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Kill lists, Sweeney Todd and the dark web: How torture-obsessed teenagers plotted Brianna Ghey’s murder

Scarlett Jenkinson called herself a Satanist and had dark fantasies about killing people before she and Eddie Ratcliffe stabbed Brianna to death, Tara Cobham writes

Friday 02 February 2024 19:04 GMT
‘I hate them’: Brianna Ghey’s father describes daughter’s killers as ‘monsters’

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, Scarlett Jenkinson 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 the frenzied 11 February attack, she and Eddie Ratcliffe stabbed Brianna 28 times with a hunting knife, the first victim from their “kill list” of at least five child targets.

The young killers were convicted of Brianna’s murder in December following a harrowing four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court. Now, the pair have been jailed for life as they were unmasked by a judge at the same court on Friday. Jenkinson must serve a minimum of 22 years before parole and Ratcliffe 20 years.

Scarlett Jenkinson has been unmasked by a judge

Eddie Ratcliffe has been unmasked by a judge

Mrs Justice Yip said the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both transphobic hate on the part of Ratcliffe and sadism by Jenkinson – who has written a second “kill list” of staff caring for her at the secure accommodation she is currently held at.

Speaking after the guilty verdicts, Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans, head of crime at Cheshire Police, described both as “warped”, having a “thirst for killing” and relishing in the “enjoyment” of Brianna’s murder. He also branded the killers “arrogant” believing they would not be caught as Jenkinson claimed the local police were “s***e”.

Intelligent, coming from normal backgrounds, and never having been in trouble with police before, the trial, which began on 27 November, heard it was “difficult to fathom” how the two child defendants could carry out such a disturbing crime.

Jenkinson, who has traits of autism and ADHD, and Ratcliffe, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and who is non-verbal, plunged themselves into the darkest depths of the internet in the months leading up to an intended murder spree.

Brianna Ghey, 16, was stabbed 28 times with a hunting knife on 11 February

Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, argued the digital evidence recovered from the pair’s phones showed they were preoccupied with torture, murder and death.

Jenkinson, who described herself as a Satanist, told the jury she began to fantasise about killing people from as young as age 14, around the time she began to take an interest in “dark materials”, such as films of the torture and murder of real people in “red rooms” on the dark web.

As early as October, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had discussed the killing of another child, boy M, in messages shown to jurors. Jenkinson said: “If we kill boy M, can I keep some things, a couple of teeth and an eye.”

On Jenkinson’s bedroom floor, a crumpled, handwritten plan to kill Brianna was found by police, the jury was told

Jenkinson said she had a knife like the one used by the murderous barber Sweeney Todd, a character she appeared to idolise after having seen the film of the same name “9,000 times”.

The court heard Ratcliffe sent an image of the weapon used to murder Brianna on New Year’s Day. The £13.50 wooden-handled hunting knife was found in his bedroom with Brianna’s blood on it and his DNA on the handle. His internet browsing history from the end of last year also showed searches on various poisons, including VX nerve agents, sarin and tabun.

The previous month, Jenkinson told Ratcliffe over WhatsApp that she was “obsessed” with Brianna, and police would find a crumpled handwritten plan to kill her on Jenkinson’s bedroom floor.

Jenkinson wrote about serial killer John Wayne Gacy in her notebook

The girl was obsessed with killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, the trial heard

Searching Jenkinson’s home after her arrest, officers found the note headed “Saturday, 11th February, 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey,” with the word “plan” written underneath and a smiley face and a heart shape drawn on the top right-hand corner.

The note read: “Meet [Ratcliffe] at wooden posts 1pm. Walk down to library, bus stop. Wait until Brianna gets off bus, then the three of us walk to Linear Park. Go to the pipe/tunnel area. I say code word to [Ratcliffe]. He stabs her in the back as I stab her in stomach. [Ratcliffe] drags the body into the area. We both cover up the area with logs etc.”

The jury heard Jenkinson had saved Ratcliffe’s phone number in her phone under the name “Tesco John Wick”, a reference to the film about a violent hitman played by Keanu Reeves.

The murder weapon used to stab Brianna to death, a hunting knife with a 13cm blade

Junior prosecution counsel Cheryl Mottram told jurors a list of types of serial killers was written down in Jenkinson’s black Pukka notebook, including mass murderers, psychopathic sexual sadists and copycat killers, and notes about “Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy, a US serial killer. Among the pages were other notes made on Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez and Harold Shipman.

After being blocked on a fake Instagram account by one of their targets, boy E, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe moved their attention to Brianna, who believed both to be her friends. Jurors were told Jenkinson messaged Ratcliffe, “I want to see pure horror on her face and hear her scream in pain,” to which Ratcliffe replied: “Really? All I wanted to see is what size d**k it had.”

After trying and failing to murder Brianna with the ibuprofen gel tablets in January, the pair then decided to stab the 16-year-old to death in Linear Park on 28 January, heard the court. Brianna did not show up to meet them then – but she did two weeks later, when the pair’s dark fantasies were set to become reality.

The moment Jenkinson was arrested

The jury heard the anxious 16-year-old, who did not tend to go out on her own, was travelling on the bus to meet Jenkinson when she messaged her mother, Esther Ghey, for the last time, telling her, “I’m on the bus by myself, I’m scared.” Jenkinson had chillingly told Brianna to buy not a return but only a single bus ticket.

Brianna, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe arrived at the park together – but, at 3.06pm, Brianna messaged Jenkinson: “Girl where are you?” Seven minutes later, a distressed 999 call, later played to jurors, was made by dog walker Kathryn Vize, reporting that somebody had been attacked and she had seen the attackers run away.

In the aftermath of Brianna’s murder, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe “feigned ignorance”, said Ms Heer, creating matching “false defences” – before the evidence stacked up against them and each ended up blaming the other.

Doorbell footage shows Brianna leaving home hours before she was stabbed to death

The next day, Jenkinson messaged Brianna saying: “Girl, is everything okay? Some teenage girl got killed in Linear Park it’s on news everywhere. And why did you ditch us for some random man from Manchester. Like wtf. That is so f***** up.”

Meanwhile, Ratcliffe was online using the Crown Prosecution Service website, looking up penalties for supplying or withholding information.

Jenkinson then posted a tribute to Brianna on Snapchat, describing her as an “amazing friend” and that what had happened was “so f****** sickening”.

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