Two children are suspected of killing a 12-year-old girl in Germany in a case which has shocked the country.
The victim, identified only as Louise due to privacy reasons, was found stabbed to death near a cycle path in a forest on Sunday following a massive police search.
Her parents had raised the alarm when she went missing a day earlier after visiting a friend.
The suspects – aged 12 and 13 – have confessed to the killing in the western town of Freudenberg, according to police.
Citing the age of the suspects, officials had refused to give any further details on their identity, gender, motive or whether they knew the victim from school, according to the Associated Press.
However Reuters said prosecutor Mario Mannweiler had referred to the suspects as girls.
Mr Mannweiler told reporters that “we must assume that the crime was committed by two children from the (victim’s) circle of acquaintances”.
He also said Louise, from Freudenberg, had died due to knife wounds but no weapon has been found.
There was no evidence that anyone else was involved in the incident or that a sexual assault had taken place, Mr Mannweiler added.
Police said Louise had several stab wounds and died of blood loss.
The suspects are below the age of criminal responsibility, which in Germany is 14.
They were not arrested but taken into the custody of a youth welfare office.
Residents in the small town, around 50 miles east of Cologne, were in shock and flags were flying at half-mast.
The governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes Freudenberg, said he was appalled by the killing.
“North Rhine-Westphalia is grieving,” Hendrik Wuest said.
“It is incomprehensible and unbearable that children are capable of such horrible acts.”
He vowed that authorities would do everything they could to establish the motive and circumstances surrounding the death.