It started as any normal day for 16-year-old Christina Edkins as she took the bus to school.
Watch the full police press conference in Birmingham yesterday
She was due to sit a GCSE mock exam at Leasowes High School in Halesowen as she worked towards her dream of being a nurse.
But just seconds after sitting down on a double-decker in Birmingham on March 7, she was stabbed to death in a spontaneous and motiveless attack.
Her killer Phillip Simelane – homeless and a paranoid schizophrenic – had already been on the number 9 bus for two and a half hours before the horrific events unfolded.
He was captured on CCTV moving from the back of the bus to sit behind the schoolgirl after she boarded it in Broad Street.
After getting up from his seat Simelane walked past Christina and inexplicably and suddenly plunged a knife into her chest.
The 23-year-old from Walsall then casually walked down the stairs, stood by the doors and once the bus stopped simply hopped off as if nothing had happened. He even spoke to the driver as Christina was crying out for help seemingly to divert attention away from his crime.
Meanwhile, hearing Christina’s cries for help, passengers from the lower deck rushed to her aid. The stabbing happened so quickly fellow passengers had no idea what horror had taken place.
They battled to keep her alive, while the bus driver phoned emergency services for help. However, their efforts were in vain as nothing could be done to save Christina who died from a single stab wound.
Senior Investigating Officer, Det Supt Richard Baker said CCTV showed how the tragedy unfolded.
“On March 7, at approximately 7.30am, Christina left her home address. That was a normal Thursday morning for Christina. She was on her way to school and she boarded the number 9 bus on Broad Street.
“The suspect in this particular case, Phillip Simelane, was already on the bus. He was on the upper deck, sat at the rear of the bus and there was one other person on the bus at the time.
“The bus travelled along Broad Street and over the Five Ways island onto Hagley Road and as this was occurring, we see the suspect Simelane on CCTV get up from his original seat and then sit behind Christina.
“We then see him fiddling around with something behind where Christina sits and we strongly believe and know this now to be a knife he was removing from some bags he had with him.
"We then see Phillip Simelane stand up and casually walk along the aisle towards the staircase on the bus where he’s lunged out once and stabbed Christina, as he’s walked past her, once in the chest.
“He has then casually walked down the stairs to the driver on the bus, stood by the doors, waited for the doors to open when the bus has stopped and he’s casually walked off and walked out of sight. CCTV shows Phillip Simelane getting off the bus wearing a very distinctive jacket with an emblem of a tiger’s head on the back.”
He added: “The incident was so spontaneous and occurred so quickly at the time that the witness on the bus wasn’t entirely certain straightaway what had happened.
“Christina called out for help and assistance and various people on the bus did go to her cries for help and did try to perform CPR on her and keep her alive waiting for an ambulance to attend.
“Unfortunately, though, their efforts weren’t successful and Christina was pronounced dead at the scene.”A man hunt was immediately launched and extensive searches on the bus and surrounding area took place.
“As soon as this incident came to our attention a murder investigation started and one of the key aspects of that other than the man hunt would have been the parameters of any searches that would be taking place. There were extensive searches in and around the scene and they went far wider than just the bus.
“In the bushes by Morrisons on Five Ways island we recovered a bag which we believe was the bag Simelane was carrying on the bus. In the bag was the knife,” added Det Supt Baker.
Simelane, who had been using a bus pass in someone else’s name, was later spotted acting suspiciously near the back of the supermarket. CCTV showed him walking away from where the bag was found without it.
“At approximately midday on March 7, Phillip Simelane was arrested near to the scene. He had actually come back to see what was occurring there,” said Det Supt Baker.
He said police had been ‘incredibily anxious’ to locate Simelane and officers flooded the streets to capture him.
“We had a male on the loose, unidentified, not located, with a knife potentially, as at that stage we hadn’t recovered a weapon at the scene, who appeared straightaway to have randomly stabbed a young girl in the chest.”
Simelane is believed to have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia from around the age of 14. After his arrest he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act before being taken to a secure unit for further tests to be made.
On March 15, police received permission from the Crown Prosecution Service to charge him with Christina’s murder.
He later appeared in court on May 31, when he was deemed unfit to plead and the hearing was adjourned.
At Wolverhampton Crown Court today, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Police have been unable to speak to Simelane since his arrest. They are not legally allowed to interview him while he is being psychiatrically assessed.
They have been piecing together his background as part of their investigation.
Simelane, who was born in Swaziland and moved to the Midlands when he was nine, has lived in Walsall most of his life. He was previously known to police and the criminal justice system for minor offences of assault, drugs and vehicle crime.
He had been released from prison in December 2012 after being jailed for a breach of license in regards to vehicle interference and cocaine possession.
Det Supt Baker said: “We know his family, his mum lives in Walsall, but in terms of where he was sleeping we do not know the exact details of that.
“We know from the age of 14 he appeared to have issues at school, potential mental health issues started during his teenage years. But since then, although he has come to our attention previously and appears to have some support in the past, the detail around his absolute lifestyle is a bit unclear really because we are unable to talk to him in any kind of detail.
“It appears that it was completely random. Certainly from Phillip Simelane’s mental health this could have happened any time, any place.”
The tragedy shocked the nation and within hours of the news breaking floral tributes were left at the scene and a Facebook group set up in her memory had received thousands of members.
Christina was a prolific user of Twitter and detectives had looked at the social media website as part of their investigation.
Among her messages was one sent a month before her death, in which she describes a man acting strangely on a bus on which she was travelling.
Det Sgt Harry May said they had been unable to ‘find anything that collaborated what Christina had tweeted’.
Like most teenage girls, she had swapped messages with friends online, talking about her hair and exams, and looking forward to her future.
Paying tribute to Christina, who lived in Ladywood, Det Supt Baker said: “She was working hard towards her GSCES which she was due to take earlier this year. She was looking forward to her school prom – that was a big event for her. She was extremely well-liked and highly thought of.” Her family, friends and teachers were left devastated by her sudden death.
She had been encouraged by her parents to attend a school out of Birmingham so she could get a better education and pursue her dream of being a nurse.
She was described as ‘a bright and popular student, much loved by staff and students alike’ by her headteacher Neil Shaw.
Her heartbroken parents, Kathleen and Jason, brother Ryan, 18, and half-sister Joanne, 24, said she was ‘the most beautiful, intelligent and bright young lady’.
Just the week before, they had shopped for Christina’s prom dress and said the teenager had looked like a ‘princess’.
They described how she had been working hard for her exams and considering what college to go to.
They also spoke of their gratitude to friends and neighbours, who had shown overwhelming kindness, saying Christina would have been proud. Hundreds of mourners – wearing purple, which was the teenager’s favourite colour – packed Birmingham Cathedral in the heart of the city to say farewell to her at a funeral service.
Neil Shaw, headteacher of Leasowes High School, closed the school to allow her classmates to attend the service. All buses in the area had also been redirected as a mark of respect to the pupil.
Christina’s pure white coffin was adorned with purple and white flowers, which arrived at the cathedral by horse-drawn carriage.
Five pallbearers carried her coffin into the cathedral while the song One Thing by the teenager’s favourite band One Direction was played.
The weekend following her death fans at West Bromwich Albion paid an emotional tribute at half-term in the match against Swansea.
Stadium announcer Russ Morris read a statement, passing on the club’s condolences, prompting a loud round of applause from Albion and visiting fans.