The family of a 15-year-old girl stabbed to death on her way to school have spoken of their heartbreak, revealing that the aspiring lawyer had been robbed of “a great future”.
Elianne Andam collapsed after being knifed in the neck with a foot-long blade when she reportedly stepped in to protect a friend during Wednesday’s morning rush hour in Croydon.
A bus driver and passers-by battled to save the life of the Old Palace of John Whitgift School pupil but she died on the pavement minutes later.
On Thursday evening the family gathered at the scene of the stabbing. They wept as a church leader read a moving statement about their loss.
The statement, which was read out while family members cried and consoled each other, said: “We as a family are struggling to comprehend this painful tragedy that has happened to our beautiful daughter and beloved sister Elianne. Our hearts are broken.
“And we are overwhelmed by sorrow and grief. Our faith in the Lord is strengthening us.”
More than 20 close family and friends placed flowers before the group entered the nearby Whitgift shopping centre. Some put their arms around each other as flowers were put on the ground.
Those gathered held hands and consoled each other as they entered the building inside the police cordon.
Friends of Elianne were “sobbing” and “so emotional” at the school on Thursday, and teachers said “when you entered a room you knew she was there”.
Donna Murray-Turner, chairwoman of the local Safer Neighbourhood Board, told crowds which gathered outside the police cordon on Thursday evening that she visited the girl’s school, Old Palace of John Whitgift School, earlier in the day.
She said she read messages in the condolence book and they “talk about her laugh”.
She added: “Staff, teachers, talked about when she entered a room you knew she was there. And her friends, as you can imagine, were sobbing. They were so emotional.”
A 17-year-old boy has been charged with murder and will appear in court on Friday.
In a statement a spokesperson for Elianne’s family said on Thursday: “Our hearts are broken by the senseless death of our daughter.
“Elianne was the light of our lives. She was bright and funny, with many friends who all adored her.
“She was only 15, and had her whole life ahead of her, with hopes and dreams for the future.
“All those dreams have now been shattered. Our lives have fallen apart, along with that of our wider family.”
Her family released a number of images of the schoolgirl as they asked for privacy “to grieve the the short life of our beautiful child.”
The victim’s aunt Marian, who lives half a mile from the crime scene, earlier said the teenager’s mother was an NHS nurse who had saved for her to go to the Old Palace of John Whitgift School to help her achieve her dreams of being a lawyer.
Speaking to MailOnline, Marian said: “You just can’t comprehend the heartbreak of the last 24 hours, how Elianne went to school and never came home.
“She wanted to be a lawyer, she went to private school paid for by my sister and had a great future ahead of her. She was a lovely girl, she loved doing her hair, had beautiful natural hair, and she really loved gymnastics.”
Witnesses said Elianne was stabbed after intervening in a heated argument between her friend and the friend’s former “boyfriend” near Croydon’s Whitgift shopping centre.
It is understood the boy tried to give a bouquet of flowers to his former girlfriend on a No60 double-decker bus, which was packed with commuters and other school children.
The stabbing is said to have happened shortly they got off when the girl is said to have rejected the flowers.
Elianne was said to have intervened, leading the boy to reportedly pull out the foot-long, serrated zombie knife before stabbing her in the neck and chest.
Scotland Yard confirmed a 17-year-old boy was arrested 75 minutes later in New Addington. No one else was being sought over the attack.
Detectives were seen on Thursday searching a drain in front of a bus parked in Croydon where the stabbing took place. Officers were earlier seen searching in long grass inside the police cordon.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said magistrates had granted officers a further 24 hours to hold the teenage suspect until tomorrow morning.
Elianne, from a West African Christian family, was the 15th teenage victim of homicide in London so far this year, exceeding the figure for the whole of last year. Of the young people killed, 13 were stabbed while two were shot. There were 14 teenage homicides in the capital last year. The worst year for teen homicides in London was 2021, when 30 teenagers lost their lives.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley have both visited the scene of the killing.
Outside Elianne’s school, Mal Soor, the father of head girl Chilteen Soor, said: “Every parent is devastated. Fifteen is no age at all to be killed in the street.
“It seems unbelievable to even think we need to have conversations with our children about knife crime. I tell them to always have their wits about them and be streetwise but even that is not enough.
“My daughter is in bits because the school community is so small. Everyone knows everybody.
“I have to go to work today but all I want is to be with Chilteen and throw a protective ring around her.”
The private girls’ school said in a statement: “We are deeply shocked by the senseless and tragic death of our much-loved and valued friend and pupil.
“It will take some time for the Old Palace community to come to terms with this terrible news, and we will offer support to our pupils as we try to do so.”
A steady flow of well-wishers left flowers and cards near the scene this morning. Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain told reporters on Wednesday: “This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and I know the officers who responded this morning, along with our emergency service colleagues, are devastated at the victim’s death.
“This is an emotion I share and I know people across Croydon will be feeling the same.”
A mother witnessed the moments after Elianne was stabbed. The woman, named Iman, said: “I was driving past when I noticed that somebody was lying down on the floor.
“I drove round, parked up and tried to get as close as I could. Two young girls were saying it was a young lady and she had been stabbed in the neck. I haven’t really slept properly because I still have that image of her lying there.”
Anyone who witnessed what happened who has not yet spoken to police is asked to call 101 quoting CAD 1601/27Sep.
You can also share information, photos and videos directly with police here.