Brutal end to a young life: How move to UK ended in tragedy for Viktorija Sokolova

They have lost their daughter – and today the parents of Viktorija Sokolova asked one simple question: “Why?”

Viktorija Sokolova's mother and stepfather, left, have spoken out about their daughter's death
Viktorija Sokolova's mother and stepfather, left, have spoken out about their daughter's death

As the murder trial ends, the agony goes on for her heartbroken mother and stepfather.

The 14-year-old’s mother Karolina Valantiniene explained her emotion after a guilty verdict was given against a 16-year-old boy.

She said: “I hope nobody else on earth is as horrible as the defendant. He would not look me in the eyes while I was in court.

"He never raised his eyes as if he felt guilty and humiliated.

“The crime was beyond comprehension. I keep asking God why did this happen to us. Why and for what?

"We found ourselves in an unfolding nightmare after the body of our daughter had been found. We never thought such a day would come into our lives. Then we had to go through the nightmare again at the trial.

“I have thought whether I could have done things differently. If I had had a hunch that such a thing was going to happen I would have ended up in the park myself.”

'Nothing but anger'

Her husband – Viktorija’s stepfather – Saidas Valantinas added: “I feel nothing but anger towards the defendant. I think people like him should be kept in isolation.”

He said of the accusation levelled at him during the trial by defence counsel Mr Adam Kane QC that it was he who had killed and raped his stepdaughter: “A lot of dirt has been spilt in this trial.

"People can carry on gossiping but I love my daughter and was really proud of her. She was full of fun and energy, a very brave girl. She would have succeeded in life.”

Viktorija's mother Karolina Valatiniene and stepfather Saida Valantinas outside Wolverhampton Crown Court

Ms Valantiniene declared that there were no grounds for the allegations made against her husband.

She continued: “I think bringing up a child is a challenge for every parent. She was a bright and happy girl who loved life and had a lot of friends.

"She was rushing to take everything from life. Unfortunately we are never going to see her grow up. Now we are trying to get our life back because we have other close family members who need us.”

The couple say they intend to stay in the Black Country, stressing they had received a huge amount of support from the public since Viktorija’s death.

Rebellious

The murder shocked an entire nation.

Behind it was a rebellious streak in a 14-year-old that led to the meeting that would ultimately cost her her life.

The Lithuanian-born girl had been showing increasing defiance towards her parents over the previous four months by making late-night visits to local parks and having overnight stays at the home of girlfriends without telling her mother and stepfather where she was.

A tribute from pupils at St Edmund's school. Viktorija was a student at Kings.
Pictures of Viktorija were posted on the fencing around West Park after her death

A Safeguarding Hub worker discussed their concerns in June of last year and an early intervention police officer was also involved. Social workers began to make weekly checks on her.

But Viktorija’s unruly behaviour became uncontrollable after she met a group of young men from Eastern Europe at a Halloween party.

Her parents both worked long hours meaning they often left the family’s home in Mostyn Street, Whitmore Reans, during the early hours of the morning, leaving her free to do what she wanted.

She skipped school to drink alcohol, took drugs and had sex.

There were also meetings with older Easter European men at Staveley Park, Chester Street Park and West Park, which were all close to her home.

Safety fears

Kings Church of England’s School in Tettenhall warned that drastic action was needed after her attendance record fell from almost 90 to 78 per cent during last year’s Autumn term.

Sometimes she left home in her uniform only to change into casual clothes at the home of friends soon afterwards.

Viktorija was in a relationship with a teenager from Slovakia and shocked her parents by referring to him as her ‘husband,’ implying they were having sexual relations.

Her mother Karolina confessed: “I did not like him. He was rude, rough and unpleasant. He had a very bad influence on Viktorija.”

Full coverage of the trial:

The girl’s stepfather Saidas, who worked at a farm in Shrewsbury, confirmed: “After the Halloween party last year her behaviour changed. She started skipping school and lying to us.”

She allegedly invited her new friends into the family home to drink, smoke cannabis and have sex while her parents were at work.

Her mother, a packer in a factory, revealed: “We had tyres slashed and windows broken. We were not just in fear about Viktorija but also our own safety.”

Forensic teams inside the park

While reporting a broken window to a police switchboard operator last December she conceded: “I have a very big problem with my daughter. She smokes Ganja. She sleeps with guys. She drinks. She is a very bad child.”

Her parents took drastic action that month, changing the locks and sending her to Ireland to live with her biological father.

