Two teenagers were jailed for life on Friday for the murder of Brianna Ghey in an attack described as sadistic and transphobic.
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both now aged 16 but 15 at the time of the attack, were also identified following the lifting of an anonymity order by Ms Justice Yip at Manchester Crown Court.
As she warned the pair they may never be released from prison, Ms Justice Yip handed Jenkinson a minimum term of 22 years, while Ratcliffe must serve at least 20 years before parole.
In a frenzied attack that was weeks in the planning, the defendants stabbed 16-year-old Brianna 28 times with a hunting knife after luring her to Linear Park, Culcheth, a village near Warrington, Cheshire, on the afternoon of 11 February.
Jenkinson and Ratcliffe, previously identified only as girl X and boy Y, had denied murder and each attempted to blame the other for her killing.
The judge ruled the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both sadism by Jenkinson and transphobic hate on the part of Ratcliffe. Ms Justice Yip concluded Jenkinson “enjoyed” the killing and that her “deep desire to kill” was the driving force behind the murder, while the judge also highlighted Ratcliffe’s “dehumanising language” when she passed sentence.
Ms Justice Yip said: “I therefore find that you both took part in a brutal and planned murder, which was sadistic in nature and where a secondary motive was hostility towards Brianna because of her transgender identity.”
Jenkinson made no reaction as she was told she must serve more than two decades behind bars. Ratcliffe, also seated and looking directly in front of him, made no visible reaction as he was sentenced. He was led down to the cells without looking over at his mother, who was sat to the left of the dock.
Before sentencing, Brianna’s parents told the hearing their daughter’s killers should never be released from prison as her father branded the pair “pure evil”.
Her mother Esther Ghey said: “I never want them to have the opportunity to carry out their sadistic fantasies on another vulnerable person. The thought of them being released from prison absolutely horrifies me. I don’t believe anyone so disturbed, so obsessed with murder and torture, could ever be released from prison.”
She said she had “never felt such grief” as in the days following the loss of her child. “It felt like someone had killed a part of me,” she said. “Like my heart had been ripped out.”
Brianna’s father Peter Spooner said his “world has been torn apart” following the loss of his “vulnerable” child. He said: “Justice may have been done with the guilty verdicts, but no amount of time spent in prison will be enough for these monsters.”
Jenkinson, whose parents are teachers, had been asked to leave her school, Culcheth High, because she gave giving cannabis-laced gummy sweets to another pupil. She then joined Brianna’s school, Birchwood High, in October 2022, and quickly becoming “obsessed” with her.
Along with Ratcliffe, from Leigh, whose mother is a skiing instructor and whose father runs his own businesses, they drew up a “kill list” of four other youths they wanted to harm. When Brianna was befriended by Jenkinson, she was added to the beginning of the list.
It emerged at Friday’s hearing that a second “kill list” of staff caring for Jenkinson has been found written by her at the secure accommodation she is currently held at.
A harrowing four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court heard how the “warped” pair, whom Brianna believed to be her friends, had a fascination for violence, torture and murder – and shared a “thirst for killing” that grew in extremity and realness over time.
At a later hearing at the same court, trial judge Ms Justice Yip decided in favour of lifting the anonymity orders that were previously in place due to the pair’s young age, citing a strong public interest.
However, Mr Spooner said he feared their names will be “tied to Brianna’s all the time”. He told Sky News: “I think they should just be forgotten about, locked up and not be spoken about again. They’re nothing.”
Brinna’s 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 said.
Jenkinson had 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 watched her “favourite film”, Sweeney Todd, for the “9,000th time” and discussed which knife her co-defendant would use the night before Brianna’s murder.
The pair’s dark fantasies were about to become reality, as Jenkinson subsequently lured Brianna, who believed she was going to hang out with friends, to the park on a Saturday afternoon. She chillingly told Brianna to only buy a single bus ticket there and reminded Ratcliffe – whose phone number was saved in her phone under the name “Tesco John Wick”, a character from a film about a violent hitman – to bring his knife.
At around 3pm, Brianna was “stabbed and stabbed and stabbed” in a sudden, “frenzied and ferocious” attack.
Afterwards, both teenagers went home and carried on as if nothing had happened. Jenkinson later posted 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.”
But an hour later both were under arrest.
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 give Brianna an overdose.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it believes Brianna’s murder was a hate crime driven by transphobia and is “pleased the court has agreed this was a motive”.
Speaking outside court, Nicola Wyn Williams, senior crown prosecutor for Mersey-Cheshire, said: “Today’s sentence reflects the brutality of the two killers’ heartless crime. And while it cannot erase the pain of Brianna’s loss, we hope it brings some closure.”
Ratcliffe has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and selective mutism. Jenkinson presents with a severe “conduct dissocial disorder” with “limited pro-social emotions”, psychiatrists said. The court heard that the medical diagnosis could not excuse their actions and both knew what they did was wrong.
Following the sentencing, Cheshire Police’s Detective Inspector Nige Parr said the defendants had shown “absolutely no remorse for the pain they have caused”.
He expressed his condolences to Brianna’s loved ones and said: “This has been a challenging and complex investigation from the very beginning and while I am pleased that the two responsible for Brianna’s brutal and senseless murder have been handed significant sentences, there is no escaping the tragedy in this case.”
Downing Street said Rishi Sunak’s thoughts are with Brianna’s family as he praised the “courage and dignity” of Brianna. The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “Obviously the hurt that they feel is unimaginable and the prime minister shares in the country’s horror at this despicable and cowardly murder.”