Like thousands of other students across the country, Christina Edkins boarded a bus to take her to school – but sadly she never returned home.
It is now a year since the 16-year-old was brutally killed while on her way to the classroom and her family say they are still waiting for answers over her death.
The schoolgirl, who dreamed of becoming a nurse, was stabbed in a random knife attack while on the top deck of a bus taking her to Leasowes High School in Halesowen.
She was heading to take a GCSE mock exam when she got on the number 9 bus in Birmingham city centre.
Her killer Phillip Simelane pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was detained indefinitely under the mental act after a court heard he was paranoid schizophrenic.
His sentencing did nothing to ease the heartbreak of Christina’s parents Jason and Kathleen, her wider family, school friends and the local community.
Ahead of a memorial service at Birmingham Cathedral on the anniversary of her death on Friday, Christina’s great uncle Chris Melia has spoken for the first time since 23-year-old Simelane, from Walsall, was sentenced last October.
“They (Kathleen and Jason) are dealing with a new reality – the reality is, instead of their daughter, they have got a plot of cemetery and a gravestone,” he said.
The family have demanded answers as to why Simelane was freed from prison unsupervised three months before the attack.
A review is into his case is being led by the NHS Commissioning Support Unit, which with a published report expected in April.
Mr Melia said: “We have asked questions – I remember being asked before the court case if it was bad luck she got on the bus. I was annoyed by the question, my response was the guy should have been in some form of supervision, that is the fundamental question.
“Why was he at large in the community with no element of supervision, particularly given he was homeless? No answer has been forthcoming so far.”
But he said he was hoped there would be an answer soon and lessons would be learned from the tragedy.
“It was discussed in detail in the court case but hopefully there will be an answer at some point. The relevant authorities will be able to learn from this tragedy and prevent a similar reoccurance – that is the family’s wish,” said Mr Melia.
“Frankly, what I have seen in the last few months is that this was not an isolated case, and it is quite clear something needs to be done along with some level of accountability in organisations which look after the individuals.”
Despite the review still ongoing, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Heath Trust, which assessed Simelane in prison before his release, today said lessons had already been learned.
In a statement, the trust said it had since improved its referral processes and assessment arrangements between prison and health care providers. It also said it was improving the recording of information on its patient data system.
It said: “The review will ascertain whether opportunities were missed that could have prevented this tragedy from happening.
“We are fully committed to learning from the review, alongside other providers, and we will put into effect a robust plan of action if there are recommendations that could prevent such a tragic incident from happening again.”
Simelane had already been on the bus two and a half hours before Christina got on. He was seen on CCTV moving from the back of the bus to sit behind the unsuspecting school girl.
As he got up from his seat at a stop, he plunged a knife into her chest before casually walking off the bus. Despite the efforts of passengers and emergency services, she died of a single stab wound.
Simelane, who was born in Swaziland and moved to the Midlands when he was nine, admitted manslaughter.
Mr Melia added that the year since her death had been ‘very hard’.
And he said the memorial service would pay tribute to her.
“It is being done to mark the first anniversary and secondly to reflect on the many good things about Christina,” he added.
“I don’t think things will ever improve. It has been a very, very hard year. I think the anniversary is going to be very difficult time for her close family.”Subscribe to our Newsletter