A young girl yawned and sucked her thumb as she and a friend were told that they would spend at least 15 years behind bars for the "gratuitous degradation" and murder of a helpless woman. The judge who sentenced them on Thursday refused to allow the killers to be named. He ruled their welfare was more important than the interests of open justice.
Then aged 13 and 14, the girls showed little interest in the welfare of Angela Wrightson when she begged for her life as they punched, kicked and stamped on the frail alcoholic in the living room of her home in the northern English town of Hartlepool.
In an attack in December 2014 that lasted for more than five hours, they giggled and posed for Snapchat selfies while battering their 39-year-old victim with at least 14 weapons. Her half-naked body was found the next morning There were 71 wounds on her face and 31 on her body, 21 of them defensive injuries to her hands and arms as she tried to ward off blows.
In a letter to Leeds Crown Court, the victim's mother described
"the horror of seeing Angie's battered body in the mortuary" and said she did not think that she would "ever be able to blink those images away".
Judge Henry Globe told the girls, who were both in care:
"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 attack."
Wrightson, who weighed just 44kg, suffered considerably, mentally and physically, before she ultimately lost consciousness and died. Her vulnerability and downfall was that she was kind and lonely.
"Children such as you took advantage of her. You would go to her home. She would agree to buy you alcohol and cigarettes. You abused her hospitality and attacked her in the very place where a person is supposed to feel safe," he said.
Jamie Hill QC, for the older girl, said that she had a terrible and violent upbringing. She was out of control at the time of the murder but now felt remorse, he said. For the younger girl, John Elvidge QC spoke of two young lives having been destroyed.
The judge rejected an application to lift an order preventing the girls' identification. He cited concerns for their welfare and the vulnerability of the older child, who made four suicide attempts during the trial. He told her:
"I am satisfied that there is a real and immediate risk to your life if you were to be identified as one of the two girls who murdered Angela Wrightson."
The girls, now 15, were expressionless throughout the sentencing. The older girl at times stifled yawns and sucked her thumb. Her younger friend occasionally bit her fingernails. Each will serve a minimum of 15 years, initially in a secure children's home. Neither will be released unless considered to be no longer a danger to the public.
The girls went to Wrightson's house at 7.30pm. They left at 4am, phoned the emergency services and gave their names because they knew they would have been reported missing from their placements.
"Far from being worried or showing any concern for what you had done, you were in high spirits as you called police and dialled 999 to use the police as a taxi service," the judge said. In the back of the van, "each of you remained unconcerned despite knowing full well that your clothes were covered in blood".