Sofia's family ask for prayers

The devastated church-going family of murdered Perth school girl Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu has asked people to "keep Sofia and our family in your thoughts and prayers."

Sofia's family, active members of the Catholic community in Perth's southern outskirts, said they were struggling to comprehend the murder of their youngest daughter, according to a report in The Australian.

"We are all devastated by the sudden and senseless loss of Sofia," they said in a statement. "We have received immense support from the police, the parish and from the school community which we greatly appreciate."

Eight-year-old Sofia was a pupil at the Mater Christi Catholic Primary School in south suburban Yangebup. Police said all students and staff would receive counselling if required.

Her father was on a business trip in Hong Kong when his daughter's body was discovered. He flew back to Perth yesterday morning.

Her 14-year-old brother told detectives how he frantically searched a busy Perth shopping centre for his eight-year-old sister before discovering her naked body slumped on the floor of a toilet cubicle. Sofia had been stripped of her school uniform, raped and strangled within minutes of leaving family members to go to the toilet.

In what police have described as an appalling atrocity against a vulnerable innocent girl, Dante Wyndham Arthurs, a 21-year-old part-time shop worker, was last night in custody after being charged with wilful murder, two counts of sexual penetration and deprivation of liberty.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Wibberley, of Perth's Major Crime Squad, said the three Rodrigez-Urrutia-Shu children - Sofia, her 14-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister whose names have been withheld - had been taken to the shopping centre after school on Monday by an uncle.

According to the Australian report, Sofia went to the toilet about 4pm while the other three waited inside the Livingstone Market shopping centre in suburban Canning Vale.

When she had not appeared after 10 minutes or so, they went looking for her and checked the male, female and disabled toilets. Both the male and female toilets were empty, but the door was closed on the disabled toilet and the occupied sign engaged.

When the boy knocked on the door, a man's voice acknowledged there was someone inside. The brother then left and searched the car park.

When he returned five minutes later, he saw the man quickly emerge from the disabled toilet and run past him. The boy looked into the cubicle, saw his sister's body and then chased the man.

Unsure of what to do, he gave up after a few metres, ran back to the toilet and sat with his dead sister until help arrived.

At 4am yesterday, detectives raided a house in Jeremiah Way, not far from the shopping centre, and arrested Mr Arthurs, who was in his bedroom at the time.

He was taken to Canning Vale police station, interviewed and charged yesterday afternoon. He later appeared in Perth Magistrates Court and was remanded in custody to reappear on 11 July.

Sofia's school is holding prayer services for the little girl in all of its classrooms.

Every parent's nightmare (The Australian, 28/6/06)
Family devastated at death (The Australian, 28/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mater Christi Catholic Primary School, Yangebup

Family metres away as Perth girl killed (The Age, 28/6/06)

28 Jun 2006