News, Culture & Society

Friends pay tribute to Louise Smith, 16, as murder detectives find body in woods

Police investigating the disappearance of 16-year-old Louise Smith were today searching a flat belonging to a married couple where she had been living.   

Forensic officers spent the day sifting through the first floor property belonging to the 29-year-old woman and her husband in Havant, Hampshire.

According to a family friend, Louise had been under their care before she went missing. 

Police also searched another property, about a mile away.

Officers at that address, a semi-detached house, were understood to be looking for a ‘pair of trainers and petrol.’

Louise vanished on May 8, on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and has not been seen since.

A neighbour said they saw a ‘red van’ outside a block of flats which a girl got into with bags of clothes.  

Police investigating the disappearance of 16-year-old Louise Smith were today searching a flat belonging to a married couple where she had been living 

On Thursday Hampshire Police confirmed that a body had been found in nearby woodland and said they were in the process of identifying who it was.

A 29-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman have been arrested on suspicion of kidnap but later released on bail.

Louise is said to have been experiencing problems at home with her mother, Rebecca Coombes, who lives a five-minute walk away from the flat where the teenager is said to have been staying with the married couple.

A neighbour said: ‘On VE Day I saw a red van outside the flats and a girl getting into it with bundles of clothes.

‘I reported this to police as it didn’t feel right… I can’t say if it was definitely her but it was a girl around her age.’

Another local said: ‘Louise had been suffering from depression lately and had apparently been bullied at school.

‘She had an on-off boyfriend who himself had something of a troubled past. I’m not sure that he got on well with Louise’s mum. 

‘She spent a lot of time with this couple as a result. I think she had been living in that flat before she went missing.’

Louise Smith's friend Mandy Fernando (pictured) leaves flowers outside Havant Thicket in Hampshire, where the 16-year-old's body was found on Thursday

Louise Smith’s friend Mandy Fernando (pictured) leaves flowers outside Havant Thicket in Hampshire, where the 16-year-old’s body was found on Thursday

Flowers left outside Havant Thicket in Hampshire where police found a body while searching for 16-year-old Louise Smith

Flowers left outside Havant Thicket in Hampshire where police found a body while searching for 16-year-old Louise Smith

A resident living below the flat being searched by police told how the couple were led out by police in handcuffs on May 15.

He said: ‘I let the officers in. A short while later they emerged with the occupants of the flat upstairs and took them outside in handcuffs.

A neighbour told police how he seemed ‘perfectly normal’ and did not seem worried by anything.

She said: ‘I told the officers that he was here sometime between 1.30pm and 4.30pm on May 8.

‘The house is where his mum and sisters all live and where he himself used to live before he got married.

Forensic officers carry out bagged items from the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands during the search for 16-year-old Louise Smith

Forensic officers carry out bagged items from the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands during the search for 16-year-old Louise Smith

It was suggested Louise may have been staying in the flat after she fell out with mother Rebecca Cooper (pictured), 39, over boyfriend troubles

It was suggested Louise may have been staying in the flat after she fell out with mother Rebecca Cooper (pictured), 39, over boyfriend troubles

A police officer enters the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands yesterday

A police officer enters the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands yesterday

‘I asked how he was and he seemed perfectly fine, he didn’t look as though he was worried about anything.

‘She was placed in their care for the second time because she’d been having some issues with her mum.

‘Last Friday police started searching the house. They were there all throughout last weekend.

‘At first they were apparently looking for a mobile phone and then a phone SIM card.

Specialist forensic officers have been seen taking 'bag loads' of items including carpet and clothing from the flat in Havant

Specialist forensic officers have been seen taking ‘bag loads’ of items including carpet and clothing from the flat in Havant

Police (pictured today) found a body in woodland during the hunt for Louise yesterday and confirmed they are treating it as suspicious

Police (pictured today) found a body in woodland during the hunt for Louise yesterday and confirmed they are treating it as suspicious

A forensic officer blacks out windows at the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands

A forensic officer blacks out windows at the property in Leigh Park after a body was found in woodlands

The teenager's last reported sighting was around midday on May 8 on Somborne Drive

The teenager’s last reported sighting was around midday on May 8 on Somborne Drive 

‘They later took what looked like some electrical items away.

‘The police came back again this morning. I understand they are now looking for a pair of trainers and some petrol.

‘The lady and her daughters who live there are nice people. I think it’s the woman’s son who the police are interested in.’

Louise lived with her mother Ms Cooper (pictured), 39

She also lived with her stepfather Richard O'Shea (pictured)

Louise lived with her mother Ms Cooper (left), 39, and stepfather Richard O’Shea (right)

Pictured: A map showing the whereabouts of Louise Smith prior to police discovering a body

Pictured: A map showing the whereabouts of Louise Smith prior to police discovering a body

Mandy Fernando has known the 16-year-old since she was a little girl.

She laid flowers at the entrance to Havant Thicket in Hampshire where police discovered a body believed to be Louise’s.

Mandy described Louise as a lovely girl with a heart of gold.

‘The community is devastated, sad, shocked,’ Mandy said. ‘I can’t speak for everybody but when anyone hears of a young person, whoever it may be, it’s very sad.’

Louise’s neighbour John Singleton said he saw the girl on the day she went missing.

‘She just went out walking, I didn’t know where she was going.

‘It’s very sad, the outcome is the saddest, for a while we had some hope.’

It also emerged yesterday that Louise’s mother wrote on Facebook the day before police found a body how frustrated she was not being able to look for her daughter.

She wrote on Wednesday night, I want to scream from the rooftops that I want to be looking everywhere.

‘I have been told not to go searching the Thicket and Leigh Park Gardens, any search must be away from there.’ Police have issued a CCTV image showing Louise leaving a Tesco store on the evening before she disappeared.

An eyewitness said she had gone to the supermarket twice, once with her cousin’s husband earlier in the afternoon and then on her own in the evening.

He said: ‘I saw Louise enter Tesco with another man, her cousin’s husband, in the afternoon and then I saw her later in the day on her own buying a bag of ice.’

Police forces at the scene today where a body was found in the search for the 16-year-old girl who has been missing since VE Day

Police earlier released a CCTV image of the teenager visiting a Tesco store in Greywell Road on the evening of May 7

Police earlier released a CCTV image of the teenager visiting a Tesco store in Greywell Road on the evening of May 7

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.