Brianna Ghey’s killers given life sentences for brutal murder

Brianna Ghey
Image caption,Brianna Ghey was stabbed 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park in Cheshire

By Lauren Hirst, Judith Moritz & Rachael Lazaro

BBC News

Brianna Ghey’s killers have been given life sentences for her “brutal, planned and sadistic” murder.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe murdered the 16-year-old in a park in Cheshire in February 2023.

Mrs Justice Yip said Jenkinson was motivated by a “deep desire to kill” while Ratcliffe’s motivation was in part hostility to Brianna’s transgender identity.

She was given 22 years, while Ratcliffe was detained for 20 years.

Both teenagers, who were 15 at the time of the murder and are now 16, could be seen staring ahead towards the judge and showed no visible reaction as they were sentenced.

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Sentencing the pair at Manchester Crown Court, the judge said she did not “want to dwell on the murder itself but it was brutal”, with Brianna suffering 28 stab wounds.

“Taken together the injuries point to a very sustained and violent assault,” she added.

“Sadly, Brianna can’t have lost consciousness immediately and she must have been aware she was being attacked.”

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe
Image caption,Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe murdered Brianna by stabbing her 28 times in a park in Cheshire

Brianna’s family were sitting across several benches. Her father Peter Spooner nodded as Jenkinson’s sentence was handed down.

The killers’ relatives were also present. Jenkinson’s mother could be seen crying as the hearing concluded.

Mrs Justice Yip said Jenkinson’s fantasy to kill had become a reality when she lured Brianna to the park.

While she acknowledged that Jenkinson had been the driving force behind the plan, she said it would be “wholly wrong to treat [Ratcliffe] as being under Scarlett’s control”.

She added that messages sent by Ratcliffe were “transphobic and dehumanising,” adding that he “undoubtedly displayed hostility to Brianna based on her transgender identity”.

In a victim impact statement read out in court before the sentences were handed down, Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, said Jenkinson and Ratcliffe would always “pose a danger to society”.

“I would never want them to have the opportunity to carry out their sadistic fantasies on another child.”

She added the “hardest thing” to come to terms with was finding out that one of those charged with Brianna’s murder was someone she believed to be her daughter’s friend.

Brianna’s sister Alisha Ghey said she now struggled to trust new people as it was “Brianna’s friend who she trusted who ended her life”.

Brianna Ghey with her mother Esther
Image caption,Brianna was described by her mother as “fearless, strong and brave”

Brianna’s father said being the father of a transgender child had been “a difficult thing to deal with” but he had been “proud to gain another beautiful daughter”.

“We were forming a new relationship and these two murderers have stolen that from us both,” Mr Spooner added.

Her stepfather Wesley Powell told the court that while Brianna had a large online following, “in reality she was lonely, vulnerable and in need of a close friend”.

“Both Eddie and Scarlett knew this and preyed upon her vulnerabilities, acting as two predators stalking their prey,” he said.

In a statement to the Warrington Guardian, Jenkinson’s family said they were “truly sorry” to Brianna’s family, friends, and all those “affected by this horror”, which has left their lives “in turmoil”.

“The last 12 months have been beyond our worst nightmares as we have come to realise the brutal truth of Scarlett’s actions,” they said.

They added that they agreed with the sentence and decision to name the pair, saying that “all of our thoughts are for Brianna and her family.”

Jenkinson’s family also thanked Esther Ghey for her “incredible selflessness and empathy towards our family”, and said they were “forever grateful” for her “overwhelming compassion”.

BBC iPlayer

Killed In The Park

How Brianna Ghey’s teenage killers tried to get away with murder.

Available now on BBC iPlayer.

File on 4 also tells the story behind the brutal killing of the 16-year-old on BBC Sounds.

BBC iPlayer

The 18-day trial heard how Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had a fascination with violence, torture and murder.

Messages between them showed they encouraged one another to think about how they would actually carry out a killing.

Both teenagers blamed each other during the trial, however, Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, said Jenkinson had admitted stabbing Brianna to a psychiatrist after she was convicted.

Ms Heer said: “She had snatched the knife from Eddie’s hand and stabbed Brianna repeatedly.

