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Brianna Ghey killer Eddie Ratcliffe ‘very, very smart’ and ‘a sociopath’

16-year-old Eddie Ratcliffe who has been named as the murderer of Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)
16-year-old Eddie Ratcliffe who has been named as the murderer of Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

As jurors heard the grim details of Brianna Ghey’s “frenzied” stabbing, the accused sat in the dock doing puzzles in a Sudoku magazine on his knee.

Head down, pen in hand, Eddie Ratcliffe displayed not a flicker as the 999 call played, ruled too distressing to be made public, jurors hearing the breathless words of the horrified dog walker who first came across Brianna’s lifeless body.

Diagnosed with autism, selective mutism and a high level of social anxiety and aged 15 and a child at the time of the murder, he was handled carefully by the judge, lawyers and the court.

Brianna Ghey
Teenager Brianna Ghey, 16, was found with fatal wounds on a path in Culcheth Linear Park, near Warrington (Family handout/Cheshire Police/PA)

After his arrest Ratcliffe became gradually more mute, being incapable of speech, except with his mother.

He was allowed to give evidence by typing his answers onto a computer, his words displayed on a screen for the jury and read out by an intermediary.

Each day he appeared in court, wearing a shirt and tie, carrying his puzzles magazines and accompanied by an appropriate adult and two social workers.

He was also given tangle or fidget toys, a therapeutic device to aid calmness.

And to let others know how he was, he was provided with an arrow pointer and printed card with numbered options ranging from 1 – ‘I’m feeling fine’ to 5 – ‘I’m feeling poorly’.

Some are not convinced Ratcliffe’s mutism is entirely involuntary and suspect it may be a tactic to illicit sympathy and avoid responsibility, though concede it may be the genuine result of the trauma of his involvement in the murder.

Ratcliffe grew up the middle child of three, with an older brother and younger sister, in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

His family lived ostensibly normal lives, his mother an online fitness and wellbeing coach and latterly a ski instructor.

Sources have told the PA news agency that she has recently been asked to leave her job as a ski instructor because of the publicity around the case.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
The hunting knife used in the murder of teenager Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Police/PA)

Ratcliffe took part in one kick boxing competition in Jamaica in 2018, aged 11, and the family enjoyed skiing holidays and weekends boating in the Lake District.

He had never been in trouble with police before and was a top student, conscientious with his studies.

Passing eight GCSEs, taken this summer while in custody, Ratcliffe is now teaching himself A-levels in biology, chemistry, pure maths and English literature. He planned to study micro-biology at university.

He had known Scarlett Jenkinson from the age of 11 from their school, Culcheth High, where they both attended until she was asked to leave. Sources said this was over pupils being given cannabis-laced gummy sweets.

Jenkinson had tried to persuade him to kill Brianna a week before the murder. Ratcliffe agreed to the murder but baulked at the timing.

16-year-old Scarlett Jenkinson
16-year-old Scarlett Jenkinson (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

He was unwilling to help on a school night as he had to revise.

Brianna had a week longer to live.

In a notebook found by police in Jenkinson’s bedroom, she had written a page describing Ratcliffe.

The words included, ‘trustworthy’ and ‘sociopath’.

“Someone that doesn’t have many, or no emotions,” she wrote. “Good sense of humour. Very, very smart. Genius level.

“Not sociable. Socially awkward. Gets anxious.”

Brianna Ghey funeral
A horse-drawn carriage carrying the coffin of Brianna Ghey arriving for her funeral in Warrington, Cheshire (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ratcliffe had few friends, only three followers on Instagram and though he liked one girl in particular, felt himself “socially inept” so leant on Jenkinson to help him find the words so speak to her.

Hours after Brianna’s murder he returned to the subject, asking Jenkinson about sending a message to the girl he liked as Valentine’s Day was approaching.

Ratcliffe was portrayed by his lawyers as being manipulated by his friend and co-defendant.

But while Jenkinson was the driving force behind the murder plans, Ratcliffe was a willing participant.

The pair had lived in a “cocooned” world of dark fantasies, Ratcliffe indulging Jenkinson’s blood lust and fascination for torture and death.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
Eddie Ratcliffe during his police interview (Cheshire Police/PA)

And it was Ratcliffe who brought the hunting knife used to kill.

He met Brianna for the first time on the day of the murder and they hardly exchanged a word.

“I don’t tend to speak to people until I get used to them,” he said.

Ratcliffe claimed he was “admiring trees” and relieving himself in the woods when Jenkinson began stabbing Brianna – and claimed he played no part in the frenzied attack.

He said the blood on his hands, shoes and coat was the result of him checking on the victim.

Evidence suggested it was Ratcliffe who wielded the knife, stabbing Brianna in a frenzy, front and back, head and neck, 28 times, as she tried in vain to fend off the blows.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
Peter Spooner, Brianna Ghey’s father, making a statement outside Manchester Crown Court, after the teenage defendants were found guilty of her murder (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ratcliffe’s father attended his trial sporadically, his mother every day, often making notes.

Their son made no eye contact with either of them throughout.

After the guilty verdict his mother was inconsolable, sobbing with her head in her hands, as her son was taken down to the cells.

Ratcliffe is now being held at Barton Moss, the secure youth accommodation unit in Salford, where his apparent “arrogance” has not endeared him to everyone, sources said.

He has complained about the food, moaning about fruit not being fresh enough for him.

And after one day’s harrowing evidence in court during the trial last December he returned to his accommodation, breezed into his bedroom and quickly changed into his ‘Christmas jumper’, eager to participate in that night’s festive activities planned for the boys on the unit, sources said.