A judge today warned of the dangers of wearing Afro combs as fashion accessories as he handed a life sentence to a 16-year-old girl who used one to fatally stab another girl in a dispute over boys.
Rebecca Douglas used the pointed metal handle of the comb to drive it into the other girl’s head as the pair argued in the street about mobile phone messages. Julie Sheriff, 16, never recovered from the bleeding and swelling to her brain and she died in hospital almost five months later.
Judge Nicholas Cooke today lifted the ban on naming Douglas, who was aged 15 at the time of the killing, and sentenced her to be detained for at least ten years. “We heard evidence that a pintail comb can be used as a lethal weapon,” the judge said. “We heard it can be worn in the hair as a fashion accessory.
“It can be as effective a killing instrument as a stiletto knife. It is not a very nice thing to have in your hair.”
The Old Bailey had heard that the comb had been taken out of Julie’s hair before it was used as a lethal weapon during the attack in Battersea, south London, in May last year.
The pair – who disliked each other - met by chance on the street and started having a row over phone messages and boys, the court was told. At one point in the fight, a witness saw Douglas strike Julie’s shoulder using the comb without much effect and then plunged it into her skull. The witness described the sound as being like “when you kill a goat back home”.
“You took possession of the pintail comb and struck out in fury,” the judge told Douglas. "Your victim died a long, lingering death some months after you attacked her.”
A replica of the black comb - designed specifically for black African hair – with its spiked metal handle was shown to the jury during the trial.
Douglas was arrested the following day near an address in Pimlico, central London, where she had been staying. She had sent a phone message to a friend saying: “I see some girl that I hate, like I actually hate her with a passion, and I kind of stabbed her."
Douglas’s legal team said that she had a violent and turbulent childhood and had never meant to kill Julie.
The victim’s family moved to Britain in 2006 from Sierra Leone, west Africa, where her father Raouf was a policeman. In a statement, Mr Sheriff told the court that the attack on his daughter was “wicked, savage and senseless”. "I am left to wonder why I brought her here and if I hadn't, she would still be alive,” he said. "The result of seeing my beautiful, bubbly, brilliant daughter bedridden and in a vegetative state, has left me extremely depressed.”