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Brianna Ghey: Why teenagers who killed schoolgirl can be named

Girl X and boy Y - Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe - have been named for the first time ahead of their sentencing

Barney Davis
Friday 02 February 2024 11:07 GMT
Brianna Ghey’s mother fights back tears as she calls for compassion for killers’ families

The girl and boy who murdered teenager Brianna Ghey have been named as Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe for the first time.

The defendants, both 16, were only identified only as girl X and boy Y during their four-week trial last December at Manchester Crown Court.

They were aged 15 when they carried out the disturbing plan to murder Brianna, 16, in a “frenzied and ferocious” attack with a hunting knife.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe have been named for first time (Cheshire Constabulary)

A ban on naming or picturing her killers had been in place since they first appeared in court but that has now been lifted.

Below we looked at how their unmasking came about.

Why did the judge decide to name them?

Jenkinson, Brianna’s school friend, was identified only as girl X during their trial last December at Manchester Crown Court. Ratcliffe, from Leigh, had been identified only as boy Y.

Both have now been named ahead of their sentencing on Friday. Senior judge Mrs Justice Yip, had previously indicated she would lift a court order banning the press from identifying them. The move bucks the norm of children appearing in youth or crown courts in England and Wales - whether as a victim, witness or defendant - generally not being identified.

Mrs Justice Yip ruled that the media could name the killers when they are sentenced after representations on behalf of the news outlets made by the Press Association and ITN.

Brianna Ghey, who was murdered in February 2023 and whose killers have now been named (Family handout/Cheshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

Lawyers for the defendants opposed the media application, arguing that it had possible ramifications for their welfare and consequences for their families, including death threats received by Jenkinson’s family.

But the judge said there was “a strong public interest in the full and unrestricted reporting of what is plainly an exceptional case”.

“The public will naturally wish to know the identities of the young people responsible as they seek to understand how children could do something so dreadful,” she added. “Continuing restrictions inhibits full and informed debate and restricts the full reporting of the case.”

When has this happened before?

James Bulger case

Jon Venables, right, tortured and murdered two-year-old James, left, in 1993 (PA) (PA Media)

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were 10 when they abducted, tortured and murdered two-year-old James Bulger in Liverpool in February 1993.

After they were convicted at a high-profile trial, judge Mr Justice Morland allowed the boys to be named.

The judge said: “I considered that the public interest over-rode the interests of the defendants.”

In 2001, shortly after they turned 18, the High Court made an injunction preventing the media from publishing their new identities, effectively granting them lifelong anonymity.

Will Cornick

Teacher Ann Maguire was stabbed to death as she taught class

Will Cornick was 15 when he stabbed to death Ann Maguire, 61, as she taught a class at Corpus Christi Catholic College, in Leeds, in April 2014.

Mr Justice Coulson, who ruled Cornick could be named as he was jailed for at least 20 years, said lifting his anonymity would have a “a clear deterrent effect” and will also aid debates about the wider issues involved.

He added: “Ill-informed commentators may scoff, but those of us involved in the criminal justice system know that deterrence will almost always be a factor in the naming of those involved in offences such as this.”

Jack Hindley and Samuel Jones

Edward Reeve was stabbed to death on new year’s eve (PA Media)

In September 2022, Mr Justice Sweeney lifted reporting restrictions at Winchester Crown Court to allow the naming of Hindley and Jones, then 17, who were found guilty of the murder of 35-year-old musician Edward Reeve.

The keyboard player suffered multiple stab wounds in the attack at his home in Christchurch, Dorset, on new year’s eve 2021.

Mr Justice Sweeney said that open reporting could have a “deterrent effect” on youth knife crime and attacks in the home, which he said were “two areas of public concern”.

He added: “There is greater weight in open justice and unrestricted reporting than in the interests of these defendants.”

What did Brianna’s killers do?

A teenage girl with a fascination for serial killers watched her favourite film Sweeney Todd as she and a teenage boy put the finishing touches to a meticulous plan for a brutal murder.

The following day, the girl lured transgender teenager Brianna Ghey to a park in Culcheth, near Warrington, having already tried and failed to kill the 16-year-old with an overdose of ibuprofen. In a frenzied attack, the young killers stabbed Brianna 28 times with a hunting knife, the first victim from their “kill list” of at least five child targets.

Anxious and vulnerable Brianna was stabbed 28 times in the head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park, Culcheth, a village near Warrington, Cheshire, on the afternoon of February 11 last year.

Each defendant had denied murder and blamed the other for the killing, which was described as “horrific” by detectives.

Intelligent, “high functioning” and coming from normal backgrounds, the trial heard the pair had a fascination with violence, torture and murder and a “thirst for killing”.

Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey arriving to court (REUTERS)

Neither had been in trouble with police before.

They had discussed Brianna’s murder for weeks, detailed in a handwritten murder plan and phone messages found by detectives.

Jurors were told it was “difficult to fathom” how the two child defendants could carry out such a disturbing crime.

Jenkinson while aged 14, downloaded a TOR internet browser app to watch videos of the torture and murder of real people, in “red rooms” on the “dark web”.

She developed an interest in serial killers, making notes on their methods, and admitted enjoying “dark fantasies” about killing and torture, with the pair living in a secret world of warped interest in murder and cruelty, their trial heard.

Eddie Ratcliffe, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and is non-verbal, and girl X, diagnosed with traits of autism and ADHD, are both held in secure youth detention.

Jenkinson had claimed that while she enjoyed fantasies about murder she never intended any of it to become reality while the Ratcliffe claimed he just played along and never wanted to harm anyone.

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