GRIEVING friends of 16-year-old Aleysha Rothwell, who was found hanged at her home in Breightmet on Thursday, held moving a vigil for her in Breightmet tonight.
About 300 people came together outside the Home Bargains shop in Bury Road before walking up Mobberley Road to Bolton St Catherine’s Academy, where Aleysha was a pupil, to light candles, lay flowers and share memories about Aleysha.
The 16-year-old, who has been described as an “amazing, beautiful girl”, was found hanged on Thursday at her home in Crossdale Road, Breightmet, where she lived with her foster mother, Beverley Sharples.
Aleysha’s close friend, Charlotte Whittle, aged 17, from Farnworth, who helped to organise the vigil said: “The news has shocked me so much. Aleysha was always a laughing, smiling girl and although she had her problems, like we all do, as far as I knew, she was happy.
“I saw her a couple of weeks ago and she seemed fine, so it has come as a real shock — she was a lovely girl who liked typical girly stuff like make-up and she loved going out.”
At the vigil, flowers, lanterns, teddies, notes and balloons were in the arms of many of Aleysha’s school friends, including her girlfriend Beth Lees.
They planned to lay the items at the school.
A bucket labelled “Collection for Aleysha” was being handed around to pick up donations to go towards her funeral costs, which had made £600 before the vigil began.
Morgan Pritchard, aged 14, said: “She will be missed by a lot of people – she has a lot of friends at school as you can see by how many people have turned up.
"She was always smiling and had a really good sense of humour. She had the best smile I have ever seen.”
Lauren Hamilton, aged 16, said: “She was a top girl. We were in the same year and in a lot of my lessons so we used to talk to each other a lot.
"She was really good fun and always up for a laugh.”
Sam Green, aged 15, said: “She was great, a great friend to have. I was in the year below but she had friends in all years. She just got along with everybody.”
As the huge crowd set off, many put their arms around one another in comfort as they made their way towards the school.
A Facebook tribute page has been set up for Aleysha with nearly 500 members.
Several of the messages suggested that the 16-year-old may have been bullied but Ms Whittle said this was not the case.
She added: “She was not being bullied at all, I can put my word on that — Aleysha was one of the most liked people that I knew.”
According to Ms Whittle, Aleysha “loved her foster mother to bits”.
A post on the Facebook page from Aleysha’s girlfriend, Beth Lees, read: “Aleysha baby, I know deep down that you're not going to see this but there's still that tiny part of me that's telling me you're alive.
"I miss you more than ever beautiful. I'll never forget you girl, I'll always love you, my first and last love. I'm going to do you proud, I love you aleysha rothwell.”
Her mum, Gaynor Rothwell, also paid tribute to her daughter on facebook, she wrote: “R.I.P my beautiful baby girl, you were clearly loved by so many and you have left a massive hole in so many people's lives and hearts.
“To say I'm in shock is an understatement, I have got to tell your little sisters yet, you know how they adored you. Love you so much my princess, don't think I will ever get over this.”
Aleysha was formerly a student at St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School in Ashton-in-Makerfield in Wigan before joining Bolton St Catherine’s a year ago.
School principal Lee Harris said: “Aleysha quickly became part of our community and staff and pupils are deeply shocked and saddened by this tragic news — our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said that while the 16-year-old’s death was not being treated as suspicious, the force has a policy to investigate all child deaths and is doing so.
As a child in care, Aleysha would have been under the supervision of Bolton Council’s child services department, director Margaret Asquith said: “We are extremely sorry to hear of this sad death and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends.
“Children’s services’ specialist staff are working with the school, her relatives and her foster family to ensure that appropriate support is available to anyone who knew her.”