Viktorija Sokolova: How video 'fingerprint' helped police catch West Park killer

Video 'fingerprints' and distinctive sole prints helped police catch Viktorija's killer.

Videos, footprints and distinctive sole prints helped police catch Viktorija's killer
Videos, footprints and distinctive sole prints helped police catch Viktorija's killer

Detectives notched up what is thought to be a legal first while bringing Viktorija Sokolova's killer to justice - by 'lifting' a fingerprint from a mobile phone video.

Officers investigating the killing spotted a recognisable print in a film showing Viktorija's murderer scrolling through his iPhone for passwords as he prepared to delete evidence linking him to the schoolgirl.

The footage did not show the boy's face, meaning a fingerprint was the only means of proving he was using the phone.

During the Crown's case at Wolverhampton Crown Court, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said the video was recovered from a Huawei mobile phone belonging to the defendant's brother.

The killer's iPhone was found behind a wardrobe, the court heard, and the defendant's brother's mobile had been used to conduct a search for 'How to delete your Facebook account permanently' in the hours after the murder.

At about 3am on April 12, the killer's brother's phone was used to film details in the Notes app on the defendant's phone, relating to log-on details and and email addresses.

Det Insp Caroline Corfield led the murder investigation

Mr Rees told the court: "The film recorded on the brother's phone shows a person holding the defendant's phone and manually going through the list of notes, opening those that he wished to record.

"It has been established that the defendant is the person who is holding his iPhone and going through the notes because the images are of such good quality and definition, that the ridge detail of the left thumb holding the phone could be compared to the corresponding fingerprint of the defendant, and they were found to match."

Mental health

The 16-year-old who murdered Viktorija had been home tutored since leaving school at the age of 15 and was under the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service when he launched the lethal attack.

He lured the headstrong 14-year-old to West Park with the intention of having sex with her, eight days after renewing their friendship through Facebook Messenger. The pair had been in contact with each other last year but had lost touch.

The defendant admitted having sex after forensic evidence showed that his DNA was found in her body. The jury decided the act took place before her death.

Full coverage of the trial:

The murderer alleged she was uninjured when he left the park after their ‘consensual’ sex.

But his decision to delete incriminating material from his iPhone hours after the attack exposed that version of events as a pack of lies.

Two mobile phones were discovered hidden behind a wardrobe and under a pillow case when police arrived to arrest him at his Wolverhampton home on April 13 – the day after Viktorija’s body had been found.

Forensic police officers hold evidence in West Park

Material concerning sexual activity had been accessed on his iPhone while the other mobile, supposedly his elder brother’s, had been used to search for how to delete Facebook accounts.

Analysis revealed the Facebook Messenger message content had been deleted along with calls to and from Viktorija and searches related to sex.

Video footage showing the teenager removing data from the phone was discovered on the other mobile.

It showed him holding it in a particular way with his thumb pressed against the body of the phone. Forensic checks found his thumb print at precisely the same spot on the seized iPhone.

Distinctive shoes

The distinctive hexagonal lattice pattern on the sole of the trainers he wore on the night of the attack matched footprints left in blood at the scene of the murder.

Infrared CCTV film showed him approaching West Park just a couple of minutes after telling Viktorija he had left his house. He was wearing shoes that a brand protection manager from the company identified as a pair of Adidas Gazelle.

These matched trainers worn by the defendant in photos on his Facebook account and produced the same footprint as that found on the floor of the pavilion following the attack.

The pavilion in West Park where Viktorija met her killer

It was also discovered the suspect had changed his trousers after bludgeoning Viktorija to death.

The killer had arrived at West Park carrying a back pack and wearing a hooded jacket at about 10.44pm on April 11 just a few minutes before the victim he had arranged to meet.

It is thought the murder weapon and bloodied clothes were in the now missing bag. He was seen following the change of trousers when he left the park around two hours after he had arrived there still carrying the bag that he was to throw away hours later.

Police found no bloodstained clothing despite the ferocity of the attack.

Viktorija’s blood was splattered onto the back wall of the pavilion after she was struck while lying in a large pool of blood. He said it was likely that, in those circumstances, the lower part of the culprit would be bloodstained.

The prosecution claimed that the defendant was the man seen leaving the area near his home in the early hours after the attack carrying a bag and returned without it. It could have held discarded clothes and has not been recovered.

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