Schoolboy brothers admit to 'horrific and violent' attacks

Doncaster social services in the spotlight after pair aged 10 and 11 with a long history of brutality plead guilty to torturing two boys their own age close to death
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The Independent Online

Two young brothers on the child protection register tortured a pair of schoolboys in a "horrific, violent, sustained attack" before leaving them for dead on wasteland near the outskirts of a former pit village.

The attackers, who were then aged 10 and 11, beat their victims with bricks and burnt them with cigarettes in a brutal attack which left their young victims, aged 11 and nine, seriously injured.

The attacks, which took place in Edlington, south Yorkshire, were so ferocious that the elder of the victims pleaded to be left alone to die, while his young nephew tried to ram a sharp stick down his own throat after being told to kill himself.

Yesterday, at Sheffield Crown Court, the brothers pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent, but denied another charge of attempted murder. The Crown Prosecution Service, after consulting with the victims' families, accepted the pleas, and there will now be no trial.

The pair, who were in foster care, had a history of violence going back years and were well known to police and social services. The 11-year-old has appeared in court on four separate occasions for "acts of violence", the most recent being in January when he received a 12-month supervision order for an offence of battery.

The 10-year-old has been in trouble with the police for two offences of causing actual bodily harm and common assault. At the time of the attack in Edlington he was on bail facing two charges of causing actual bodily harm and one of burglary.

And just one week before the Edlington incident, the pair attacked another 11-year-old boy in nearby Doncaster. They denied charges of GBH with intent and making a threat to kill, but yesterday pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which was also accepted by the prosecution.

Last night acting Superintendent Ian Bint of South Yorkshire police said a serious case review was under way to see whether more could have been done to prevent the crime.

They will be sentenced at a date yet to be fixed, when the judge will also decide on whether a ban on naming the defendants should be lifted.

The attacks in Edlington happened on 4 April this year.

The two victims were lured to Brick Ponds, a desolate spot on the edge of the village, under the pretence that their attackers were going to show them toads and foxes.

The boys went along willingly but upon arriving were robbed of a mobile phone and £5 in cash. Then their ordeal began.

Few details were heard in court yesterday, but an earlier hearing in April told exactly what the victims suffered. The boys were hit with sticks and bricks. The older boy had a sink dropped on his head, while the younger boy had a noose put round his head and was burned with a cigarette on his eyelids and ear.

The younger boy had a sharp stick rammed into his arm and cigarettes pushed into the gaping wound. Their tormentors tried to force the boys into performing sex acts on each other. All of the detail given to the police and revealed at the early hearing came from the nine-year-old, as is uncle was still too ill to speak.

The younger boy said that he tried to ram a stick down his own throat after he was told to "go away and kill himself" by one of his tormentors.

He also told police he was made to smoke and eat nettles by his attackers. He said his uncle told the brothers: "Leave me, I can't see. Leave me to die." and said the attack only ended when the two defendants said they had to go to meet their stepfather. But he said one of them added that "they couldn't go yet because they'd not killed them and they would be able to identify them to police".

After the attack the young boy was found by three girls, wandering dazed towards the village, covered in blood and with a gaping wound in his arm. His uncle was found unconscious in the wooded ravine and an air ambulance had to be called for him.

Yesterday Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, said the offences began with the violence on the first 11-year-old boy, in March, and culminated in the "more serious" attack on the two related boys. He also revealed that on the day of the second attack, the two brothers should have been at the police station being questioned about the initial assault.

The court was cleared as the brothers were brought in and the judge and barristers did not wear gowns and wigs. The two defendants, who wore shirts and ties, sat in seats normally reserved for solicitors as they entered their pleas.

As well as the charges of GBH with intent, each pleaded guilty to robbing one of the boys of a mobile phone and the other of cash. They also admitted two counts of intentionally causing a child to engage in sexual activity. The judge, Mr Justice Keith, said he would visit the scene of the attacks after Mr Campbell told him they took place in two separate areas – the second one chosen because the brothers feared that passers-by could see what was happening at the first.

Speaking outside the court, Detective Superintendent Mick Mason said the victims suffered a "traumatic experience" but were "recovering well".

The crime "does rank up there with the most serious that I've ever dealt with," he said. "Being a father, it does come across and strike home how horrendous the crime has been." The police said they were actively looking for the brothers on the day of the attack after they did not turn up at a police station for questioning about an assault the previous week.

Det Supt Mason said: "These were a pair of boys missing a pre-arranged police appointment and then it would have taken a few hours for the police to find out where the foster parent was, where the child was and make alternative arrangements."