A 12-year-old girl has died after being assaulted in Liverpool city centre after an altercation.
A murder investigation has been launched following the death of Ava White. She was killed when out with friends on Thursday night during the annual switch-on of the Christmas tree lights on Church Street.
Four males – one aged 13, two aged 14 and one aged 15, all from the Toxteth area of Liverpool – have been arrested on suspicion of murder, Merseyside police said.
Officers were called at approximately 8.39pm to reports of an assault.
On arrival they discovered Ava collapsed on the ground and a member of the public who witnessed the incident was giving first aid. Paramedics attended and Ava was taken to Alder Hey children’s hospital, where she died a short time later.
Numerous children witnessed the attack, according to Alan Walsh, an anti-knife crime campaigner and youth worker. He told the Liverpool Echo that he had taken at least 12 calls since Thursday night from children and teenagers who had seen the attack.
“I am just numb,” he told the Echo. “I feel terrible for her family, but it’s also the underlying trauma going on behind it as well.”
On his Twitter account, Real Men Don’t Carry Knives, he shared anonymised screenshots of young people asking him for help after the incident, and is urging anyone who witnessed the incident to get in touch with his organisation to access help.
Jon Roy, an assistant chief constable of Merseyside police, said: “Our thoughts and condolences go out to Ava’s family, who are being supported by specialist family liaison officers. Their world has been torn apart and no parent should ever have to face that knock on the door from police officers to say that their child has died.
“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.”
Ava was one of two females to die in suspicious circumstances in Liverpool on Thursday, the very day the city launched a three-year strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. The mayor, Joanne Anderson, said: “This is an absolute priority for me and my administration.”
A 47-year-old woman was also found dead in a house in Stoneycroft in east Liverpool on Thursday afternoon. Her death is being treated as “unexplained”. Three men – a 21-year-old and 57-year-old from Stoneycroft, and a 46-year-old from Norris Green – were arrested on suspicion of murder.
The two deaths occurred on White Ribbon Day, a global campaign to end violence against women. Liverpool landmarks were lit up in orange to mark the start of the 16-day initiative, including Merseyside police headquarters.
Roy 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 VAWG [violence against women and girls] show how we are working together to make sure that VAWG is something that should not be tolerated in any society.”
Sarah Doyle, the assistant mayor, who on Thursday was appointed the city’s lead for violence against women and girls, said: “I am heartbroken to hear that Ava White has died. I know news of this tragedy will shake communities across our city. My thoughts are with Ava’s family, friends and school. We will do all we can to support the city and those affected over the coming weeks.”