Ava White, a 12-year-old English girl, was fatally stabbed at a Christmas tree lighting in Liverpool Thursday night, the BBC has reported.
Police have charged one 14-year-old boy with her murder, and have arrested three other 13 to 15 year olds in connection with the stabbing. The suspects have not been identified on account of their young ages.
An English judge told reporters that the 14-year-old suspect is due back in a Liverpool court Wednesday to answer the charges.
Reports: Ava White, 12, Killed in Christmas Tree Stabbing
According to the BBC, 12-year-old Ava White and a group of friends were attending the annual Christmas tree lighting on Thursday in Liverpool — a city in Merseyside County in northwestern England.
Just as the tree was lit at about 8:40 p.m, she became involved in a “verbal argument” which quickly “escalated to an assault on her involving a knife,” according to Merseyside police. White reportedly fell to the ground with “catastrophic injuries.”
Paramedics rushed the girl to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, but she died there moments later, according to the outlet.
Circumstances of Stabbing Unclear
Merseyside police did not offer an apparent motive, and did not characterize the “verbal argument” that led to White’s death. It’s not clear if she or her friends knew the teen boys charged in connection with her murder.
Authorities have also asked that the local public not to disclose the identities of the accused teens, so as not to disrupt the ongoing investigation. A Merseyside police official told Sky News Monday it is “vitally important” that no one “posts comments or names on social media which could potentially impact upon us getting justice for Ava’s family.”
“Trust us that we are doing all we can to investigate and update people on this tragic incident,” said Detective Superintendent Sue Coombs. “We do not want anything to jeopardize this.”
Teen Suspect Faces Murder Charge
The 14-year-old suspect was charged with White’s murder as well as “possession of a bladed article.” He reportedly attended a brief arraignment hearing Monday, and will again appear in Liverpool Crown Court Wednesday.
Merseyside police said Monday that the “three other boys arrested have been conditionally bailed as extensive inquiries continue.” It is not clear if they have been charged with any crimes.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, for offenders younger than 18 who are convicted of murder, the “appropriate starting point” for sentencing is “12 years detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure.” That sentence could be lessened, if the court finds “mitigating factors” were at play, including “lack of premeditation” or if the “the offender was provoked.”
Community Mourns Ava White
On Friday, loved ones of the slain 12-year-old set up a memorial on Liverpool’s Church Street, where the stabbing took place.
A 17-year-old named Lacey who left a balloon at the memorial told Sky News that her younger sister was a friend of White’s.
“She was just a bubbly character, so loving and caring,” Lacey said. “She came out with her friends to enjoy herself and I think it’s just wrong that this has happened.”
Ava White was reportedly a student at Notre Dame Catholic College in Liverpool — equivalent to a combined middle and high school in the American educational system. Notre Dame’s principal Peter Duffy said in a statement Monday that White was “an incredibly popular girl with a fantastic group of friends.”
White’s family does not appear to have publicly commented as of Monday.