A 12-year-old girl has died after suffering “catastrophic injuries” following an assault in Liverpool city centre on Thursday night.
Ava White was with friends when she was attacked shortly after the Christmas lights were switched on at Church Street.
The police were called to the scene at approximately 20.39 after receiving reports of an assault.
Four males – one aged 13, two aged 14 years and one aged 15 years, all from Toxteth - have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Police say Ava became embroiled in a “verbal argument” with a group of boys, she was attacked and the group fled the scene as she lay dying.
When officers arrived they discovered Ava collapsed on the ground in Church Alley and a member of the public, who witnessed the incident, was giving first aid.
Paramedics attended at the scene and Ava was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where sadly she died a short time later despite the best efforts of medical staff.
Merseyside Police initially said she had been stabbed but later announced a post-mortem examination would be carried out to establish the cause of death.
Assistant Chief Constable Jon Roy, said: “We believe that Ava and her friends had been involved in a verbal argument which culminated in Ava being assaulted causing catastrophic injuries. And we understand that the offenders were then seen to run up School Lane across Hanover Street and on to Fleet Street.
“We have arrested four males, one aged 13 years, two aged 14 years and one aged 15 from Toxteth, on suspicion of murder and they are currently being interviewed at police stations on Merseyside.”
Ava died on White Ribbon Day - a worldwide campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Violence against woman and girls
The news of Ava’s death comes on the same day that police confirmed three men had been arrested on suspicion of murder after a woman’s body was found in a property in Mossley Hill.
Three men - two aged 21 and 57 from Stoneycroft, and one aged 46 years from Norris Green - have been detained and remain in custody.
The woman is still to be formally identified and her next of kin informed.
Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell, who has made tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) one of her top priorities, said she was “absolutely devastated” that two murder investigations were underway.
ACC Roy from the Ava murder investigation said: “Ava’s death should be a reminder to us all about the part that we each have to play in eliminating violence against women and girls.
“Ava died on White Ribbon Day which is a global campaign to end violence against women, and yesterday partners from around the city joined together to mark the day, which is also the start of 16 days of activity designed to raise awareness of violence against women and girls and show how we are working together to make sure that VAWG is something that should not be tolerated in any society.”
Appeal for information on Ava White incident
Liverpool city centre was very busy at the time of Thursday nights attack as the lights on the Christmas tree on Church Street had been officially switched on a short while earlier.
Police are appealing to anyone who was on Church Street who saw the incident, or may have captured it on their mobile phone, to come forward.
ACC Roy said: “Anyone who has information which could help us with our inquiries, is asked to DM @MerPolCC, message ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre on Facebook’ or @CrimestoppersUK on 0800 555 111 with reference 0899 of 25 November.
“There will be additional officers in the city over the coming days and in the run up to Christmas who will be providing visible reassurance to those who live, work and visit the city.”
An extensive cordon remains in place at the scene, which includes Williamson Square, Tarleton Street, Church Street, Church Alley, School Lane crossing over Hanover Street on to Fleet Street, whilst forensic experts continue their examinations.
ACC Roy added: “We will endeavour to release the scene as soon as is practically possible, but we would ask members of the public for their understanding and patience whilst our investigations are being carried out so that we can bring justice for Ava and her family.”
“Utterly tragic event”
Ava was a popular Year 8 student at Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton and had previously attended The Trinity Catholic Primary school.
Peter Duffy, Head Teacher of Notre Dame, said: “Ava was a much loved, valued and unique member of the Notre Dame family. She was an incredibly popular girl with a fantastic group of friends.
“Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Ava’s family and friends and all those affected by this utterly tragic event.
“My staff are working with students to provide all the support they need at this traumatic time.”
Support for young people after the death of Ava White
Liverpool City Council have put together a list of organisations that can offer support to children and young people in Liverpool affected by the distressing death of Ava.
Assistant Mayor Cllr Sarah Doyle said that anyone who needs it will be able to access as much help as possible.
Full details are available on the council website.