Leeds & West Yorkshire

Ann Maguire stabbing: Killer was a 'typical, nice lad'

Ann Maguire Image copyright Maguire family
Image caption Ann Maguire taught at Corpus Christi College for 40 years

Teacher Ann Maguire was stabbed to death by 16-year-old pupil Will Cornick, in Leeds in April.

As he pleaded guilty to her murder and details of a "highly dangerous" individual with psychopathic tendencies emerged, parents and pupils said they still could not comprehend that the teenager they knew as a "quiet, typical lad" carried out the brutal attack.

It was the news that shocked the nation - a much-loved teacher of Spanish killed in her own classroom.

Mrs Maguire, 61, had taught at Corpus Christi Catholic College for 40 years and retirement was just a few months away.

Many regarded her as the "mother" of the Halton Moor school, having helped nurture thousands of students who had passed through its doors.

But on 28 April Cornick, who was then 15, walked into the lesson she was teaching and knifed her seven times as the class looked on in terror.

Image copyright Christopher Furlong / Getty
Image caption Ann Maguire was stabbed in a classroom at the Halton Moor school

Former student Tom Smith knew Mrs Maguire's killer and said he occasionally played cards with him.

"He was probably the most intelligent person I knew," he said.

"But he was really quiet and kept himself to himself. He had his friends, but he wasn't with them all the time.

"You can look at someone and say, 'I don't think they could do anything like that', but within a [split] second, anything can happen.

"I'm still shocked. I didn't think that in a school like Corpus such a thing could happen."

Mrs Maguire died from a stab wound to the neck, which severed her jugular vein.

In the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of floral tributes were laid at the gates of the school and news soon spread that police had a suspect in custody.

Until Cornick was sentenced, he could not be named due to reporting restrictions but his identity was widely known to many. Parents and pupils painted a picture of a high-achiever: a loner, but not one to cause trouble.

'Extremely disturbing case'

Prosecutor Paul Greaney QC told Leeds Crown Court Cornick's parents were also "at a loss to understand" what their son, who has been found to have an "adjustment disorder with psychopathic tendencies", had done.

He said there was nothing to indicate to the boy's parents or teachers a risk of "homicidal violence".

He said: "The parents are decent people and responsible parents.

"They are at a loss to understand how and why their son has turned out as he has and they have co-operated fully with the police and with the prosecution."

The court heard behind his apparently quiet, intelligent persona Cornick, who had received "generally positive" academic reports, harboured a hatred for Mrs Maguire and took pride in her killing.

Mr Greaney said: "Undoubtedly, one of the most disturbing aspects of an extremely disturbing case is that [Cornick] not only lacks remorse but is proud of what he did in killing Mrs Maguire, who he at one stage described to [a psychiatrist] as barely human."

He said Cornick told a psychiatrist: "I wasn't in shock, I was happy. I had a sense of pride. I still do."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hundreds of floral tributes have been left outside the school since the teacher's death
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ann Maguire had been due to retire just a few months after she was killed

Julie Langton, whose two daughters attend the school, said people were aware of Cornick's grudges against Mrs Maguire.

"It was known he had some sort of issue with Mrs Maguire, about how she was being with him," she said.

"He didn't like that she was pushing him...to concentrate harder and to do his studies a bit more than he was. She knew he was capable and it triggered a lot of what he felt."

Ms Langton said there had been talk after the attack that Cornick had a list of those he wanted revenge on.

She said: "There were all sorts of things going around school about what he was planning and the things he wanted to do in connection with that day; that he had a list and had people he wanted 'payback' on.

"There were teachers and pupils known to be on this list and that if he hadn't have done what he'd done at that point, then he was going to do more damage somewhere down the line."

Image copyright PA
Image caption It is thought the boy held a grudge against Ann Maguire

Cornick, now 16, admitted killing Mrs Maguire at Leeds Crown Court and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 20 years.

His defence barrister, Richard Wright, said: "Plainly, these were the actions of a deeply disturbed young man."

A fellow pupil said he could not comprehend how the boy he knew had committed such a terrible crime.

"He was like any other lad my age; he wasn't a naughty kid. He was a typical, nice lad. It seems surreal how it's changed," he said.

"One minute you have got memories of this really nice person, then the next minute you're thinking this person has done something awful...that someone so nice could change overnight.

"I wouldn't have put this crime to that person but it's happened and you just have to accept that."

The pupil said after the attack, he looked at his former friend's Facebook page and was shocked by what he saw.

"The Grim Reaper was the first thing you saw on his page. That corrected everyone's opinion. [I thought] what the hell has happened, something has definitely gone wrong."

Image caption The killer's Facebook page featured an image of the Grim Reaper

Though they have lost a wife, mother and aunt, Mrs Maguire's widower, Don, said the family were honouring his wife's memory by staying positive.

They have established a charity, The Ann Maguire Arts Educational Fund, to provide bursaries and funding for the personal development of people under 18 years of age.

Mr Maguire said: "I may have feelings towards [the boy] but the reality of our lives is that the feelings I have won't improve our situation at all.

"We have all lost and we are all living without something. I have lost my wife, the children have lost their mother. It doesn't change our daily struggle."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dozens of pupils from Corpus Christi Catholic College attended a service for Ann Maguire

In September, 1,200 people paid their respects to Mrs Maguire at a public memorial at Leeds Town Hall.

Among those attending the service were her two daughters - Emma and Kerry - and her two nephews, Daniel and Andrew Poole, who Mrs Maguire raised following her sister's death.

Tributes described her as an "inspirational" person who had made a "wonderful contribution" to education in Leeds.

Speaking to the BBC about her mother's death, Emma said: "Every morning you wake up and there's a moment that you just wish that wasn't true and I don't think that will change.

"I think for us the reality is that Mummy doesn't come home anymore. And that really says it all."

Image caption Don Maguire said every day was a struggle

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