A sex attacker who roamed a beauty spot for female victims has been jailed for life for the ‘savage and brutal’ murder of an 18-year-old student.
Ellen Higginbottom was targeted by Mark Buckley, 52, as she took a break from A-level study revision at Winstanley College in Orrell, Wigan, on the afternoon of June 16.
She went for a walk in nearby Orrell Water Park and intended to later return to meet up with friends who were sitting exams.
Police discovered Ms Higginbottom’s body at Orrell Water Park, Wigan in June
Buckley had earlier approached other lone females in Orrell Water Park and engaged them in conversation before walking away, Manchester Crown Court heard.
The knife-wielding defendant overpowered the slightly built student, who aspired to be a vet, and cut her throat before stealing her laptop, mobile phone and other personal possessions.
Sentencing Buckley to serve a minimum of 31 years in custody, Judge David Stockdale QC said the facts of the case were ‘frankly chilling’.
He said: ‘You Mark Buckley had entered the park intending, as I find, upon attacking and sexually assaulting a female.
‘You were carrying a bag later seen to contain items for sexual activity, together with a length of rope and cord. You were carrying a knife.
Miss Higginbottom, who did not know her attacker, was not able to physically offer much resistance, said the judge.
The Honorary Recorder of Manchester told the defendant: ‘Despite that, her wounds indicated that she tried albeit in vain to defend herself.
‘As it was you subjected her to a savage and brutal attack. You inflicted many wounds in cutting her throat and killing her.
‘It was as cowardly and callous as it was brutal. She would have had no idea it was coming. She would have been caught entirely off her guard.
‘You were armed with a knife. She simply did not stand a chance. What must have been going through her mind is beyond imagining.’
Buckley later returned to the park and moved her body which he then intended to bury under the cover of darkness, the court heard.
But he was thwarted as a police helicopter with heat-seeking equipment hovered overhead and he made off.
Buckley was later arrested and admitted killing Miss Higginbottom but could offer no explanation for his actions.