Relatives of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney have visited the London park where she was stabbed to death as friends insisted there was “no reason” for her to be targeted.
The student was killed on her father’s birthday in an “unprovoked attack” at a children’s play area in Harold Hill, Romford, on Friday night.
Lucy Elkin, 18, who was friends with Jodie at college, said she was “pure and innocent” and “wouldn’t hurt anyone”.
“There’s no justification of any sort for something like this,” Miss Elkin told Sky News.
“It shouldn’t have happened. It was unprovoked. She didn’t deserve it.”
Asked if Jodie’s friends knew who was responsible for the stabbing, Miss Elkin replied: “No.”
Jodie was reportedly cradled by her boyfriend Eddie Coyle while she lay dying as he urged her to “please, stay awake”.
Miss Elkin’s boyfriend, who declined to be named, was also friends with Jodie and said the killer “needs to be found and brought to justice”.
“They stabbed her in the back when she was sat on a bench,” he told Sky News.
“There was no reason they would have been targeted. They didn’t even know who they stabbed.”
He added that Mr Coyle was “still in shock” but was a “strong guy”.
“I think everyone around [Eddie] was crying and cracked,” he said.
“Eddie didn’t crack once.
“Seeing what he had to witness…”, he added before breaking down in tears.
Jodie’s family have urged anyone with information about the killing to come forward as police hunt for the culprit.
Writing on Facebook, Jodie’s grandmother Debbie Chesney said: “How have we come to this point where kids can’t have a walk in a park without suffering an unprovoked attack?
“If anyone knows anything about this please contact the police with information.
“We don’t want anyone else to go through what our family is suffering right now.
“This has to stop, there are too many young people having their lives cut short by needless violence.”
Sky correspondent Emma Birchley said a team of officers in forensic suits returned to the stabbing scene on Sunday to continue their search for evidence.
A witness told Sky News she heard arguing and a “disturbing” scream before police were called by paramedics to the area – known as Amy’s Park – at 9.25pm on Friday and found Jodie with a stab injury.
Cries of “help me” were also heard before she was pronounced dead shortly after 10.25pm.
Krystle Pasha, who lives close to the scene of the stabbing, told Sky News: “I heard a lot of loud arguing, a lot of loud noise, shouting, followed by a really loud scream.
“The scream was very disturbing to hear. Then I heard someone shouting out; ‘Help me, help me’.”
Ms Pasha said young people were often in the park at night, where there is no lighting, but that the area is not known to have a gang problem.
“To hear what I heard last night, and to have it right opposite me, is very upsetting indeed,” she added.
Jodie celebrated her father’s birthday on Friday, sharing a photo on Instagram with the caption “happy birthday dad” alongside a smiley face and a love heart.
She had visited Downing Street with the Scouts in November and posed for a picture with members of her troop outside the front door of Number 10.
She had also recently represented the scout explorers at a remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall.
Anna Skipworth, district explorer scout leader, paid tribute to Jodie, saying she had “blossomed into an amazing young woman”.
“She always had a smile on her face, supporting the younger members where she could, ” Ms Skipworth said.
“She was funny, intelligent and a joy to work with. We are devastated by her loss.”
Jodie was the 18th person to be killed in London this year and the first victim to be a first teenage girl.
Her death comes after three other young people were fatally stabbed in the capital in recent days.
A woman was arrested after a man, 37, was seriously injured in a stabbing in Soho, central London, around 6am on on Sunday.
And a 16-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries after being stabbed in Camden, north London. A man in his 30s has been detained in connection with both attacks.
Elsewhere in the country, a 17-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Hale Barns, Greater Manchester, on Saturday, and there have been three deadly knife attacks in Birmingham in a fortnight.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the murders of young people “can’t go on” and he will meet police chiefs in the coming days “to hear what more can be done”.
“[It’s] vital we unite to stop this senseless violence,” he added.
:: Anyone with information about the Jodie Chesney attack is urged to contact police on 020 8345 3775 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.