DAVID Freeman smiled as his little sister Naomi Smith flashed a cheeky grin and asked him for a fiver to buy some fish and chips on her way home from swimming.
It was the last time he would see the happy 15-year-old alive – just two days later, she was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered under the slide in her local park.
The pretty teen had only nipped to the postbox – 100 yards from the front door of her Nuneaton home – when she was attacked by sick killer Edwin Jones, then 19, who slit her throat and bit her breast.
Tragically, her father Brian was the one who found her body.
Her 1995 murder, which is retold in Monday’s episode of Murdertown on C&I , shocked the close knit community on the Bretts Hall Estate.
Mutilated body and vicious bite marks
Growing up in the quiet cul-de-sac, tomboy Naomi and her three older brothers had always felt safe and often played out with friends until after dark.
So when Naomi told her mum and dad she was nipping to the postbox at around 9pm on September 14, 1995, they didn’t bat an eyelid.
When she didn’t come straight home, mum Cath and dad Brian assumed she’d met friends.
But at 11pm, worried Brian headed out in his car to look for her.
And when he shone his headlights across nearby Ansley Common, just yards from the house, he could see a body slumped under the slide.
He jumped out of the car and ran over, only to find his daughter's body, covered in blood. She'd been mutilated from the waist down and had her throat slit.
'It was like I'd walked into a TV show'
Naomi’s brother David, then 25, was in Birmingham when he got a call from his mum, who said: “Something’s happened to Naomi," and told him to come home.
On the 40-minute drive back, he imagined his sister had broken a limb, but as he turned into the quiet street he was met with a wall of blue flashing lights and police officers broke the news to him.
“My mum was in the house in absolute tatters,” he tells Sun Online. “In the park, Brian was in absolute bits, sat on the floor near where Naomi was found, beside himself with shock and grief.
“The main feeling I remember is just being numb, as if it was a different world and I'd just walked into a story line on the telly that wasn't real.”
There was more horror when police explained the extent of Naomi’s injuries and the “disgusting” acts of brutality she had suffered.
"Brian didn't see all the injuries when he found her, “ he says. “When it came out about what he actually did to her body it was absolutely mind-blowing. Calling him an animal is too good – even an animal wouldn’t do that.”
First mass DNA screening
The police conducted door-to-door enquiries, taking hundreds of statements.
One was from 19-year-old Edwin Hopkins, who claimed he was at his sister’s house at the time of the murder.
But after DNA was recovered from Naomi’s body, police launched the first ever mass DNA screening, taking 135 swabs from men aged between 15 and 25 and living within a mile of the Smiths’ home – and Edwin proved a match.
Friends said he had an obsession with knives, had taken Rambo-style blades to school and delighted in skinning rabbits. He also had "difficult relationships" with women.The final breakthrough came when his teeth – an unusual pattern due to one being knocked out in a cycling accident – matched the bite mark on Naomi body.
In February 1997, Hopkins, then 20, was jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years for the schoolgirl’s murder.
To this day he denies having anything to do with her death.
'Mum died of a broken heart'
As the youngest of four, Naomi was doted on by the whole family and “spoilt” by her older brothers.
Her tragic death left the family distraught and destroyed Naomi’s mum, who died of cancer in 2009 after 14 years of grieving.
Haunted by memories, Brian has now left the estate where his daughter was murdered and the boys have moved away.
In August, Hopkins made headlines when he appealed for parole, arguing he should be freed after spending 20 years in prison.
“Life should mean life in this country,” says David. "If you take a life, you should go away for life.
"But when he gets released we'll still have to live with the fact that what he’s done has changed our lives forever.
“We've been robbed of seeing her growing up, becoming a woman, having children and getting married."
Murdertown airs on Monday at 9pm on Crime+Investigation
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