The girl and boy who murdered 16-year-old Brianna Ghey will be jailed until they “no longer present a danger” to the public, a judge has told them during their sentencing.
The killers, both 16, who were named for the first time earlier today, had denied murder and blamed each other for the attack on Brianna, which was described as “horrific” by detectives.
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe were aged 15 when they carried out their “disturbing” plan to murder her in a “frenzied and ferocious” attack with a hunting knife.
Jenkinson was jailed for at least 22 years and Ratcliffe for a minimum of 20 years. They will be transferred to adult prisons when they turn 18.
Judge Mrs Justice Yip said the terms are “lengthy for offenders of your age, albeit significantly less than an equivalent sentence for an adult”.
But she added: “How long you will actually serve will not be decided today.
“You will only be released if in the future it is decided that you no longer present a danger – that decision will be for the parole board.
“If you remain a danger you will serve very much longer than the minimum term and may never be released.”
The sentences were handed down with the “hope” – “if not the expectation” – that the killers could be rehabilitated in the future, due to their young age, the judge added.
She said Jenkinson’s sentence was longer because it is clear a “huge amount of work” would need to be done before she could be released.
The judge said that for Ratcliffe, there are “areas in which your functioning is like that of a much younger child”.
She accepted his autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis had some impact, but its impact on his culpability was “limited”.
There was no reaction or flicker of emotion from Jenkinson or Ratcliffe as they were sentenced.
Jenkinson briefly turned to speak to the intermediary, who had assisted her throughout the trial, before she and Ratcliffe were led down to the cells.
Members of Brianna Ghey’s family, including her father Peter Spooner and mother Esther Ghey, remained calm and composed as their daughter’s killers were sentenced.
Mrs Justice Yip said her family has her “deepest sympathy” and praised the way they “bravely” and “movingly” paid tribute to Brianna.
The judge said: “Brianna was only 16 years old when she was killed – she had her whole life in front of her.
“Sadly, no one will ever know what she would have achieved in her life.”
Brianna’s injuries point to a “sustained and very violent assault”, the judge added.
Anxious and vulnerable Brianna was stabbed 28 times in the head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park, Culcheth, a village near Warrington, Cheshire, on the afternoon of 11 February last year.
When she left home on that day, she thought she was going to meet a friend.
But in what detectives described as the “ultimate betrayal”, Brianna, from Birchwood, Warrington, had been lured from her house that Saturday afternoon by a girl with “murderous intent”.
The judge referred to Jenkinson’s duplicity, saying during her sentencing remarks: “Scarlett, you make up stories.”
“It is simply impossible to believe any account Scarlett gives,” the judge added.
“Your motivation, Scarlett, was to act out your fantasies. You wanted to see the pure horror on Brianna’s face.
“Two days before the murder you said you were excited.
“Brianna was killed with exceptional brutality.”
But the judge also said she was “certain” Ratcliffe inflicted at least some of Brianna’s injuries because of evidence against him – such as blood on his clothing. However, she also said Ratcliffe did not show the same “interest” in killing as Jenkinson.
The judge added: “Both of you played a full part in killing Brianna and both intended she should die.”
She also said she had taken into account the “sadistic motive [of Jenkinson] and transphobic hostility [of Ratcliffe]” when sentencing the pair.
Violence and age of killers ‘beyond belief’
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement after the sentencing that it was “one of the most disturbing cases” it has had to deal with.
“At just 16, Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe are convicted killers, responsible for the brutal murder of a vulnerable young girl who thought they were her friends. They have been given a life term of imprisonment and have shown no remorse,” Senior Crown Prosecutor Nicola Wyn Williams said.
“The planning, violence and the age of the killers is beyond belief.
“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.
“The Crown Prosecution Service would again like to thank Brianna’s family for the courage and dignity they have shown throughout the proceedings and our thoughts and sympathies remain with them at this difficult time.”
Ms Wyn Williams also said the CPS applied to the judge for an increase in the killers’ sentences as it believes the “chilling killing was a hate crime, motivated in part by hostility towards Brianna because she was transgender”.
“We are pleased that the court agreed that this was a motive,” she said.
‘Deadly influence on each other’
Identified only as girl X and boy Y during their four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, jurors heard Brianna’s killers were intelligent, “high functioning” children from normal backgrounds.
Jenkinson’s parents are teachers, while Ratcliffe’s mother is a skiing instructor and his father runs his own businesses.
Neither had been in trouble with the police before.
But there was also a dark side to the pair, who had a fascination with violence, torture and a “thirst for killing”, the court was told.
The pair were said to have been “a deadly influence on each other” and had an arrogance they would not be caught.
They had discussed and meticulously planned Brianna’s murder for weeks, detailed in a handwritten murder plan and thousands of texts and WhatsApp messages found by detectives.
