From West Midlands Police:
A MAN has today pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Birmingham schoolgirl Christina Edkins on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Phillip Simelane, aged 23, today appeared before Birmingham Crown Court where he entered a guilty plea.
The Walsall man was detained on the morning of March 7, 2013 a short time after 16-year-old Christina had been fatally stabbed on board the number 9 bus.
It had been a usual Thursday morning for the teenager, who had left her home in Ladywood and walked to board her usual bus on Broad Street, to head to Leasowes School in Halesowen.
Christina had been on the bus for just five minutes when Simelane, of no fixed abode, moved to sit immediately behind her on the top deck. In a random attack, at 7.30am, Simelane stabbed Christina once to the chest before walking downstairs and waiting to exit at the next stop on Hagley Road.
Fellow passengers rushed upstairs to offer first aid, but the promising young student could not be saved and she died at the scene.
Superintendent Richard Baker, of Birmingham Police, led the murder investigation. He said: “A manhunt was immediately launched to find the man responsible for taking this young girl’s life.
“He was arrested not far from the scene around four hours later, after we believe he returned to the area to see what was going on.
“It was immediately apparent that Simelane suffered from mental health issues, and to this day we have not been able to interview him about what happened that day.
“Christina was a beautiful, bright, caring and loving young girl who has so tragically been taken from all those who loved her – leaving a devastated family and many, many distraught friends.
“Today’s conviction gives them some answers but, like many of us, we will never truly know why on that day Simelane took the course he did.”
Simelane, who is originally from Walsall, was originally detained in a secure unit until he was deemed fit to be charged with the murder on March 15, 2013. A series of court appearances followed where further psychiatric reports were commissioned to determine whether the 23-year-old was fit to enter a plea.
Some seven months later, psychiatrists working on behalf of the defence and prosecution agreed that he was able to formally plead guilty to the offence of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. During today’s hearing, The Hon Mrs Justice Thirlwall DBE sentenced Simelane to an indeterminate hospital order.
Supt Baker added: “Justice can come in many forms – and for Christina that is making sure that the person responsible for her death is unable to commit such a crime again.
“Having spoken to Christina’s parents, I know that this is their view as they simply do not want others to have to go through the pain they continue to endure, as a result of this man’s actions.”
Following today’s hearing, Christina’s Great Uncle, Chris Melia, spoke on behalf of the family in paying tribute to his niece.
“Christina was a bright, beautiful girl who had her whole life ahead of her, she was loved by everyone,” he said.
“She was looking forward to her school prom, she knew she wanted to go into a care profession, possibly a midwife or a nurse, and she was waiting for her exam results.
“As it turned out she never got to see that she met expectations in achieving 11 GCSEs, including an A*, five Bs and five Cs.
“She loved sports and we attended West Bromwich Albion games as a family. She was also an accomplished netball player.
“Christina’s parents, Jason and Kathleen, her brother Ryan and sister Joanne, together with her wider family, continue to come to terms with this tragic loss and the senseless circumstances surrounding her death – which came just two weeks after her 16th birthday.
“To find ourselves in this position is both alien and deeply traumatic – especially for her parents. An ordinary, quiet and hardworking family has experienced the horror, distress and pain associated with such a devastating crime but at the same time, many acts of kindness – often from people who never knew Christina – have been very comforting.
“The tributes from her friends and the school have been deeply moving. Her headmaster said: ‘if a school could choose its pupils it would be full of Christinas’.
“Nothing will restore Christina to us. The loss of a child is the worst thing that can happen, made even more grievous by such a senseless crime at this. The family are all innocent victims and must pay the penalty as we stand helplessly and watch the lives of people we love shattered like precious glass, knowing we can never put the fragile pieces back together.
“Now the family asks the question – when this man was discharged from prison on 13 December 2012, why was the recommendation, made a few weeks earlier by mental health experts, that he be supervised after release whilst adjusting to life back in the community, not followed up?
“The Crown Court hearing today brings an element of resolution in that the custodial sentence passed means that the public is protected from this man.
“However, he was allowed the freedom not only to take the life of an innocent child but, in doing so, ensured the lives of the people whom she loved are forever affected as a result of his crime.”