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Teenage killers of schoolgirl Brianna Ghey jailed for life

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, who have been named as the murderers of Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, who have been named as the murderers of Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

A girl and a boy who murdered teenager Brianna Ghey have been jailed for life and given minimum terms of 22 and 20 years before parole.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both 16, carried out the “disturbing” plan to murder Brianna, 16, in a “frenzied and ferocious” knife attack.

The judge said the murder was “brutal” and “sadistic” and that a secondary motive was Brianna’s trans identity.

Both aged 15 at the time, they have been identified for the first time as they were sentenced on Friday after a senior judge lifted a ban on the press naming them.

Anxious and vulnerable, unsuspecting transgender schoolgirl Brianna was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park, Culcheth, a village near Warrington, Cheshire, on the afternoon of February 11, last year.

Jenkinson, Brianna’s school friend, whose parents are teachers and lives close to the park in Culcheth, was identified only as girl X during their trial last December at Manchester Crown Court.

Ratcliffe, from Leigh, whose mother is a skiing instructor and father runs his own businesses, had been identified only as boy Y.

Each had denied murder and blamed the other for the killing, described as “horrific” by detectives.

Jenkinson, currently held in Adel Beck secure children’s home in Leeds, was given a minimum term of 22 years before parole by trial judge Mrs Justice Yip.

Ratcliffe, currently at Barton Moss secure children’s home in Salford, was given a minimum of 20 years before parole.

Media were banned from naming them during their four-week trial because of their ages.

But after they were found guilty of murder by the jury, Mrs Justice Yip ruled the press could name the two at their sentencing hearing on Friday, following an appeal on behalf of the media by the PA news agency.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
Brianna Ghey whose teenage killers have been named and sentenced at Manchester Crown Court (Family handout/Cheshire Police/PA)

Ratcliffe, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and who is non-verbal, and Jenkinson, diagnosed with traits of autism and ADHD, both faced a mandatory life sentence for murder.

Brianna’s parents told the sentencing hearing the pair should never be released from prison, with her mother Esther Ghey saying she felt her daughter’s killers still pose a danger to society.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Ghey said: “I don’t believe that someone who is so disturbed and obsessed with murder and torture would ever be able to be rehabilitated.

“I have moments where I feel sorry for them because they have also ruined their own lives, but I have to remember that they felt no empathy for Brianna when they left her bleeding to death after their premeditated and vicious attack, which was carried out not because Brianna had done anything wrong, but just because one hated trans people and the other thought it would be fun.”

Brianna’s father Peter Spooner said “no amount of time spent in prison will be enough for these monsters” as he branded his daughter’s killers “pure evil”.

Intelligent, “high functioning” and coming from normal backgrounds, the trial heard Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had a fascination for violence, torture and murder and a “thirst for killing”.

Neither had been in trouble with police before.

They were discussing Brianna’s murder for weeks, detailed in a Jenkinson’s handwritten murder plan and phone messages found by detectives.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
The notebook belonging to Scarlett Jenkinson with details of the plan to murder Brianna Ghey (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

Jurors were told it was “difficult to fathom” how the two child defendants could carry out such a disturbing crime.

Jenkinson, while aged 14, downloaded a TOR internet browser app, to watch videos of the torture and murder of real people, in “red rooms” on the “dark web”.

She grew an interest in serial killers, making notes on their methods, and admitted enjoying “dark fantasies” about killing and torture, the pair living in a secret world of warped interests in murder and cruelty, their trial heard.

They drew up a “kill list” of four other youths they intended to harm, until Brianna had the “misfortune” to be befriended by Jenkinson.

She had been asked to leave her school, Culcheth High, over an incident involving cannabis and joined Brianna’s school, Birchwood High, and quickly became “obsessed” with her.

Brianna had thousands of followers on TikTok, but in reality was a withdrawn, shy and anxious teenager who struggled with depression and rarely left her home.

Jenkinson told Ratcliffe she wanted to stab Brianna “jus coz its fun lol… I want to see the pure horror on her face and hear her scream”.

She got her wish after luring Brianna to the park on a Saturday afternoon, believing she was going to “hang out” with friends.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther Ghey made a statement outside Manchester Crown Court, after the boy and girl, both 16, were found guilty of murder (Peter Byrne/PA)

Their dark fantasies were about to become reality, the court heard, Jenkinson chillingly telling Brianna when she caught the bus to meet them not to buy a return ticket – and reminding Ratcliffe to bring his hunting knife.