From Lithuania to Wolverhampton

Viktorija's father split from her mother within three months of the birth and she married Saidas in 2006 in Lithuania.

The couple came to the UK in January 2011 leaving Viktorija in the care of her grandmother until the child came to join them nine months later.

WATCH: Murder detective on 'shocking' case

Her trip to Ireland lasted less than three months and she returned to the family home at the end of February.

Before arriving she wrote to both her mother and step father to apologise for her earlier behaviour, pleaded for forgiveness and vowed to stop mixing with the ‘stupid company’ blamed for the downward spiral in her behaviour.

These were hollow words because two weeks after she got back to Wolverhampton and started at a new school – Aldersley High – she returned to her increasingly dangerous and chaotic lifestyle by running away again.

When she returned home around March 10 her furious mother burned the girl’s casual clothes and the iPhone bought for her by her stepfather was seized. Its SIM card was broken. By this time social workers were making weekly checks on her.

Bank card thefts

Viktorija stole her mother’s bank card and withdrew £250 hours later the same day to buy replacement jeans, shoes, jumper and hat and then disappeared for six days during which she blocked phone contact from her parents.

Four days before the teenager’s badly battered body was found on April 12 she stole her step father’s bank card and took out a further £250. This was reported to the police.

The pavilion, known as the 'black house', where Viktorija met her killer

Her angry mother found her smoking drugs with two other people at the children’s playground in Staveley Park and became involved in a fight with her daughter before Viktorija managed to escape.

The following morning the teenager was arrested at the home of a girlfriend where she had spent the night.

She was held at a police station for five hours before being released pending investigation and referred to the Wolverhampton Youth Offending team.

Viktorija spent the night at a public protection unit at Pendeford before being brought home by social workers at 5pm the following day. She refused to talk to her parents and stayed in her room phoning friends.

Last moments

It was the school holiday and she spent much of April 11, her final day of life, with two friends, leaving the home of one of them late in the evening to head for a pre-arranged meeting with her 16-year-old Facebook friend at the wooden pavilion in West Park which is nicknamed ‘the black house.’

She was last seen alive walking towards the rendezvous shortly before 11pm.

WATCH: CCTV shows Viktorija's final moments

CCTV shows Viktorija's movements on what became the last day of her life. She is shown shopping with her friends and leaving for West Park just hours before she was killed.

Her mother reported her missing to police around an hour earlier after the child did not return before the 9pm deadline for her to come home at night. Neither of her parents went out to search for her.

The semi-naked body was discovered in West Park by a dog walker shortly before 7am the following day. He initially thought it was a blow up doll left as a prank before realising the terrible truth.

The deceased was in a kneeling position, with her knees on the ground and her top half draped over the arm of a bench.

She had been dragged there from the blood bespattered pavilion where the savage attack took place.

Minimum of 21 blows

Forensic pathologist Dr Brett Lockyer explained: “There were a number of significant injuries to head and face that resulted in complex fracturing of the skull and facial bones.

"A minimum of 21 blows were delivered, many with severe force, causing traumatic damage to the brain.”

A hammer-like weapon was likely to have been responsible for the worst of these. An egg-shaped laceration exposed fractures to the skull while another caused major brain damage.

Viktorija’s right nostril was partially amputated and the nose broken.

Balloons and tributes to Viktorija outside West Park

An ear was almost split in two and there were fractures to the face, one of which was to the left side of the jaw and ran into the eye socket. Her back bone was also fractured.

Abrasions on the front of the chest and upper part of the midriff were created by the killer dragging the body the 150 metres from the pavilion.

Damage and mud staining to her clothes supported the suggestion her body had been pulled face first on the ground by the ankles for some distance after being murdered but a downpour shortly after the body was found may have washed away other tell tale clues.

Close examination of the brain tissues indicated she was likely to have died within an hour of the head injuries being inflicted.

Viktorija's killer is aged 16 and cannot be identified due to legal reasons

Two of her teeth were found on the floor of the pavilion and six more were chipped.

The pathologist concluded that she died from ‘blunt force head injury.’

Samples taken during the post mortem examination indicated she had neither been drinking heavily nor taken drugs shortly before the attack.

Expert imagery analyst Joanne Ippolito told the court that CCTV film of a young man, alleged to have been the murderer arriving and leaving the park on the night Viktorija was bludgeoned to death, were ‘one and the same person’ – the defendant.

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