Jurors were told it was “difficult to fathom” how the two child defendants could share such “dark thoughts” and carry out such a “disturbing” crime.
It was one of the reasons the judge ruled there was a strong public interest in lifting the reporting restrictions preventing their identification as they remain juveniles in the eyes of the law.
The judge, who described the killing of Brianna as “a particularly brutal murder”, said it was an “exceptional case” as she lifted the order to name the two teenagers after they were convicted in December.
“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,” she said.
‘So I bring my knife’
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”, the trial heard.
She developed an interest in serial killers, making notes on their methods, and admitted enjoying “dark fantasies” about killing and torture, with the pair living in a secret world of warped interest in murder and cruelty, jurors were told.
Jenkinson, who was said to have traits of autism and ADHD, claimed while she enjoyed fantasies about murder she never intended any of it to become reality.
However, Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, told the court Jenkinson admitted stabbing Brianna to a psychiatrist she saw after her conviction.
Speaking of those admissions, Ms Heer told the judge: “She did enjoy the feeling of stabbing, feeling of power.”
Ratcliffe, who gradually stopped talking following his arrest and was diagnosed with autism and selective mutism, claimed he just played along and never wanted to harm anyone.
As jurors heard the details of Brianna’s murder, Ratcliffe sat in the dock doing puzzles in a Sudoku magazine on his knee, head down and pen in hand.
As their conversations moved from horror films and Sweeney Todd to thoughts of murder, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe compiled a “kill list” including Brianna and four other children.
Jenkinson said she was “obsessed” with Brianna, while Ratcliffe referred to her as “it” in what detectives called “transphobic messages”.
Jurors were told Jenkinson boasted of giving Brianna an overdose of ibuprofen gel in the weeks before her death.
Her mother Esther Ghey remembered she was “really sick”, adding: “She was writhing around in pain screaming, ‘I think I’m going to die’.”
In another exchange, Jenkinson told Ratcliffe that Brianna had agreed to meet and he replied: “So I bring my knife.”
‘They had a real thirst for murder’
Brianna didn’t keep the arrangement on 28 January because of a family birthday but after agreeing to another meeting two weeks later Jenkinson told Ratcliffe she was “excited af” – meaning ‘as f***’ – the night before the killing.
She told Brianna not to buy a return ticket and took a last photo of Brianna on her phone in the park – after Jenkinson had talked about “trophies” taken while making plans.
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 that had a 13cm blade.
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 a “cool and calculated” presence of mind.
In the hours after the stabbing, Jenkinson shared a tribute to “amazing friend” Brianna online and told her mother and police the victim had left the park with a young man from Manchester.
Jenkinson had assured Ratcliffe not to worry about being caught as the local police were “shite”.
But the pair were arrested within 24 hours of Brianna’s body being found by walkers. Detectives said they seemed “quite timid but assured” until they realised the weight of the evidence against them.
A knife and blood-soaked clothes were found in Ratcliffe’s bedroom.
No motive has been identified for the murder and detectives believe it was simply Brianna’s “availability and accessibility” that made her the victim that day.
“This was about murderous intent for anyone,” said Cheshire Police’s Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans.
“They had a real thirst for death and for murder,” he said.
“We believe that there were others possibly who it would’ve been had it not been Brianna.”
Second ‘kill list’
A second “kill list” was found at the secure unit where Jenkinson was being held on remand, the court heard.
It had on it the “names of people caring for her”, Ms Heer said.
Richard Pratt KC, defending Jenkinson, said while he acknowledged the degree of planning and premeditation in Brianna’s murder, there were some “childlike mistakes from this would-be serial killer”.
He said she left notes in her bedroom and made limited attempts to conceal evidence.
Ratcliffe was “recruited”, said his barrister Richard Littler KC, who denied the boy’s “disparaging” language about Brianna meant the murder was motivated by transphobia.
He cited what Jenkinson had told the psychiatrist about the stabbing. “She was thrilled by thoughts of violence, she was sometimes sexually aroused by it,” he said.
“She had increasing interest in violence, torture, murder, weapons, serial killers, fuelled and re-enforced by documentaries and dark web materials on these subjects.”
Reading a statement to the court, Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, said “no amount of time spent in prison will be enough for these monsters”.
“I cannot call them children as that makes them sound naive or vulnerable, which they are not – they are pure evil, Brianna was the vulnerable one,” he said.
He told Sky News he thought about the murder of his “beautiful and talented” daughter “every day”, including “the brutality of it”.
Mr Spooner said he only had feelings of “anger” towards Jenkinson and Ratcliffe.
“I hate them,” he said. “[They are] evil for what they have done, and I don’t think they will ever change.
“I think they will always be monsters – and that’s what they are to me.”
Brianna’s mother told the court in a statement read out on her behalf by Ms Heer that she believed Jenkinson and Ratcliffe continue to be a danger to society.
She said: “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.”