A murder investigation was launched yesterday after a 16-year-old girl’s body was set on fire in an alleyway.
Sasha Marsden, a college student, was found engulfed in flames behind a guesthouse in the seaside resort of Blackpool, Lancs.
Locals who found her initially thought it was a mannequin as they tried to extinguish the blaze with bowls of water.
A 22-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman who run a nearby hotel were arrested on suspicion of murder.
Det Supt Andy Murphy, the senior investigating officer, said: “This is an incredibly difficult and complex inquiry and we are working to try and build up a picture of what happened.
“From examining the body, it appears to us that someone has attempted to set fire to Sasha, and this is a line of inquiry that we are looking into.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for the family, and we are keeping them informed of our investigation. Our officers will be supporting them as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened.”
Miss Marsden lived with her parents in the Staining area of Blackpool and was studying childcare at Blackpool and The Fylde College.
The alarm was raised at 9.15pm on Thursday night after a smoke alarm was triggered inside the rear of the Grafton House hotel and staff at neighbouring guesthouses went outside to investigate.
Carl Evans, 35, who owns the nearby Kimber House Hotel, said: “I heard the fire alarm go off next door but I didn’t think anything of it at first.
“Then a dog walker called out for help. Three of us ran out and we were trying to extinguish the flames. I didn’t realise it was a body at first.
“The girl was curled up in the foetal position. She was very small and it looked like she had no legs. It has been a massive shock.”
Specialist crime scene investigators were last night carrying out forensic searches of the alleyway, behind Kirby Road in the South Shore area, and at a bed-and-breakfast hotel in the same road.
A post mortem carried out on Friday night was expected to reveal the cause of death.
Supt Eddie Newton, Blackpool Police operations manager, said: “Incidents like this do send a sense a shock throughout our communities, and I would like to reassure the Blackpool public that we have a team of dedicated and highly trained officers working on this investigation to try and establish exactly what has happened.
“I would ask people not to worry. We believe that this is an isolated incident and that there is no risk to the public.
“We have two people in custody helping with the investigation and detectives are following a number of different lines of inquiry.
“Our neighbourhood policing teams are out in the area and I would urge anyone who has any concerns to approach one of our officers and speak to them. They are there to offer you support and allay any fears that you may have.
“We have specially trained family liaison officers working closely with the family, offering them support, and our thoughts are with them at this sad time.”