Teen accused of killing rival with steel comb

A 15-year-old girl murdered a schoolgirl rival by plunging a steel comb into her head after accusing her of spreading gossip over the internet, a court heard yesterday.

Julie Sheriff, 16, lay in a coma for four months before dying without regaining consciousness, the Old Bailey was told. She was stabbed in the left temple in broad daylight with an Afro comb after she and the 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, rowed about malicious gossip involving boys, said Jonathan Turner, QC, prosecuting.

The girl denies murdering Julie, who died on 21 September last year after the attack in Battersea, south London. She had been visiting friends in the area and lived with her family in Hackney, east London, after moving to Britain in 2006 from Sierra Leone, West Africa.

The jury was shown a replica of the comb with a spiked metal handle. Mr Turner said a bystander told police he saw the girl take the comb from a handbag, allegedly striking Julie's collarbone before plunging it into her skull.

When the girl was arrested, she claimed she had acted in self-defence after taking the comb from Julie. Mr Turner told the court the girls knew each other and "actively disliked one another". He added: "There seems to have been a row brewing as a result of malicious gossip, allegations Julie was making about [the girl] and a boy or boyfriends." There also appeared to be some "territorial issue" with the girl asking Julie: "Why are you here?".

A friend of Julie's described how the other girl got off a bus and a conversation turned into "a high-volume dispute" with each giving as good as she got. The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.