Trans teenager Brianna Ghey was stabbed 28 times in a “sustained and violent assault”, the trial of the two teenagers accused of her murder has heard.
The 16-year-old was found with fatal knife wounds on a path in Culcheth Linear Park, near Warrington, Cheshire, shortly after 3pm on February 11 this year. Her killing led to an outpouring of grief across the country, especially from the LGBT+ community.
A girl and boy, both aged 15 at the time and from the local area, were arrested and charged with the murder of Brianna, a pupil at Birchwood High School, Warrington.
Both defendants, now aged 16, appeared at Manchester Crown Court before Mrs Justice Yip on Monday for the start of their trial, expected to last between three and four weeks.
Opening the trial, Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, said Brianna had been stabbed 28 times, to the head and neck and to the back and chest, in a “sustained and violent assault”.
The jury of seven men and five women were told Brianna’s body was discovered by dog walkers Kathryn and Andrew Vize, who saw a man and woman breaking into a run as they approached the body of a girl lying face down in the mud. Ms Heer said there was no dispute that the pair seen running away from Brianna’s body were the two defendants.
Neither accused can be named by court order because of their age and are identified only as girl X, from Warrington, and boy Y, from Leigh, Greater Manchester.
Ms Heer added: “Nor is there any dispute that in the days and weeks leading up to that day, they had discussed killing her. Indeed, it is accepted that Brianna Ghey was killed with a knife that belonged to boy Y, a knife which he told girl X he would be bringing with him that day and which he said was sharp enough to kill her.”
Girl X, wearing a dress and grey cardigan and boy Y, wearing black trousers and shirt with a grey tie, sat in the dock listening as the jury was told each defendant denied murder and denied participating in killing Brianna.
Ms Heer said: “Each blames the other. The prosecution case is that, whoever it was who delivered the fatal blow or blows, both defendants are equally guilty. Acting together, they planned and executed their plan to kill Brianna Ghey.”
She told the court messages recovered from the phones of girl X and boy Y showed a “preoccupation” with “violence, torture and death” and recorded them discussing how they wanted to kill people they knew.
She said: “If that was not an unusual way for two teenagers to speak to one another, the messages demonstrate also how, over time, they encouraged one another to think about how they would actually carry out a killing, and the messages show how they planned together to kill Brianna in just the way that she was in fact killed.”
In early December, girl X sent boy Y a video which was apparently an advert for an underground site for people who like rape, snuff, torture and murder, Ms Heer told the court.
Girl X told boy Y: “I love watching torture vids. Real ones on the dark web”, the jury heard.
The court heard on 1 January, boy Y sent girl X a photo of a hunting knife and told her: “Spent my money. I bought a knife.”
Ms Heer said: “It was this knife, members of the jury, that was to be used to kill Brianna Ghey just six weeks after this image had been sent.”
In November 2022, they discussed killing a child referred to as boy M, the court heard. In one message, girl X said: “If I do end up killing boy M, I have a really sharp blade, the same one that Sweeney Todd uses. If we kill boy M can I keep some things, a couple of teeth and an eye.”
Ms Heer told the court girl X claimed to have killed two people in messages to boy Y, but there was no evidence she had.
She said they spoke in messages about other people they wanted to kill and by 26 January had compiled a list of at least four people, as well as Brianna.
The court was told in December last year girl X messaged boy Y telling him she was “obsessed over someone” called Brianna.
Ms Heer said on 23 January girl X messaged boy Y telling him she had given Brianna ibuprofen gel tablets that “should have been enough to kill her”. Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey recalled her daughter had been sick around that time, the court heard.
The court heard girl X created a fake Instagram account to contact one of their targets, referred to as boy E, but it was blocked.
In a message read to the court, girl X told boy Y: “If we can’t get boy E tomorrow we can kill Brianna.” The pair discussed meeting Brianna and killing her at Culcheth Linear Park the following day, the court heard. In one message, girl X said: “I want to stab her at least once even if she’s dead jus coz its fun lol.”
Ms Heer said girl X and boy Y did meet each other in Culcheth on 28 January, but girl X told him Brianna said she couldn’t come.
Hundreds of mourners joined vigils across the UK to remember Brianna in the days following her death. Some of those gathered in Warrington wore rainbow flags draped across their shoulders, laid flowers and wrote tributes on a placard that was placed in the town square.
The Labour MP for Warrington North, Charlotte Nichols, said the local community had been left “reeling”.
Speaking at the vigil, she added: “Trans lives matter and trans young people should have the fundamental rights to dignity and safety that should be universal human rights.”
The 16-year-old’s dream had been to become famous on TikTok, and she had loved to do make-up tutorials for her over 31,000 followers on the social media platform.
Nine months on from the tragedy, Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey, 36, reflected on the devastation of the past few months as she tried to come to terms with the loss of her “outgoing and quick-witted” daughter.
She told The Independent: “It’s the news that you would never, ever want to hear – it was completely shocking. It was so tragic that I felt like I was going to die myself.”