DELTA, B.C. — A 15-year-old girl has died after she was attacked inside a Vancouver-area park.
Police say Laura Szendrei was assaulted in a wooded section of the Delta, B.C., park Saturday afternoon.
Szendrei was transported to hospital after the attack but died early Sunday morning with her family by her side.
The park was busy at the time of the assault but no arrests have been made and investigators don’t know if the attack was random or targeted.
“This is without question a tragic situation and the police and school district acknowledge that the loss of this young person’s life will have a far-reaching and significant impact on our community,” Delta Police Sgt. Sharlene Brooks said in an interview.
Brooks said police were called to Mackie Park around 1:30 p.m. after getting a report about an assault.
Police have identified a person of interest and say they’d like to speak with a male between 16 and 25 years of age who walked out of the park approximately 15 minutes before officers were dispatched.
He has a medium build and was wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and cargo shorts.
Officers examined the crime scene throughout the night.
The area, just a few blocks from where Szendrei attended high school, remained cordoned off Sunday.
Investigators went door to door, asking residents if they’d noticed anything suspicious at the time of the attack.
Brooks urged anyone who might have witnessed something — regardless of how insignificant it might have appeared — to contact police.
She also warned residents to take precautions when walking through the neighbourhood.
“Walking in small groups, staying in well-lit areas, high-traffic areas, both pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” Brooks said.
“We understand that there’s heightened concern within the community and we acknowledge that and we want to make sure that we’re providing some safety measures that you can employ to address that issue.”
Szendrei’s autopsy is expected to be conducted in the next day or so.
Grief counsellors were at Burnsview Secondary School Sunday to provide support for Szendrei’s friends and teachers.
Some of Szendrei’s friends expressed their condolences on Facebook, where a page was set up in her honour.
“You were the free-spirited, beautiful girl who always had a big smile on her face. Whether we were mad at our coach or just arguing over who was the better skater you always knew how to make me laugh or put a smile on my face,” said one friend.
“I don’t even know what to write. It’s hard to believe that you’re not going to be hanging around my house with my little sister anymore,” said another.
Szendrei’s family has asked for privacy as it grieves.