British teen selfie killers jailed for life

Angela Wrightson in an undated family photo released by Cleveland Police.
Angela Wrightson in an undated family photo released by Cleveland Police. PHOTO: AFP/CLEVELAND POLICE

LONDON (AFP) - Two teenage girls who took selfies as they beat a vulnerable British woman to death before phoning police to ask for a lift home were on Thursday jailed for life.

The pair, aged 13 and 14 at the time of the murder, battered frail Angela Wrightson over five hours in her own home with household items including a shovel, a coffee table and a television set, eventually leaving her for dead.

The rare case – and the young age of the killers – has sparked comparisons with the 1993 murder of toddler Jamie Bulger by two 10-year-old boys.

Almost 400 children under the age of 18 have reportedly been convicted of murder in Britain over the past two decades.

Sentencing the girls, judge Henry Globe called the crime a “cowardly attack” that involved “gratuitous degradation”.

Wrightson, 39, was found with more than 100 injuries in her blood-spattered living room in the industrial town of Hartlepool in northeastern England.

“This was a sustained attack over a long period of time carried out with weapons in many different ways,” the judge told the girls, both now 15.

Pathology evidence revealed “an absolute minimum” of 70 separate slash injuries, 54 separate blunt force injuries and wounds to the victim’s hands, wrists and arms as she tried to deflect the blows.

The seven-week trial heard that the girls, who came from troubled backgrounds, were frequent visitors to Wrightson’s house and that she would often buy them alcohol and cigarettes.

On the day of the attack, the pair let themselves into her home before restraining and torturing her.

During the attack, one of them shared a picture on social media site Snapchat showing them smiling in front of their victim.

One also talked to a friend over Facebook who overheard her say: “Go on. Smash her head in. Bray (hit) her.”

The teens, who cannot be named due to their age, called the police at around 2 am in order to get a lift home.

While in the van, they posted another photograph on Snapchat with the message: “Me.... in the back, on the bizzie (police) van again.”

The judge at Leeds Crown Court summarised a statement from Wrightson’s mother, Maureen, in which she described “the horror of seeing Angie’s battered body in the mortuary”.

“She does not think she will ever be able to blink those images away,” he said. “She had been disgusted by the laughing and giggling and sharing of photographs.”

Prosecutor Gerry Wareham said the girls, who will serve a minimum of 15 years, had shown little remorse.

“The attack that the girls committed against Angela Wrightson was brutal and sustained. One can only imagine the fear and distress that she must have felt,” he said.

The case has revived memories of the Bulger killing.

The little boy was abducted from a crowded shopping centre in Liverpool by 10-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson who took him to a nearby railway line where they tortured him and battered him to death.

Venables and Thompson became the youngest convicted murderers in Britain for 250 years but were released on parole in 2001 after serving the minimum term of eight years.

They have since started new lives under different identities.