- Scarlett Jenkinson, 16, and Eddie Ratcliffe, also 16, were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 20 years for the “sadistic” and premeditated murder of 15-year-old Brianna Ghey
- Ghey was stabbed to death in a park in Warrington, northwest England on February 11, 2023
- The judge allowed the killers to be named due to the severity of the attack
- Victim impact statements from Ghey’s family detailed their grief, pain and loss
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both aged 16, have been sentenced to life in prison for the “sadistic” murder of 15-year-old Brianna Ghey in Warrington, northwest England.
Jenkinson and Ratcliffe must serve a minimum of 20 years behind bars before being eligible for parole. The teenagers, who were 15 at the time, stabbed Ghey to death on February 11, 2023 in a park area.
In sentencing, the judge allowed the pair to be identified due to the severity of the offense. Usually, killers under the age of 18 are granted lifelong anonymity.
Planning the Attack
Prosecutors said Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had planned for weeks before the murder to kill a stranger. They looked up the effects of different knives and toxic chemicals, as well as researching notorious serial killers.
The court heard that the pair had a “kill list” of potential targets prior to settling on Ghey.
On the day of the murder, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe skipped school to hang out together. They purchased masks from a local shop to conceal their identities and armed themselves with a knife stolen from a family member of Ratcliffe’s.
Luring the Victim
Ghey had met up with friends that morning but parted ways around midday. On her way to meet her mother for lunch, she crossed paths with Jenkinson and Ratcliffe.
The killers persuaded Ghey to accompany them to a secluded wooded area in Linear Park. Once there, they launched a prolonged attack, stabbing and kicking the schoolgirl to death.
Impact on the Victim’s Family
In emotional victim impact statements, Ghey’s loved ones spoke of their grief, pain and loss.
Her father said the senseless murder “ripped the heart and soul out of our family”.
“Brianna was beautiful, witty, intelligent, sarcastic, bright young lady who would have succeeded magnificently at anything she put her mind too,” he said. “Brianna’s future has cruelly been taken away from her and the hopes and dreams that we had for her will now never be realised.”
Killers Show No Remorse
The court heard Jenkinson and Ratcliffe were “smiling and laughing” immediately after the murder and showed no remorse during interviews with police.
When asked why they killed the schoolgirl, Jenkinson stated Ghey “deserved it because she was transgender”. Ratcliffe merely replied: “I don’t know”.
During sentencing, Jenkinson shouted abuse at Ghey’s family and friends. Ratcliffe sat silent and expressionless in the dock.
Neither defendant offered any apology to the victim’s relatives.
Jenkinson’s family later issued a statement apologizing for the teenager’s actions.
“We are truly sorry Brianna’s precious life was taken in such an atrocious way,” they said, acknowledging no words could change what happened or ease the suffering of her loved ones.
Concerns Over Online Radicalization
The apparently random and senseless nature of the attack has led to concerns Jenkinson and Ratcliffe may have been radicalized online.
The judge said the murder had “obvious parallels” with the infamous killing of toddler James Bulger in Liverpool 30 years ago. He also warned of online influences, with the offenders having researched notorious serial killers.
“The circumstances of the murder plainly point to the offenders having been influenced by materials they had seen on social media and the dark web,” the judge said.
Mental health experts have warned of vulnerable young people being targeted online and slowly having their behaviors warped.
Organizations supporting LGBTQ youth have raised the alarm over forums and content that promote intolerance and glorify violence. They reiterated calls for more regulation around age verification.
Debate Over Naming Underage Killers
The judge’s decision to lift reporting restrictions, enabling Jenkinson and Ratcliffe to be identified, has sparked debate. Usually killers under 18 are granted automatic anonymity under UK law unless there are exceptional circumstances. Opponents argue naming young offenders hampers rehabilitation.
However, the judge said the premeditated and abhorrent nature of this murder met the threshold for allowing identification. He stated transparency was needed, considering the attack’s parallels with the Bulger case.
There have also been arguments made that naming offenders is important to deter other young people from turning to serious violence. Identifying those convicted warns they will be held accountable for their actions, regardless of age. The opposing view contends that stigma and public shaming are rarely effective deterrents with teenagers.
The debate around youth criminal records, rehabilitation and prevention is likely to continue as the implications of this disturbing case become clearer.
What Next For the Killers?
As 15-year-olds convicted of murder, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe will begin their sentences at a young offender institution housing only those under 21. They will have support teams to address rehabilitation and managing future risk.
After the minimum 20 year term is served, a parole board will assess the pair’s cases individually. It will determine if each poses an ongoing threat to the public before considering their release.
If paroled, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe would be subject to strict conditions, such as having to disclose any relationships to probation officers. Police may also monitor them for an indefinite period under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
However, early release is not guaranteed. The judge stated there was significant risk of further violence from the “highly dangerous young people” if they fail to show remorse and reform.
“Given their age, the length of the minimum term means you may never be released from custody,” the judge told Ratcliffe and Jenkinson upon passing sentence.
The murder of Brianna Ghey by two schoolmates who will see little of life outside prison shocked the UK due to the apparent lack of motive and extreme violence.
Concerns have been raised around online radicalization of young people and prevention of similar tragedies. But for the victim’s loved ones, the focus is on a stolen future – a promising teen who brought color to their worlds now lost to a senseless, unthinkable act.
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