Angela Wrightson murder: Girls given life terms for 'cowardly' killing

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Media captionThe teenage girls "used anything they could lay their hands on" to murder Angela Wrightson, as Danny Savage reports

Two 15-year-old girls have been given life sentences with minimum terms of 15 years for the torture and murder of a vulnerable woman.

Angela Wrightson, 39, was found semi-naked in her living room in Hartlepool with more than 100 injuries - including 80 to her face - in December 2014.

The girls, then aged 13 and 14, used weapons including a shovel, a TV and computer printer.

They were found guilty of murder at an eight-week trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Updates and reaction

A friendship that ended in murder

The judge Mr Justice Globe has decided to keep a reporting restriction banning the identification of the girls in place despite media requests that it be lifted.

He said identifying the pair would pose a "real and immediate risk" to their lives, having heard how the older girl had repeatedly tried to kill herself after her arrest.

The judge said Ms Wrightson, who was nicknamed Alco Ange, was a lonely alcoholic who did not eat properly, but was "kind and house proud".

He said she would invite anyone in for company, adding: "There lay her fall."

The judge told the girls: "Children such as you would take advantage of her.

"Nobody expected her to come to any harm, still less in the manner she was attacked by you."

Image caption Mr Justice Globe rejected calls for the girls' identities to be revealed

The judge said the alcohol Ms Wrightson had consumed on 8 December 2014, "may have numbed pain, but it won't have taken it away entirely".

He said 14 different items were used to strike heavy blows in a "cowardly" attack which included "gratuitous degradation".

From the courtroom: Bethan Bell, BBC News

The younger girl's mother broke down in tears as the judge listed the teenager's crimes, while her father stared through the reflective glass separating the public seating area from the lawyers' benches and the dock.

Both girls were blank-faced as they were told they would serve a minimum of 15 years, although once they had been led away and the door shut behind them, one of them let out a despairing wail.

Angela Wrightson's mother Maureen showed emotion in the public gallery for the first time when the judge enumerated the injuries sustained by Ms Wrightson. As he read out the details, Mrs Wrightson closed her eyes and put her hand over her face.

Later, in the canteen, the younger girl's family waited by the large windows overlooking the front of the building. Not only were they waiting for the cameras, tape recorders and notebooks to be put away, but it is also a place where you can see the large security vans, which transport defendants, leave the cells.

Nobody was watching or waiting for the older girl.

The chaotic life and brutal death of Angela Wrightson

How the media fought to report the case

Jamie Hill QC, defending the older girl, said she "lacked intelligence" about how people could die and only now understood the consequences of her actions, for which she expressed sorrow and remorse.

'Not evil'

Mr Hill said the girl had a "terrible, violent and unstable upbringing" and had "enormous difficulty" in forming relationships due to her inability to control her emotions.

He said: "Cases like this are often portrayed as good versus evil.

"The reality is usually much more complicated than that and here we have two deeply troubled children who found themselves in a sad and unpredictable world which was Angela Wrightson's refuge."

He said the girl was not "necessarily evil" but "damaged" and "maybe wasn't a fully functioning person at that particular time in her life".

Image copyright SWNS
Image caption Angela Wrightson was a known alcoholic in Hartlepool

John Elvidge QC, representing the younger girl, said her age needed to be taken into account.

He said: "She spoke as a child, understood as a child and thought as a child, so when others look for answers to the question as to why this happened, what they should bear in mind, whatever was said and done, it was done by 13-year-old girl."

Other child killers

  • Mary Bell, 11, strangled two boys aged four and three in 1968, and was sentenced to life in detention after she was found guilty of manslaughter. She was released on licence in 1980 and given a new identity
  • Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were convicted of killing two-year-old James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, when they were just 10 years old
  • Three teenagers who murdered a homeless man in Liverpool for a dare were given custodial sentences in April 2013. Brothers Connor and Brandon Doran, aged 17 and 14, and Simon Evans, 14, were told they would be detained until the home secretary approved their release
  • Sixteen-year-old Will Cornick was given a life sentence in 2014 after he admitted murdering Leeds teacher Ann Maguire. The judge said he had shown a "chilling lack of remorse" and ordered him to serve at least 20 years, saying he might never be released
  • Fifteen-year-old Daniel Bartlam, who murdered his mother with a hammer and set her body on fire, was detained for a minimum of 16 years in 2012. Judge Julian Flaux described the killing as "grotesque" and "senseless" and said it seemed like the teenager wanted to "get away with the perfect murder"
  • Five teenagers who murdered a man in a Liverpool launderette when some of them were 13 years old were sentenced in 2014

Sentencing the girls, Mr Justice Globe said Angie's mother had written to the court describing the "horror" of seeing her daughter's battered body in the mortuary.

"She does not think she will ever be able to blink those images away. Having seen photographs of what Angie looked like at that time, I readily understand why she is of that view.

"She cannot understand how you could have been as violent as you were. She is not alone in that view. She has been disgusted by the laughing and giggling and sharing of photographs during the time of and immediately after the attack."

Image caption This image, posted on Snapchat by one of the girls, shows Angela Wrightson with marks on her face. The girls' faces have been pixelated (centre and far right) to protect their identities

Hartlepool Borough Council said an independent safeguarding adult review would be carried out by the Teesside Safeguarding Adults Board regarding Ms Wrightson.

Independent serious case reviews will be undertaken by the Hartlepool Safeguarding Children Board regarding the teenagers.

The girls, whose friendship had grown in the months before Ms Wrightson's death, went to her home on Stephen Street to get her to buy them alcohol.

They then attacked her with numerous implements over a five-hour period before calling the police for a lift home.

Ms Wrightson's body was found semi-naked and covered with grit and shards of glass the following day by her landlord.

Mr Justice Globe said it seemed Ms Wrightson had tried to defend herself judging by injuries including three broken fingers and deflection marks on her hands, wrists and arms.

He said: "She undoubtedly suffered considerably, both mentally and physically, before she ultimately lost consciousness and died."

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