“She said Eddie had thrown Brianna to the floor and stabbed her three or four times then he panicked and said he did not want to kill her, so she carried on and stabbed her a number of times.

“When asked how many, she answered, ‘a lot.’ She was satisfied and excited by what she was doing.”

A crumpled, handwritten note, a “murder plan” to kill Brianna, was found on Jenkinson’s bedroom floor following her arrest.

Notes were also made on serial killers, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez and Harold Shipman.

Jenkinson also drew up a second “kill list” of staff at the secure youth accommodation, where she is being held, which refers to names of people caring for her, Ms Heer said.

Richard Pratt KC, defence counsel for Jenkinson, told the court he had been instructed to say something different at the sentencing hearing to what she had said to the psychiatrist.

Mrs Justice Yip said the impression she had was that, now Jenkinson had been convicted, she wanted to “paint herself in as bad a light as possible…given her admiration for notorious killers”.

“For the record then, her account now is that Eddie did the majority of the stabbing, but that she certainly enjoyed it?” she said.

To which Mr Pratt replied: “Yes.”

The murder note
Image caption,The handwritten murder plan was found in Jenkinson’s bedroom after her arrest

Brianna and Jenkinson had met at Birchwood Community High School and had spent time together socially outside of school.

File on 4 investigation found Jenkinson was moved to the school in November 2022 on a managed transfer from nearby Culcheth High School after drugging a younger pupil with a cannabis sweet.

She later tried to poison Brianna before murdering her.

Warrington Borough Council said a review was under way into the incident at Culcheth High School.

Brianna met Ratcliffe just hours before she was killed.

Jenkinson and Ratcliffe, who had known each other since they were 11 when they both started at Culcheth High School, planned the murder for weeks and had drawn up a “kill list” of five children, before settling on Brianna as their target.

Brianna was attacked with a hunting knife in broad daylight in Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, suffering stab wounds to her head, neck, chest.

Both teenagers then went home and carried on as if nothing had happened with Jenkinson later posting an online tribute with a photo of Brianna.

Detectives later found a knife in Ratcliffe’s bedroom with his DNA on the handle and Brianna’s blood on the blade.

Girl X's tribute to Brianna on Snapchat
Image caption,Jenkinson posted a tribute to Brianna on Snapchat after her death was reported in the media

Richard Littler KC, defence counsel for Ratcliffe, denied the teenager had been motivated by transphobia after he shared offensive messages about Brianna, describing his language as “juvenile and immature”.

“The names on Scarlett’s kill list were not gender-specific,” he told the court.

“They were simply people she disliked. Eddie simply agreed with her.”

He said Ratcliffe’s motive was to assist Jenkinson “because he wanted to please her”.

“Sadism is pleasure from inflicting pain and we submit that box is well and truly ticked for Scarlett, but not for Eddie,” he said.

The court heard how a consultant forensic psychiatrist had examined Jenkinson and concluded she did not have a mental illness but presented with a severe “conduct-dissocial disorder with limited pro-social emotions”.

Ms Heer told the court: “In Scarlett’s case, she knew what she was doing was wrong and she knew it was very wrong.”

In Ratcliffe’s case, another consultant forensic psychiatrist found he has a mild form of autism and selective mutism.

Police at the scene in Culcheth Linear Park
Image caption,The killing unfolded at Culcheth Linear Park

Ahead of the sentencing, Jenkinson could be seen fidgeting in the dock and repeatedly folding a piece of paper and reopening it again.

She later started drawing an eye in a notebook, colouring in the pupil, and sketching the eyebrows and talking to a support worker.

Ratcliffe was sitting silently, looking straight ahead before turning his attention to a Take A Break puzzle book, which he had brought into court.

The two teenagers were sitting at opposite ends of the row of seats in the dock with five adults – support workers and prison officers – between them.

The pair were identified for the first time earlier after the judge lifted a legal order preventing them from being named.

A ban on identifying Jenkinson and Ratcliffe had been in place since they first appeared in court due to their ages.

Mrs Justice Yip said both teenagers, who had never been in trouble with the police before, had taken part in a “brutal and planned murder which was sadistic in nature”.

She said the pair would serve life sentences, but would only be released if the parole board decided they no longer posed a danger to society.

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