COPS were last night probing messages sent by teenagers on Snapchat hours before a boy of 13 was stabbed to death in a park.
Detectives are investigating whether schoolboy Oliver Stephens may have been lured to a beauty spot near his home where he was confronted by his killers.
Police were last night examining phones and computers belonging to Oliver and the young suspects in a bid to establish any possible motive for the shocking killing in the heart of middle England.
A girl and four boys, all aged 13 and 14, are under arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to murder Oliver.
He was found dying from stab wounds just before 4pm on Sunday at Bugs Bottom fields, Emmer Green, on the outskirts of Reading, Berks.
The murder scene is just 250 yards from the detached leafy home where he lived with parents Amanda and Stuart Stephens and older sister Emilia.
Oliver’s parents, both aged 51, were too upset to talk yesterday.
Sister Emilia, 16, paid tribute to her younger brother on social media, saying: “I’m so sorry I failed you, I wish I could have saved you from it all.
“We will get justice for you my angel.”
She posted two touching images of Oliver on Instagram alongside the post – including one of him as a baby.
Yesterday a cordon was in place inside a large field directly in front of the family home as police carried out forensic searches of the area.
The four teenagers under arrest were all held in the Reading area. Their homes were searched and computers and phones seized for interrogation.
Detective Superintendent Kevin Brown, head of Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “This remains a very active investigation and a large scene-watch remains in place.”
He added: “Our thoughts remain with Olly’s family at this incredibly difficult time.
“I would urge anyone who has any information that they believe is relevant to this investigation, no matter how small you think it is, to please get in touch.”
Oliver’s killing shattered staff and pupils at Highdown Secondary School, in Caversham, Reading.
In a statement, headteacher Rachel Cave said: “For a life to be ended at such a young age is a total tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Floral tributes were left outside the school.
In one tribute, a mother with children at the school, described Oliver as a “lovely lad” who was “loved by many.”
It read: “Dearest Olly, taken away too soon. You were such a lovely lad, loved by many. Thinking and sending love to your family at this sad time.”
IT manager Igor Samoylenko, 45, who has a daughter at the school, said: “It is truly terrible.”
Nearby St Barnabas Church opened its doors for locals who had called asking if they could come in and say a prayer for Oliver.
Reverend Derek Chandler said: “There is just an overwhelming feeling of shock and sadness from everyone in the community.
“It just shows that terrible things can happen anywhere and people have been left very distressed by it
Oliver’s fatal stabbing in a quiet semi-rural area follows a spate of murders carried out by children on young victims elsewhere in the country.
Retired Met Police detective chief inspector Mick Neville said: “We have all become too used to murder, especially in London, where the age of suspects and victims seems to get younger all the time.
“But I am still shocked to see the tragic death of a thirteen-year-old in Reading in the Royal county of Berkshire. more
“It is a place more associated with the pomp and ceremony of Windsor Castle and the fun of Legoland, rather than brutal fatal stabbings of children by children.”
He went on: “We are dealing with a lost generation. Due to lockdown, vulnerable kids from chaotic families have missed months of school, with youth groups shut down.
“Kids also have easy access to video games and rap music, which glamorise violence and knife crime.
“YouTube and other social media sites are used by violent gangs to brag about their activities and it is easy for youngsters to be influenced by them.
“Social media can also be used to incite others to violence.”