Tributes have been paid to a teenager who died after being brutally attacked near her college in Wigan.
Friends have described Ellen Higginbottom as a “lovely and caring young girl” who will be remembered for her love of horses.
Classmates said the 18-year-old student at Winstanley College was “taken far too young” after her body was found at Orrell Water Park in the early hours of Saturday morning.
A post-mortem examination has concluded that Ellen had suffered multiple wounds to the neck.
Greater Manchester Police has launched a murder investigation into her death.
Her friend Katie Hatton wrote on Facebook: “Absolutely heartbreaking that this horror had to happen to such a lovely and caring young girl, always smiling and making me laugh in psychology.
“You were taken far too young – my love and thoughts are with friends and family. R.I.P. Ellen.”
Lisa Wasilewski wrote: “Seriously saddened by the loss of the lovely Ellen Higginbottom. My thoughts are with her family right now.
“I will always remember you for your love of horses and your bubbly personality. You will be missed xxx.”
Chloe Williams, who had posted a plea for information about Ellen in the hours after she went missing, said later: “Never felt as sick and upset and heartbroken in my entire life.”
Winstanley College released a statement saying the community was “shocked and mourning the loss of a wonderful young woman”.
It said it was helping affected students “come to terms with something no one should ever have to come to terms with”, adding: “Please be kind to each other and take care.”
The headteacher of nearby Lathom High School, Jane Galbraith, tweeted: “All of us @LathomHS are thinking of you all at this terrible time.”
Ellen was reported missing by her family at 7.20pm on Friday evening when she failed to return home from college. They said her disappearance was very out of character.
Friends said she was last seen near Orrell Water Park, where there are two reservoirs surrounded by woodland.
Just over six hours after the student was reporting missing, police found her body there.
DS Howard Millington, from Greater Manchester Police’s Major Incident Team, described the murder as a “brutal attack” and an “absolute tragedy”.
He said officers were investigating a report that two young women were followed by two men in the same area.
Appealing for information, the superintendent said at a news conference: “There are fishermen and youths who congregate in that area, so it’s possible someone has seen something that isn’t quite right.
“Myself and my team will not stop until we have found out exactly what happened and have brought whoever did this to justice.”