TWO men who carried out the 'cold-blooded' and 'wicked' murder of a vulnerable teenager in a Burnley park have been jailed for life.

The adoptive parents of victim, 19-year-old Louise Evans have welcomed the sentences handed down to callous Anthony Wood and his accomplice Matthew Maw.

Judge Anthony Russell QC told Wood: "For no remotely understandable reason you Anthony Wood decided that Louise should be killed, and it seems you persuaded Matthew Maw to do your dirty work for you.

"It was a cold-blooded and callous offence on your part for which you have shown no remorse whatsoever.

"The only word that even begins to describe your conduct is wicked."

Louse's adoptive parents Loraine and Jeff Evans, of Colne, said they hoped lessons would be learnt by the various social and caring services involved in Louise's care to prevent similar tragedies.

The couple, who adopted Louise when she was a baby, had raised concerns over how Louise, who had Asperger's Syndrome and was partly in the care of social services at the time of her death, was allowed to live independently in Elizabeth Street Project hostel, in Burnley.

She had been lured to a secluded spot behind Towneley Hall last July by Wood and Maw, with whom she had become friends, after meeting them at the hostel where the three were residents, around two weeks earlier.

Louise, a former Haslignden High pupil, died after being repeatedly stabbed with a knife and beaten with a large piece of wood. She was stabbed so severely that the blade snapped off and became embedded in her chest.

Wood, 21, was told he will serve a minimum of 23 years for planning and encouraging the 'brutal' murder and Maw, 19, who was recruited by Wood to carry out the attack, will serve at least 18 years.

Speaking after the sentencing at Preston Crown Court yesterday, Loraine and Jeff Evans joined police officers in welcoming the 'significant' sentences handed to the killers.

Mr Evans said: "We would like to pay tribute to the police, CPS and barristers for the simply tremendous work they have done.

"It may seem like a simple case in that there was no lengthy chase to find the perpetrators, but it was extremely complicated to bring them to justice and they have done an outstanding job. The support they have given us has been fantastic from the first day."

The court heard how the three were part of a group that had gone to the park to stay out for the night on July 20 along with other residents at the hostel.

Wood, who had argued with Louise, took a knife with the intention of killing her and later passed it to Maw to carry out the fatal attack, the court was told.

Dennis Watson, for Maw, told the hearing how the 19-year-old had endured a lifetime of bullying because of his 'unusual' appearance caused by a cleft palate.

He said Maw, who operated at a 'lower intellectual level' than the average person, was easily influenced.

And he had been subjected to verbal abuse by members of the group on the night of the attack, he said.

Wood denied any involvement in the attack, but was found guilty by a jury, following a two-week trial at Preston Crown Court last month.

Maw, who was on licence at the time of the attack for possession of a knife in Blackburn, had already admitted killing Lousie, who was a former Accrington and Rossendale College student.

Judge Russell said: "It is clear that you Matthew Maw inflicted most if not all of the physical violence, but at the instigation of and with the full encouragement of you Anthony Wood."

After the case, Detective Insp Paul Broxson, of Lancashire Police, said: "It was the worst assault I have seen in 23 years of service.

"Wood is a calculated individual who planned and carried out the attack, using Maw to do his dirty work in the hope of absolving himself of any responsibility."

Gordon Birtwistle, Burnley Council Leader, called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Lousie's placement.

He said: "Social Services should take every step to ensure the care being given to those people keeps them safe and sound and helps them through the years when they need it. If that did not happen social services need to investigate why it did not happen to ensure it does not happen again."

Louise Taylor, director for specialist and direct delivery services, did not comment on the call for lessons to be learned. She said: "Everyone who knew and supported Louise is deeply upset by the circumstances surrounding her death."

Benet Middleton, National Asperger's Syndrome spokesperson, said people with Asperger's syndrome were encouraged to live independently if they expressed a desire to do so.

However, they should always be provided with an appropriate amount of care, she said.

He said: "People with autism should have the same rights as the rest of society to live free from fear and with the protection and support they need."

Louise's life

LOUISE Evans was ‘a lively and independent’ personality who struggled to fit in easily.

She lived in Colne with her adoptive parents, Loraine and Jeff, and attended Park High School until she was 14.

Louise moved to Rossendale to live with a foster family and joined Haslingden High School.

More than four years later she moved to the Elizabeth Street Project hostel, in Burnley.

She had previously spent time living at the Salvation Army in Blackburn.

Louise had just finished a course in childcare at Accrington and Rossendale College when she died.

Reading from an impact statement written by her adoptive parents, Judge Anthony Russel QC said: “She was lively and independent personality who perhaps did not fit in easily.

"Her parents describe her as something of a complex and bewildering brew – feisty, strange, beautiful, vulnerable, brave – she worked hard at school and very much wanted her independence.”

After her death, more than 2,000 friends and family members joined a tribute page on Facebook.

At her funeral last year a number of mourners chose to wear something pink – the teenager’s favourite colour.