Ashley Murray rarely speaks of the events of 17 January 1999. The partial paralysis down the left side of his body speaks eloquently enough; a constant reminder of the torture he suffered at the hands of two fellow pupils, in an incident with parallels to the recent horrific attack, reported last week, on two young boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire.
An angelic-looking 13-year-old back then, Ashley was lured to a secluded spot in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, by his then best friend Daniel Gill, 14, and a school pal Robert Fuller, 15, where the intention was to sneak into a local birdwatching hut. Instead, the boys attacked him, stabbing him 18 times with a screwdriver and a knife, before wrapping him in a binbag and leaving him for dead. It was two days before he was found, barely alive, by an old man walking his dog.
His nightmare did not end there. Found guilty of attempted murder, both boys were given a minimum six-year sentence at Hull Crown Court. They were released after three years, and moved back home – just around the corner from their victim.
Eleven years on, Ashley Murray has broken his silence because he fears the same mistakes that compounded his ordeal are being repeated. As the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, announced a review of the decision to impose minimum five-year sentences on the two brothers behind the Edlington attack, Mr Murray added his voice of support to those clamouring for the sentences to be doubled.
"I didn't grasp it at the time because of my age, but now I realise they [Gill and Fuller] did not get an appropriate sentence. As the judge said, in their minds I was dead when they left me – and you wouldn't get six years for murder," he said. "When they got out of prison I stopped going out for about a year. From the way Fuller acted, I don't think that he has changed at all. He was very aggressive. I wasn't the one that did anything wrong, yet I was made to feel like I couldn't go out."
Mr Murray had been friends with Daniel Gill for three years before the attack took place, and they regularly stayed overnight at each other's houses and spent time together at weekends. Robert Fuller was in the year above them at school, but was closer to Gill.
Fuller and Gill had not suffered the same "toxic" home life of the Edlington attackers – where the two brothers were exposed to routine domestic violence and one was said to have begun drinking cider and smoking cannabis from the age of nine. They had also watched violent horror films and were dubbed the "Scream" attackers after it emerged that they had been inspired by watching the horror film Scream.
"Gill and I were typical best friends," Mr Murray said. "There was nothing in his behaviour that suggested anything was about to happen. It turned out they'd been planning it since September."
After a Sunday afternoon kick-about on the school playing fields, the three boys headed up to a nearby birdwatching hut. "We started walking down the steep crag. After about five minutes, they jumped on me from behind. One of them stabbed me in the cheek and it went straight through and knocked out my teeth. I jumped up and started running away, but my shoe fell off and I fell over.
"They caught up with me and it started again. They stabbed me 11 times in the head. It probably lasted about 20 minutes, but I lost all sense of time. I wasn't screaming; I was in shock to the point where I couldn't make a sound. I remember lying on the floor shaking, and hearing Gill say: 'Shit, Fuller, he isn't dead yet.'"
The boys then stabbed him three times in the back and, assuming he was dead, wrapped him in a binbag and ran away.
Lying in a thicket of brambles too injured to move, Murray survived using tips from survival programmes he had watched on television, such as licking rainwater off his jacket. Meanwhile his mother, worried about her missing son, had visited Daniel Gill's house. He told her that her son had stormed off after a tiff during the football game.
It was not until more than 40 hours after the attack that was he was discovered by an elderly man walking his dog. "The dog came up and started licking my face. I heard the man say he couldn't get down the slope to me – on account of his age – but he said he would get help. I was happy to see him but when he said he was leaving I was like 'God, no'," he said.
When paramedics arrived, he was rushed to hospital, where he spent seven months undergoing operations that involved removing bone fragments from his brain and surgery to amputate his frostbitten big toe. When he had recovered enough to be released from hospital, Mr Murray found his trust in other human beings had been so shattered that he refused to return to his family, going home only for short visits, which were gradually increased. "I didn't trust anyone any more," he explained. "When it's your best friend that does this to you, it makes you question everyone around you."
He is convinced that the Edlington attackers, like the two who left him for dead, should be given longer sentences. But he does not agree with those who call for them to be named. "When the ban was lifted and they were named... bricks were put through their windows, and it got quite nasty. I don't think they should be named, because that would be a threat to their wellbeing. They should be punished through a longer prison sentence, not that way."Reuse content