Two young brothers who tortured a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old boy in a series of brutal assaults today admitted the "horror" attacks.
In a crime with chilling echoes of the James Bulger case, the elder victim pleaded to be left to die after his ordeal at the hands of the brothers, who were aged 10 and 11 at the time.
Today, at Sheffield Crown Court, the brothers admitted causing their victims grievous bodily harm with intent.
They denied a more serious charges of attempted murder but the prosecution accepted their pleas and said there will be no trial.
The boys will be sentenced at a later date after a series of reports have been prepared.
Few details of the incident were given in court today.
But previous hearings were told the boys had been hit with sticks and bricks, one had a sink dropped on his head, one had a noose put round his head, the other was burned with a cigarette on his eyelids and ear.
In April, a district judge was told 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.
The nine-year-old tried to ram a stick down his own throat after he was told to "go away and kill himself" by one of his tormentors.
The serious assaults happened after the brothers were led to a "desolate" spot on the edge of the former pit village of Edlington, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on April 4.
The brothers were arrested after the nine-year-old boy was found wandering, covered in blood, and the 11-year-old - who is the younger boy's uncle - was then discovered unconscious in a nearby wooded ravine.
Both injured boys have since been released from hospital.
The two defendants sat in seats normally reserved for solicitors today as they calmly entered their pleas to a series of charges relating to the incident.
The court was cleared as the brothers were brought in and the judge and barristers did not wear gowns and wigs.
Sitting with social workers, the older boy, wearing a black, short-sleeved shirt and black tie, entered his pleas first and often looked towards his younger brother, who wore a white shirt and black tie, as he subsequently entered his pleas.
As well as the central 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 brothers were later charged with one count each of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent and making a threat to kill in connection with an attack on another 11-year-old boy in Doncaster on March 28 - a week before the main incident.
The brothers denied these charges today but each pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. This was also accepted by the prosecution.
Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, said the offences began with the violence on the first 11-year-old boy and culminated in the "more serious" attack on the other two boys.
He said 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 Crown Prosecution Service said the decision not to pursue the attempted murder charges was taken partly because of the desire to avoid the two victims having to give evidence and confirmed their families had been consulted.
Adrian Lower, head of the CPS Complex Casework Unit for South Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "We have carefully considered whether the offered pleas would enable us to fully set out the serious nature of the defendants' behaviour and whether, if we accepted such an offer, the judge would have sufficient powers to sentence the defendants in accordance with the seriousness of their offending.
"We are satisfied that this is the case as grievous bodily harm with intent carries the same maximum sentence as attempted murder, which is life imprisonment."
The judge , Mr Justice Keith, said the case would not be outlined today partly because "(the defendants) haven't been prepared for what may be the painful things they've got to hear".
He said the details of the case should be outlined at a sentencing hearing, which could take two to three days, on a date to be fixed later this year.
The judge added: "The focus today has been very much on ensuring that (the defendants) have been able to understand what is going on and haven't felt too intimidated by the process.
"The family of (the complainants) may well have felt that what they've been through has been lost sight of.
"I can assure them that's not the case.
"What they have been going through has not been ignored."
The judge said he would visit the scene of the attacks after Mr Campbell told him the attack on the two boys took place in two separate areas.
The prosecutor said the brothers feared passers-by could see what was happening and so moved the attack to a different area "where some of the injuries, the ones notably using the broken sink or toilet, were used to inflict the more serious head injuries on (the 11-year-old boy).
"The boys were taken there by (the brothers) to be away from any possible intrusion by the public."
Mr Campbell said: "Having seen the description of (the 11-year-old boy) as he was left lying there, face down, indicating at the end of the attack that he wanted to die, we will understand from visiting the scene just how removed and inaccessible it is and how desolate the scene is."
Speaking outside the court, police and the CPS said the case involved "very serious offending".
Detective Superintendent Mick Mason said the victims suffered a "traumatic experience" but were "recovering well".
"This crime was extremely shocking and it does rank up there with the most serious that I've ever dealt with," the detective said.
"Being a father, it does come across and strike home how horrendous the crime has been."
Acting Superintendent Ian Bint said police 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.
He said police initially did not have any suspects for the first attack but identified the two brothers after investigations.
He added that the brothers could not have been questioned any earlier as police had not gathered sufficient evidence about the attack and would not have been able to charge them.
Mr Bint said a serious case review was under way, looking at the involvement of all agencies in the case.
He said: "If there are lessons to be learned, we will learn them."
He added that the brothers had been through the criminal system on several occasions and were known to police and other agencies.
The policemen praised the community in Edlington and said one of the victims could have died if it had not been for members of the public helping to search for him.
Describing the effects the attack had had on the boys, Mr Mason said: "The victims are still suffering, certainly mentally, and also recovering from the physical wounds.
"The families are really supportive, genuinely nice people and I think it's because of their caring the lads have recovered to the extent they have."
Mr Bint added: "I think it is important to distinguish between this offence committed by two young offenders and the community of Edlington. We know that these boys have actually only been in the village for a short period of time, about three weeks.
"The people of Edlington are the victims in this and the people who have actually pulled together, helping this case to a conclusion.
"I am aware of the number of interventions we had and the process we have taken these boys through.
"It's always regrettable when matters like this occur. But if there are lessons to be learned they will be brought out by this serious case review and we will look at them."
Mr Mason said it was easy to use hindsight to assess the case.
He added: "At the time 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."
The detective said there were "striking similarities" between the separate attacks but was unclear what the motive was. He added: "It is a very difficult investigation when you are trying to elicit information out of 10-year-olds, victim or accused.
"Both have got their own problems. Trying to find out what is in a 10-year-old's head is clearly difficult."Reuse content