Brianna Ghey’s mother says ‘trans hate’ targeting her murdered teenager is ‘horrendous’

Esther Ghey said she reported a comment about her daughter on X but company did not take it down

Tara Cobham
Friday 16 February 2024 09:29 GMT
Brianna Ghey’s mother says ‘trans hate’ targeting daughter on X is ‘horrendous’

The mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey has said the “trans hate” aimed at her daughter online is “horrendous” as she called for a crackdown on social media and mobile phone usage.

Esther Ghey, 37, said she recently reported a comment about her daughter, who is transgender, on X, formerly Twitter, but the company did not take it down, finding it did not breach their policies.

“I’ve done a few interviews now and once the articles are posted on Twitter, the comments are absolutely horrendous, and there’s a lot of trans hate that’s directed to Brianna,” Ms Ghey said.

“Now, I’m all for free speech but I actually reported one of these comments and they came back to say that there was nothing wrong with what was being said.

“It’s just complete hate and I don’t think that there’s a place online for that.”

Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey is calling for a crackdown on social media and mobile phone usage
Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey is calling for a crackdown on social media and mobile phone usage (PA)

Brianna, 16, was brutally stabbed to death by Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both now aged 16 but who were 15 at the time, after they lured her to Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington on 11 February last year.

The harrowing four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court heard how the “warped” pair had a fascination for violence, torture and murder, and shared a “thirst for killing”, with Jenkinson downloading a browser allowing her to search the “dark web” for “red rooms” showing real-life torture and killing videos.

After the pair were sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month, Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey, 37, began campaigning for improved safeguarding of children against the risks of accessing harmful content online, including an age limit for smartphone usage and stricter controls on access to social media apps. Ms Ghey said it was “absolutely shocking that a young person can access the dark web”.

Brianna herself accessed eating-disorder and self-harm content on X, which worsened her mental health struggles.

Ms Ghey said companies such as X have a “moral responsibility” to protect young people from harm online, and she believes the Online Safety Act does not go far enough.

Brianna, 16, was brutally stabbed to death in Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington on 11 February last year
Brianna, 16, was brutally stabbed to death in Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington on 11 February last year (PA Wire)

She said “nothing is in the diary yet” regarding a potential meeting with prime minister Rishi Sunak, but added: “I am hoping to arrange something soon after I’ve had a short break.”

She said she would like to “get his views” on online safety for young people and to discuss her Peace in Mind campaign to train more teachers in mindfulness.

Referring to the comments made about her daughter, Ms Ghey expressed concern for children and young people seeing “this hateful way of speaking” and she would “like to sit down and speak to the regulators and social media companies”.

“(Social media companies) have got us into this mess now and it is their responsibility to get us out of it, and it’s something that we can all work on together,” she said.

“Social media companies and mobile phone companies have both got a moral responsibility to not think about profit so much and actually think about how their product is impacting the people who are using it.”

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both now aged 16 but who were 15 at the time, murdered Brianna after they lured her to Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington on 11 February last year
Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both now aged 16 but who were 15 at the time, murdered Brianna after they lured her to Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington on 11 February last year (PA Media)

Ms Ghey’s comments came as she announced £75,000 had been raised by Peace in Mind to train more teachers in mindfulness, a cognitive skill focused on being in the present moment.

The campaign has raised enough money for a teacher in every school in her town of Warrington, Cheshire, to be trained in mindfulness, with ambitions to spread the campaign around the country.

“I feel that if we did have mindfulness in schools from a young age then that may have made [Brianna] more resilient, and she would have been less at risk of the things that she was going through when she was a teenager,” Ms Ghey said.

Ms Ghey recently discussed her campaign to get mindfulness taught in schools with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, which she said was “a really positive meeting”, although Sir Keir did not commit to banning smartphones for young people if Labour won the general election.

“We explained about mindfulness and how we would like to get into schools, and we gave him a roundabout costing and he would like to get more information and is happy to receive how much it would actually cost,” Ms Ghey said.

“I suppose that I understand that he can’t commit without having all of the information there, so I think the fact that he’s asked for that information is a very positive step in the right direction.”

Ms Ghey recently discussed her campaign to get mindfulness taught in schools with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Ms Ghey recently discussed her campaign to get mindfulness taught in schools with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Getty Images)

Ms Ghey has found strength in building her daughter’s legacy, but added: “Obviously, I have bad days and my daughter struggles quite a bit still.

“We’ve completely changed our lives so we don’t notice the hole where Brianna was quite so much.

“We really made a conscious effort to remember her for all the good things and to remember her for who she was.”

Emily Slater, chief executive of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, which is receiving funds raised by Ms Ghey’s Peace in Mind campaign to train more teachers in mindfulness, said: “We have a fantastic representative in Esther, for parents and for common sense, and I think we’d be hard pressed to find many families at the moment, many parents, that aren’t asking themselves questions about mobile phone use or the wellbeing of their children and young people.”

Ms Ghey also on Thursday met Ian Russell, the father of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in November 2017 after viewing harmful material on social media.

Speaking together to the BBC, Mr Russell told Ms Ghey that while “it’s never been that easy to be a teenager”, social media was providing a fresh challenge for young people to navigate.

He said: “We both lost children who had seen harmful things online and, in your case, there were other children involved who had been motivated to murder by what they’d seen online.

“It’s almost impossible for a parent to monitor and mirror and know what their children are doing and keep up with all the evolutions in all the tech platforms.”

The Independent has approached X for comment.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in