Jenkinson had talked about “trophies” taken during killing plans and took a last photo of Brianna on her phone in the park.

Then at around 3pm Brianna, who had been seen sitting on a bench, was suddenly attacked, possibly initially from behind, with Ratcliffe’s hunting knife with a 13cm blade.

Brianna was “stabbed and stabbed and stabbed” in a “frenzied and ferocious” attack.

She instinctively tried to cover up – tendons in her hands and arms slashed in a futile attempt to fend off the blows.

She suffered 28 stab wounds, 14 to her head and neck and 14 to her chest, back and sides.

The blade cut her throat, puncturing her heart and lungs and the blows were delivered with enough force to damage the bones of her ribs, vertebrae and sternum.

As she lay dying Jenkinson sent a message to her victim’s phone, “Girl, where are you?”, to set up her cover story of Brianna leaving them to go off with another youth.

Seconds later she deleted a Snapchat conversation with Brianna, showing “cool and calculated” presence of mind.

Brianna Ghey death
Flowers and candles left during a candle-lit vigil at Old Market Place in Warrington, in memory of transgender teenager Brianna (Danny Lawson/PA)

Both teenagers went home and carried on as if nothing had happened, Jenkinson later posting an online tribute with a photo of her victim, saying: “Brianna was one of the best people I have ever met and such an amazing friend it’s so f****** sickening what got done to her.”

An hour later both were under arrest.

Arrogant Jenkinson had assured Ratcliffe not to worry about being caught as the local police were “shite”.

But they had been seen by witnesses walking to the park with Brianna and caught on CCTV and doorbell footage and quickly traced.

Detectives found the murder weapon with Brianna’s blood on the blade in Ratcliffe’s bedroom, along with heavily blood-stained clothing and trainers.

At Jenkinson’s home they found a handwritten note detailing the murder plan and naming Brianna as the victim.

Messages on their phones detailed their fascination with murder, torture and death, plans to kill other children and an earlier attempt to poison Brianna with an overdose.

At the sentencing hearing on Friday, the court was told Jenkinson had been seen by a psychiatrist after she was convicted and admitted for the first time to stabbing Brianna herself.

Brianna Ghey death
Police officers at the scene of the stabbing in Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, Cheshire (Jason Roberts/PA)

Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, said: “She said effectively, she said that at the time of the killing she had in fact administered stab wounds herself.

“She had snatched the knife from Eddie’s hand and stabbed Brianna repeatedly.

“She said Eddie had thrown Brianna to the floor and stabbed her three or four times then he panicked and said he did not want to kill her, so she carried on and stabbed her a number of times.

“When asked how many, she answered, ‘A lot.’ She was satisfied and excited by what she was doing.”

Ms Heer said, in a further account of events to a probation officer, Jenkinson had said she and Ratcliffe deliberately lured Brianna to the park.

Ms Heer continued: “On this occasion she said it was she who first inflicted stab wounds then passed it to Eddie who forced the victim to the floor, stabbing her about three times, at that point she took the knife and delivered the majority of stab wounds.”

Jenkinson’s barrister Richard Pratt KC later told the sentencing hearing: “Our instructions would now be it was Eddie who was responsible for the stabbing.”

He said when he asked the teenager why she had told people she had stabbed Brianna, Jenkinson said because she “felt responsible and she accepted she wanted herself to do the stabbing”.

Brianna Ghey murder court case
CCTV issued by Cheshire Constabulary of Scarlett Jenkinson (marked X) and Eddie Ratcliffe (marked as Y) meeting Brianna Ghey (marked as BG) at a bus stop on the day of her murder (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

Mrs Justice Yip said: “There is so much evidence of untruths in the case of Scarlett that it is impossible to believe anything she says.”

The gruesome murder of a transgender teenager in a public park prompted candlelit vigils worldwide protesting against perceived transphobia.

Detectives believe Brianna was killed because she was vulnerable and accessible, with her death not a hate crime but done for “enjoyment” and a “thirst for killing”.

Jenkinson claimed while she enjoyed fantasies of killing Brianna she never intended any of it to become reality.

Ratcliffe said he played along or treated it all as a joke and never wanted to harm anyone.

Jurors disagreed.