FIVE youths accused of launching an attack on a couple in a skatepark may face murder charges after the woman died from her injuries.

Sophie Lancaster, 20, died yesterday (Friday) morning having never regained consciousness since the attack at Stubby Lee Park in Bacup almost two weeks ago.

Her death prompted tributes from her parents, Sylvia and John, local councillors and a fresh appeal for witnesses by police, who say they are now looking at bringing fresh charges against the five youths accused of the attack.

She and boyfriend Robert Maltby, 21, were walking through the skatepark in the early hours of Saturday August 11 when they were attacked.

Police said that the couple, who may have been targeted because they were wearing goth-style clothing, had suffered such severe head and facial injuries they had difficulty identifying the couple's sex.

Five youths aged between 15 and 17 years were charged with wounding with intent in relation to the incident but this will be reviewed in light of Sophie's death.

A spokesman for Lancashire police said: "The charges will be reviewed with the Crown Prosecution Service. A murder charge is an option for all five of the youths."

Officers have renewed their appeal for information about the incident.

Detective Inspector Dean Holden, said: "It is tragic that this young woman has now died. Our thoughts are obviously with her family.

"Anyone who saw the attack or has any information should contact the police."

Sophie's parents, Sylvia and John, paid tribute to their daughter, a former Haslingden High School pupil.

In a statement they said: "We were proud to know our daughter. She was funny, kind, loving and brave. She was a beautiful girl with a social conscience and values which made her a joy to know.

"Not being able to see her blossom into her full potential or even to see her smile again is a tragedy beyond words."

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Graham said: "This is a tragic incident which has resulted in the senseless loss of a young and vibrant woman. Lancashire Constabulary sends its sincerest condolences to Sophie's family and friends at this difficult time.

"There are, of course, young people in Lancashire and, as we have seen in recent times, all over the country who are intent on disrupting the lives of law-abiding citizens. In the very worst cases, such as this one, their actions have devastating consequences.

"Lancashire Constabulary will not tolerate this kind of behaviour, irrespective of the age of the perpetrators, and will take a forceful approach towards tackling it, using all the powers that we have available to the full.

"This incident is simply tragic," said Rossendale County Councillor Hazel Harding, leader of Lancashire County Council.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sophie's family and friends and also to Robert's family at this time. Everybody in Rossendale is terribly shocked by this incident.

"It's important to remember that this is an isolated incident in a rural community and a very unusual occurrence. Like many communities we have some anti-social behaviour problems but our Youth and Community Service has a very positive relationship with local young people. I know that this news will have left workers and young people feeling very upset."

Councillor Duncan Ruddick, Leader of Rossendale Council, said: "We cannot begin to understand the grief that Sophie's family and friends are now feeling but we can offer our deepest sympathies to them.

"The loss will be felt throughout Rossendale by all sections of the community. As a council we will do whatever we can, along with our partners in the Police and at Lancashire County Council to help the community come to terms with what has happened."

Residents living in Bacup spoke about their shock over Sophie's death.

Phil Hargreaves, 23, from Rawtenstall who visits the park frequently, said: "I can't believe that something so dreadful could happen in this park. You hear about things like this in the national news but never think it could happen in Rossendale.

"I always thought this was one of the nicer parks in the area. I certainly won't be coming here in the dark.

"During the day this place is full of families with small children and I know people come here to get drunk in the evenings but I never thought that something this tragic could happen."

Roy Fitton, 84, from Bacup, who plays on the bowling green next to the skate park, said: "It is devastating to think that this could happen. I've been coming to this park for about 70 years and brought my children here to play when they were young and I have never heard of anything this disgusting happening before."

Anyone with information should contact Rawtenstall CID on 01706 237443, the control room on 01282 4721360 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.