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Pair Given Life Sentences For ‘brutal And Planned’ Murder

Image source, Family handout/Cheshire Police

Image caption, Brianna Ghey was stabbed 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park in Cheshire

By Lauren Hirst & Judith Moritz & Rachael Lazaro

BBC News

Brianna Ghey’s killers have been given life sentences for her “brutal, planned and sadistic” murder.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe murdered the 16-year-old in a park in Cheshire in February 2023.

Jenkinson was motivated by a “deep desire to kill” while Ratcliffe’s motivation was in part hostility to Brianna’s transgender identity, the judge said.

She was given 22 years, while Ratcliffe was detained for 20 years.

Both teenagers, who were 15 at the time of the murder and are now 16, could be seen staring ahead towards the judge and showed no visible reaction as they were sentenced.

Brianna’s family were sitting across several benches. Her father Peter Spooner nodded as Jenkinson’s sentence was handed down.

The killers’ relatives were also present. Jenkinson’s mother could be seen crying as the sentencing hearing concluded.

Image source, Cheshire Police

Image caption, Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe murdered Brianna by stabbing her 28 times in a park in Cheshire

Ahead of the sentencing, Jenkinson could be seen fidgeting in the dock and repeatedly folding a piece of paper and reopening it again.

She later started drawing an eye in a notebook, colouring in the pupil, and sketching the eyebrows and talking to a support worker.

Ratcliffe was sitting silently, looking straight ahead before turning his attention to a Take A Break puzzle book, which he had brought into court.

The two teenagers were sitting at opposite ends of the row of seats in the dock with five adults – support workers and prison officers – between them.

Media caption, Watch: Judge sentences Brianna Ghey’s killers

Sentencing the pair at Manchester Crown Court, Mrs Justice Yip said she did not “want to dwell on the murder itself but it was brutal”, with Brianna suffering 28 stab wounds.

“Taken together the injuries point to a very sustained and violent assault,” she added.

“Sadly, Brianna can’t have lost consciousness immediately and she must have been aware she was being attacked.”

Mrs Justice Yip said Jenkinson’s fantasy to kill had become a reality when she lured Brianna to the park.

While she acknowledged that Jenkinson had been the driving force behind the plan, she said it would be “wholly wrong to treat [Ratcliffe] as being under Scarlett’s control”.

She added that messages sent by Ratcliffe were “transphobic and dehumanising,” adding that he “undoubtedly displayed hostility to Brianna based on her transgender identity”.

“It may be that you picked up some of this language and the hostile views at school but I am satisfied that you are quite capable of holding your own views.”

Image source, Family handout

Image caption, Brianna was described by her mother as “fearless, strong and brave”

In a victim impact statement read out in court before the sentences were handed down, Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, said Jenkinson and Ratcliffe would always “pose a danger to society”.

“I would never want them to have the opportunity to carry out their sadistic fantasies on another child.”

She added the “hardest thing” to come to terms with was finding out that one of those charged with Brianna’s murder was someone she believed to be her daughter’s friend.

Brianna’s sister Alisha Ghey said she now struggled to trust new people because it was “Brianna’s friend who she trusted who ended her life”.

A documentary – Killed in a Park by BBC North West Tonight – will be released later on BBC iPlayer.

File on 4 also tells the story behind the brutal killing of the 16-year-old on BBC Sounds.

Brianna’s father Peter Spooner said being the father of a transgender child had been “a difficult thing to deal with” but he had been “proud to gain another beautiful daughter”.

“We were forming a new relationship and these two murderers have stolen that from us both,” he added.

Her stepfather Wesley Powell told the court that while Brianna had a large online following, “in reality she was lonely, vulnerable and in need of a close friend”.

“Both Eddie and Scarlett knew this and preyed upon her vulnerabilities, acting as two predators stalking their prey,” he added.

Media caption, Watch: Cheshire Police release footage of moment of arrest

Brianna and Jenkinson had met at Birchwood Community High School and had spent time together socially outside of school.

A File on 4 investigation found Jenkinson was moved to the school in November 2022 on a managed transfer from nearby Culcheth High School after drugging a younger pupil with a cannabis sweet.

She later tried to poison Brianna before murdering her.

Warrington Borough Council said a review was under way into the incident at Culcheth High School.

Brianna met Ratcliffe just hours before she was killed.

Jenkinson and Ratcliffe, who had known each other since they were 11 when they both started at Culcheth High School, planned the murder for weeks and had drawn up a “kill list” of five children, before settling on Brianna as their target.

Brianna was attacked with a hunting knife in broad daylight in Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, suffering stab wounds to her head, neck, chest.

Both teenagers then went home and carried on as if nothing had happened with Jenkinson later posting an online tribute with a photo of Brianna.

Detectives later found a knife in Ratcliffe’s bedroom with his DNA on the handle and Brianna’s blood on the blade.

Image source, Cheshire Police

Image caption, Jenkinson posted a tribute to Brianna on Snapchat after her death was reported in the media

The 18-day trial heard how Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had a fascination with violence, torture and murder.

Messages between them showed they encouraged one another to think about how they would actually carry out a killing.

Both teenagers blamed each other during the trial, however, Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, said Jenkinson had admitted stabbing Brianna to a psychiatrist after she was convicted.

Ms Heer said: “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.”

Image source, CPS

Image caption, The handwritten murder plan was found in Jenkinson’s bedroom after her arrest

A crumpled, handwritten note of an alleged “murder plan” to kill Brianna was found on Jenkinson’s bedroom floor following her arrest.

Notes were also made on serial killers, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez and Harold Shipman.

Jenkinson also drew up a second “kill list” of staff at the secure youth accommodation, where she is being held, which refers to names of people caring for her, Ms Heer said.

Richard Pratt KC, defence counsel for Jenkinson, told the court he had been instructed to say something different at the sentencing hearing to what she had said to the psychiatrist.

Mrs Justice Yip said the impression she had was that, now Jenkinson had been convicted, she wanted to “paint herself in as bad a light as possibleā€¦given her admiration for notorious killers”.

“For the record then, her account now is that Eddie did the majority of the stabbing, but that she certainly enjoyed it?” she said.

To which Mr Pratt replied: “Yes.”

Image caption, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe were accompanied by support workers in the dock

Richard Littler KC, defence counsel for Ratcliffe, denied the teenager had been motivated by transphobia after he shared offensive messages about Brianna, describing his language as “juvenile and immature”.

“The names on Scarlett’s kill list were not gender-specific,” he told the court.

“They were simply people she disliked. Eddie simply agreed with her.”

He said Ratcliffe’s motive was to assist Jenkinson “because he wanted to please her”.

“Sadism is pleasure from inflicting pain and we submit that box is well and truly ticked for Scarlett, but not for Eddie,” he said.

“We have two very different people carrying out that offence, but for very different reasons.”

He added that Ratcliffe had essentially been recruited and it was Jenkinson who first introduced the idea and who wrote the kill list.

But Mrs Justice Yip said both teenagers, who had never been in trouble with the police before, had taken part in a “brutal and planned murder which was sadistic in nature”.

She said the pair would serve life sentences, but would only be released if the parole board decided they no longer posed a danger to society.

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