Teenage girls ‘beat alcoholic woman to death and shared selfies in her home’

Angela Wrightson was found in her home in December 2014 with more than 100 injuries

Lauren Brown
Wednesday 17 February 2016 20:38
Angela Wrightson, 39, of Hartlepool, was battered in a ‘sustained and brutal’ attack, the court heard
Angela Wrightson, 39, of Hartlepool, was battered in a ‘sustained and brutal’ attack, the court heard

Two teenage girls beat an alcoholic woman to death in her own home using a variety of weapons, stopping midway through to share selfies on Snapchat with their victim in the background, a court has heard.

The pair then phoned police asking for a lift home before taking a selfie in the back of the police van, it is claimed.

The bloodstained body of Angela Wrightson was found on the sofa in her front room of her home in Hartlepool, County Durham, in December 2014 having suffered more than 100 injuries.

The 39-year-old had been battered in a “sustained and brutal” attack with a wooden stick laced with screws, a TV set, a computer printer, a coffee table and a shovel, the court heard. Smaller items such as a kettle and a metal pan had also used been used, together with a glass ceramic vase and a glass ornament. Her body was discovered, naked from the waist down, by her landlord.

Nicholas Campbell QC, the prosecution barrister, told Leeds Crown Court: “The evidence at the scene of the crime showed that she had been assaulted on 12 separate locations within and around that room.”

The two girls, who were 13 and 14 at the time and cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted they were present at the time the injuries were inflicted.

A photograph taken by one of the accused girls while they were getting a lift in the back of a police van, hours after the alleged murder

However, while the older girl accepted she struck Ms Wrightson, she claimed she did not intend her serious harm. The younger girl said she played no part in the assault and did not encourage her co-accused in any way. They both pleaded not guilty to the charge.

But Mr Campbell told the court that the girls, who were each flanked by an intermediary to help them understand the court process, “were in it together and they are jointly responsible for this attack”.

The jury heard that the two girls had been in local authority care and, as they grew into their teens, their friendship had caused concern. At night they would often run off together, causing the police to be involved in their return. “The relationship between the two was close, even intense,” Mr Campbell said.

Ms Wrightson was described in court as “small in stature and thin” – a woman who was well liked, giving chocolates to young children and feeding the local dogs.

She had also got a reputation for going to the local shop to buy cigarettes and alcohol for children. But as time went by, she came to complain about the “schoolies” and was described as “nervous” in the defendants’ presence.

On 8 December, the day of alleged attack, the older girl’s mother was said to have earlier “told her daughter to go and kill herself”.

The court was told the girls let themselves in through Ms Wrightson’s unlocked door that evening at about 7.15pm. The last time Ms Wrightson had been seen alive was returning home from the local shop at 7.32pm.

Mr Campbell said the violence had got under way by 9pm. Jurors were told how the younger girl took selfies showing the defendants smiling with Ms Wrightson pictured in the background.

Mr Campbell told the court that Ms Wrightson is seen alive in the pictures, “but she is not smiling and her face is marked”. The older girl then uploaded it to Snapchat, he said.

While at the house, the QC claimed, the younger of the two made a phone call over Facebook to a friend who heard her say: “Go on [name of older girl]. Smash her head in.” There was said to be laughter in the background from the other girl.

Jurors were told that by 10pm the house had been trashed, and further selfies showed the girls drinking cider from a bottle.

The girls allegedly left the house at about 11pm, where they met with a friend who had asked them why they were covered in blood. They told him they had both fallen over and began listening to rap and high-energy music, the court heard.

Mr Campbell said the friend claimed that the older girl “said something about ‘slicing her face’ and booting her all over,” adding that the older girl was said to have “done all the work” while the younger girl had a cigarette.

It was claimed the older of the two said they needed to go back to the house, to see if “she” was dead or alive, and returned at around 2am.

It is thought she had died by this time, but Mr Campbell said: “Before they left for a final time, further indignities had been heaped on Angela Wrightson when she had been in no position to stop them.”

He added that having “decided to bring their activities to an end” at around 4am, the younger of the girls texted her carer to come and get her – but upon no response, phoned the police. Jurors were told that when their “taxi” did not come quickly enough, they called again.

Once inside the police van, they were described as laughing and joking and “seemed to be in high spirits”.

The younger girl allegedly told a friend that they had “stamped all over her head”. Mr Campbell claimed the defendant told her friend that Ms Wrightson had said “please don’t, stop, I’m scared”.

After news of the murder spread the next day, the older girl asked a support worker during a shopping trip: “How do you think it feels to kill someone? Do you think you would feel bad?”

The trial continues and is expected to last five weeks.