A man has been found guilty of the “brutal” murder of 16-year-old Louise Smith in woodland.
Shane Mays was convicted at Winchester Crown Court over the killing in Havant, Hampshire, on 8 May.
The “predatory” 30-year-old is believed to have lured the teenager to a secluded, woodland spot on VE Day, with the aim of sexually assaulting her.
He repeatedly punched her in the face, causing her fatal injuries and defiled her with a stick before burning the body, which was found 13 days later following a major police search.
Her body was so badly damaged a cause of death could not be concluded.
James Newton-Price QC, prosecuting, told the trial at Winchester Crown Court: “A determined attempt had been made to destroy her body, which was so badly burned and damaged by fire as to be unrecognisable.
“Her body had been subjected to extreme violence and violation, including repeated and heavy blows to her head.”
The defendant showed no emotion as the unanimous verdict was announced, and cries of “Yes” could be heard from the public gallery.
The “vulnerable” student had moved in with the defendant and his wife, Chazlynn Jayne (CJ) Mays – the victim’s aunt – at the end of April, after the teen, who had depression, had “quarrelled” with her mother.
At first living in the defendant’s one-bedroom flat worked well.
However, Miss Smith told her boyfriend Bradley Kercher that Mays was sexually inappropriate with her and would “flirt” with her. The jury was shown a Snapchat video of him tickling her feet.
A few days after Louise moved in with the Mays, arguments began to break out over household chores, as well as the teenager wanting to smoke cannabis.
Mr Newton-Price said: “Louise was just 16, she was anxious, needy, fragile and vulnerable, vulnerable to the attentions of a predatory man who was apparently flirting with her and living in the same small flat.”
Mays claimed Miss Smith had taken him on a walk but that it turned into a violent argument about her drug use.
The prosecution said Mays had likely lured Miss Smith on the walk that ended in her death with the promise of cannabis and the ultimate aim of sexually assaulting her.
Mays told the court that he punched Louise “many” times to the face and had heard her bones “crack”, after losing his temper.
He said: “I just carried on, I lost control of myself. She made a moaning noise, that’s when I stopped.”
He maintained she was still alive when he walked away.
Reacting to the verdict, Detective Inspector Adam Edwards said: “It’s brilliant to get justice for Louise’s family and friends. They lost her in the most tragic of circumstances.
“The defilement of her body was shocking. It’s something all officers at the scene will have to live with for the rest of their lives.”
The court heard that a clinical review of the defendant found he had an “extremely low” IQ of 63, putting him in the bottom one percentile of people.
He told the court that he had not worked for five years and spent nine hours a day playing video games.
Following her death, Louise, who was training to be a veterinary nurse, was described by her family as a “smiley, generous person”.
The judge, Mrs Justice May, adjourned the case for sentencing on Wednesday.