally (aged 22), of Balham, south London, Joshua Morally (aged 23) also of Balham, Llewellyn Adams (aged 24) also of Balham, and Indrit Krasniqi (aged 18) of Chiswick, west London.
Joshua Morally has pleaded guilty to kidnapping the two friends but continues to deny murder, attempted murder, rape and assault.
The other men deny all charges, including Jamaile Morally, who is facing an additional count of rape.
The court has heard that Johnson called his social worker Michelle Martin on the day of the murder, hinting at responsibility by asking if she had seen the news.
He later met her at Clapham Junction railway station and told her that he had gone to Reading as two girls had “set a man up to be robbed“.
In a reference to Thomas, Johnson then said: “Man whose beef it was had the knife but he couldn’t do it so he gave me the knife and I was saying to the man ’it’s your beef, you do it, it’s your beef’.
“It’s like he couldn’t do it so I stabbed her and I shot the other one.”
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.