Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Brianna Ghey’s teenage killers will be named in court after judge’s ruling

Murderers of teenager Brianna Ghey will be named by the media when they are sentenced, a judge has ruled.

Mrs Justice Yip ordered the press can identify the teens responsible for the “frenzied and ferocious” attack on Brianna, 16, 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.

Her killers both tried to blame each other for the stabbing but on Wednesday were both found guilty of murder by a jury at Manchester Crown Court following a four week trial.

Throughout the trial, media had been ordered not to name the defendants, identified only as girl X and boy Y – both now aged 16 but 15 at the time.

On Thursday trial judge Mrs Justice Yip ruled an order banning identification be lifted after representations on behalf of the media made by the PA news agency and ITV. Brianna’s family supported the media application.

Lawyers for both defendants, currently held in secure youth accommodation, opposed the media application, citing the possible ramifications on their welfare and consequences for their families, including death threats received by girl Y’s family.

Mrs Justice Yip lifted the banning order but imposed a stay on the order, until the defendants are sentenced on February 2 next year, when they can then be publicly named by the media. Both face a mandatory life sentence for murder.

Mrs Justice Yip ruled: “There is a strong public interest in the full and unrestricted reporting of what is plainly an exceptional case.”

She added: “The public will naturally wish to know the identities of the young people responsible as they seek to understand how children could do something so dreadful.

“Continuing restrictions inhibits full and informed debate and restricts the full reporting of the case.”

In coming to her decision, the judge also said it was “inevitable” they would be named eventually as the order banning their identification would have lapsed in 2025, when they turned 18.

“Continuing the reporting restrictions until the defendants turn 18 would, in my view, represent a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the freedom of the press,” she ruled.

After the verdicts were delivered yesterday, the mother of the transgender teen said she was “glad” her daughter’s killers will spend many years away from society after the two teenagers were found guilty of the “disturbing” murder.

Speaking outside court after the verdicts, Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey said: “To now know how scared my usually fearless child must have been when she was alone in the park with someone that she called her friend will haunt me forever.

“Prior to the trial, I have had moments where I felt sorry for the defendants because they have ruined their own lives as well as ours.

“But now, knowing the true nature of the two and seeing neither display an ounce of remorse for what they have done to Brianna, I have lost any sympathy that I previously had for them, and I am glad that they will spend many years in prison and away from society.”

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

Neither had been in trouble with police before.

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

A jury of seven men and five women convicted the two following a four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court after four hours and 40 minutes of deliberations.

Trial judge Mrs Justice Yip told the defendants they faced life sentences, with sentencing to take place at a later date.

Speaking outside court, Brianna’s father Peter Spooner said: “My heart bleeds every day for Brianna, and this will never go away – and the amount of guilt I have can sometimes be unbearable. But I will ensure her memory lives on in my thoughts and dreams.”

Boy Y, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and who is non-verbal, and girl X, who has traits of autism and ADHD, were both in the dock as the verdicts were delivered.

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

At age 14, girl X had downloaded a TOR internet browser app, to enjoy watching 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, the court heard.

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

Girl X told her accomplice 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.

Their dark fantasies were about to become reality, the court heard, girl X chillingly telling Brianna when she caught the bus to meet them to buy not a return but only a single ticket – and reminding boy Y about his knife.

At around 3pm, Brianna, who had been seen sat on a bench, was suddenly attacked, possibly initially from behind, with a hunting knife with a 13cm blade, brought to the park by boy Y.

Each defendant blamed the other and it is not known which one or if both wielded the knife.

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

After they were traced and arrested, detectives found the murder weapon with Brianna’s blood on the blade in boy Y’s bedroom, along with heavily blood-stained clothing and trainers.

At girl X’s home, they found a hand-written 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.

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”.

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