Murder investigation launched after body of teenage girl is found in woodland on West Sussex border
“This is now a murder investigation and our focus is to identify who is responsible. To do this it is crucial that we capture as much information as possible regarding the moments leading up to her death."
That was the message from Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Mackechnie after a murder investigation was launched today (Sunday, May 24) following the death of 16-year-old Louise Smith from Havant.
Louise, from the Leigh Park area, was reported missing on VE Day, Friday, May 8, at around 6.30pm.
On Thursday morning, officers searching for her found a body in Havant Thicket, near Rowlands Castle on the West Sussex border.
This body was yesterday confirmed to be that of the 16-year-old. Read more hereHampshire Constabulary, which is now appealing for information in relation to Louise's death, said the priority is finding out what happened to Louise after she was last seen at around midday on VE Day in Somborne Drive.
A spokesperson said: "We are appealing for your help to piece together her final movements so we can bring whoever is responsible to justice.
"We also have CCTV footage which shows her entering Tesco Metro on Greywell Road shortly before 7.30pm the day before - Thursday, May 7. This location is only a short walk from where Louise was staying at Ringwood House, Somborne Drive, Havant.
"We are keen to trace her movements from the Somborne Drive and Greywell Road area, up to the site where she was discovered in Havant Thicket. It is possible this travel may have taken place at any time from 7.30pm on May 7, or on VE Day itself."
Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Mackechnie said he knows that news of Louise's death will leave the community 'shocked and upset' but said information from the public 'could be key in this investigation'.
He added: "This is a tragedy, and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Louise at this incredibly difficult time.
“Two weeks have passed since Louise was first reported missing. I am asking residents in Leigh Park to cast their minds back to Louise’s disappearance a fortnight ago and provide any information to us that will help trace her movements from where she was last seen to the site at which her body was discovered.
“We know she entered Tesco Metro on Greywell Road shortly before 7.30pm on Thursday, May 7 but we can’t be certain where she went from here.
“She also was reportedly seen at midday the following day – VE Day – in Somborne Drive. Please focus your mind on this day.
“This was a historic day for the country, and many of you may have been celebrating out on your front gardens. Did you see her, or someone matching her description? Was she alone, or with someone?
“Perhaps you were out walking or running in Havant Thicket on this day, as part of your daily exercise. Did you see anything that could help our investigation, or anyone acting suspiciously?"
Detective Chief Superintendent Mackechnie said officers are also keen to trace Louise's movements from 7.30pm on May 7 onwards.
At that time she was described as wearing black jeans, a black and white striped T-shirt, black trainers and a black coat with a fur hood, as seen in the CCTV image.
“Our appeals for any video footage from Leigh Park residents – whether this be CCTV, dash cam, or doorbell camera footage – from Thursday, May 7, and Friday, May 8 still stand, as we are keen to capture as much video material as possible," he said.
“If you live in Leigh Park and have footage from these two days, please do not delete it and save it if this is possible to do. Alternatively, contact us and we can arrange for an officer to collect it.
“We have released a map which marks the location where Louise was found, and also marks Somborne Drive which is where she lived and at this time is the area where she was last seen. Please take a look at this map – if you live in the surrounding areas depicted on this map and have video footage, or information, please get in touch."
Police are also keen to hear from any dog walkers who use Havant Thicket and Staunton Country Park, drone operators, and cyclists with helmet cameras or Go Pros 'that may have been using the area on these days', but 'particularly the afternoon of VE day'.
Detective Chief Superintendent Mackechnie continued: “We will endeavour to provide updates as this investigation progresses, but in the meantime we ask the community to please not speculate on the circumstances, and instead provide all information to the police in the first instance.”
Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting 44200163113, or you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Information can also be reported online hereIf you are a young person in the area who has been affected by this news, there are support services in place to offer you the help you need:
• Children and Young People Crisis Line – Freephone 0300 303 1590
This service is available for 11-17 year-olds between 3pm and 8.30pm Monday – Thursday.
• Children & Young People's Safe Haven
This service is available for any young person aged 11-17 years old living in Havant Borough. Visit their website for more detail - https://www.easthantsmind.org/safe-haven/children-and-young-people-safe-haven/
• Off the Record - 023 9247 4724
This service can offer one to one support with emotional wellbeing.
Under 18s can contact Child Line on 0800 11 11
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