Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Boy, 15, murdered student 'because she was a Goth'

A 15-year-old boy has been found guilty of murder for his part in gang attack that ended with a 20-year-old woman being kicked to death simply because she was a Goth.

Brendan Harris, whose identity was protected during the trial, set upon Sophie Lancaster – who dressed in the dark clothes and wore distinctive facial make-up associated with Goths – after he and four other youths had assaulted her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, 21.

The attack happened in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire, last August.

Preston Crown Court heard the gang had "acted like a pack of animals" and had decided to attack the pair "just because they were different".

Harris, who had pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm but denied murder, was found guilty and will now be sentenced with the four other youths, who had earlier pleaded guilty to the murder. Harris, Ryan Herbert, 16, two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old who cannot be named, will be sentenced on 28 April.

The court heard that Harris attacked Ms Lancaster as she begged him and four other youths to stop beating her boyfriend. Ms Lancaster, a gap-year student, died from serious head injuries two weeks after the attack. Mr Maltby, also a Goth, survived.

After his girlfriend's death, Mr Maltby said he wished the gang had killed him instead. "She was my entire world," he said. "I'm not ashamed to say that.

"Everything I was doing outside being around Sophie was really just to make it so we could have a decent life together and just when we have tried that hard, we have put in so much effort, some child comes along and decides to ruin it all for you, it is just not fair.

"I just really wish Sophie had just legged it and got out of there and waited until they had left but I just wish she had left me to die if I'm honest."

And outside the court, speaking after the verdict, Ms Lancaster's mother, Sylvia, paid tribute to her daughter and said her death should serve as a wake-up call to a society which she believes suffers from a lack of tolerance. Mrs Lancaster said: "Sophie's death was a tragedy in so many ways. First, obviously, I have lost an adoring and adorable daughter. She was intelligent, brave, courageous and had a social conscience beyond her years.

"Her death has ruined the lives of those responsible as well as the lives of their families. On a wider scale it is a tragedy for a society that, in the past, prided itself on its tolerance. I am convinced Sophie was killed simply because of the way she looked. She did not necessarily conform to the ideals of those who took her life.

"Perhaps we should see it as an opportunity to examine how all of us, particularly younger people, can become blinkered. I believe that today, more than ever, we need to show respect."