Boy, 14, 'posed as spy to arrange his own murder'

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The Independent Online

A schoolboy posed as a female British secret service spy in an internet chatroom to persuade a friend to try to murder him, a court heard yesterday.

The boy, John, now 15, groomed a 16-year-old boy, Mark (both pseudonyms to protect the children), with an "elaborate matrix of deceit" involving six fictional characters in the MSN chatroom and correspondence totalling 56,000 lines of text.

The fictions created by John, then 14, convinced Mark that he was murdering someone who had a terminal brain tumour. He was told that his reward would be money, a job as a British secret service agent and sex with the spy, whom he believed was a middle-aged woman.

In fact, John was determined to get himself killed, which is why he never used the abort code - 6969 - that he provided.

Manchester Crown Court heard that John, who had fallen in love with Mark, also tricked him into performing sex acts on a webcam before tricking him into stabbing him twice in an alleyway at Altrincham on 29 June last year. Though John's life was in the balance for a time, he did not die and was released from hospital after a week.

Over a nine-month period before the attempted murder, John began presenting himself as a 16-year-old girl in search of a cyber relationship, then "introduced" himself as the girl's step-brother. John and Mark then physically met, as did their parents, but in the chatroom John introduced increasingly far-fetched characters, including another boy who "stalked" John and supposedly killed his girlfriend. Another of the characters was then fictitiously killed off, leaving only Mark, John and the stalker.

Other characters emerged and were killed off, one even came back from the dead. But by the time of a crucial chatroom conversation on 28 June, Mark was still convinced by the order - from the "spy" - to kill John. Mark asked the "spy": U want me 2 take him 2 trafford centre [shopping centre, near Manchester] and kill him in the middle of the trafford centre?? thats wot ur asking me?

John replied: Yes

Mark: And just leave him 2 die in the trafford centre?

John: No stay with him

Mark: And wot do I do then? Get help?

John: Yes I'll get help for you.

The following day the two boys met and went to the Trafford Centre where they bought a kitchen knife. They then went to Altrincham town centre where Mark stabbed John twice, once in the chest and once in the stomach.

Mark called the ambulance and told police officers they had been attacked but after CCTV footage disproved his story, he was charged with attempted murder. Police only became aware of the labyrinthine plot when they examined John's computer. After months of analysis, detectives were able to establish that it was John who sent the final messages from his home computer on the night of 28 June 2003 and had planned his own murder.

Mark pleaded guilty to attempted murder, was given a two-year supervision order and banned from any contact with John. John pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and incitement to murder. He was given a three-year supervision order, banned from any contact with Mark and was told he must only access the internet under adult supervision and must not enter chatrooms.

Passing sentence Judge Maddison said: "Skilled writers of fiction would struggle to conjure up a plot such as that which arises here. It's staggering to be dealing with a case that arises out of a 14-year-old boy's invention of false personalities, false relationships and events arranged for his own killing." He told Mark: "So convincingly were the characters presented to you that you really did believe you had been recruited by the Secret Service to kill your co-accused and face the consequences if you did not do so."

Detective Chief Inspector Julian Ross said John's actions remained baffling. "He says he is unhappy at home, but there is nothing we are aware of."

THE CHAT-ROOM EVIDENCE

On June 28, 2003, the "Spy" and Boy A planned the killing in achatroom:

8.50pm Boy A: he will die in the middle of alti??

Spy: please!

Boy A: but thats wot will happen

Spy: i wouldnt ask if it wasnt important?

Boy A: I understand that

Spy: trafford centre or manchester

Boy A: u want me 2 take him 2 trafford centre and kill him in the middle of the trafford centre?? thats wot ur asking?

Spy: yes

Boy A: and just leave him 2 die in the trafford centre?

Spy: no stay with him

Boy A: wot do I do then? Get help?

Spy: yes ill get help for you

9.23pm 'Spy': could you stab someone?

Boy A: i haven't really thought about it

Spy: well think please

Boy A: ok erm well i watch a lot of films

Spy: be back in 10 minutes

think about it

9.57pm Spy: change of plan dnt wear glove pull knife out and say you took it out

Boy A: ok but it will only hve one set of fingerprints?

Spy: he wore gloves

Boy A: ok

Spy: 6969 abort code Ok?!

Boy A: ok

Spy: must stop st8 away with 6969

Boy A: how will i be tld that?

Spy: shouted over tanoy