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Angela Wrightson's murder: how it unfolded

WARNING: Tom Sheldrick's report contains details and images of the weapons used in the attack, which some viewers may find upsetting

A vulnerable woman

Angela Wrightson was a frail and highly vulnerable woman. She had lived what has been described as 'a torrid life.' She grew up in the care system and became 'consumed' by alcohol as an adult, relying on support from social services.

At 39-years-old, she weighed just six and a half stone when she was battered to death inside her own home.

The girls who tormented and killed her were just 13 and 14 years old. They were both in the care system themselves - the older in a residential home, the younger being fostered. The older girl told her trial how she had drunk alcohol and taken drugs or tablets since she was 11 or 12. They were friends who had run off together a number of times before. They are both now 15. Their identities must not be revealed, because of their young age.

They, and other youngsters, regularly visited Angela at her home on Stephen Street, in Hartlepool. It was described as a 'hotspot for teenage drinking.' They demanded Angela buy them alcohol and cigarettes - and, according to a friend of Angela's, made fun of and were mean towards her.

A brutal assault

Their actions towards Angela reached an entirely new level of cruelty, on one Monday night in December 2014, in the front room of Angela's home.

Earlier that day, the older girl had an argument with her mother, and had taken strong painkillers. The younger girl was planning to spend the evening with another friend, but they separated early, before the two girls met up.

Angela Wrightson's house. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The two girls arrived at Angela's home just before 7.30pm on December 8, pushing through her unlocked front door. They soon sent Angela out to the newsagents round the corner to buy alcohol and chocolate.

At some point after she returned, they began a brutal assault, that went on for up to five hours. Only they know the truth of what happened inside the living room, but they left a great deal of evidence. There is no clear motive for what they did to Angela.

It appears they forcibly restrained her, and ignored her pleas for mercy.

They smashed a television over her head, and battered her with other objects - including a coffee table, a computer printer, a kettle, ornaments, a shovel and a piece of wood studded with screws.

She suffered well in excess of 100 injuries to all parts of her body, 80 injuries to her face alone. Her blood was found on four walls, the furniture, the floor and the ceiling.

Laughing schoolgirls

At around 9pm, they stopped to take a selfie, posted by the younger girl on the social network Snapchat. The two girls can be seen smiling. Angela is cowering in the background, bruises now visible to her face. It's not known what 'nah' referred to.

Just before 10pm, two other women came to Angela's door, one looked in briefly and noticed the damage done in the living room, calling 'someone's wrecked her house', before quickly leaving. It seems she didn't see Angela, and the two girls had hidden in the back of the house.

Just after 10.30pm, they took more photographs on the younger girl's phone, seen holding a large bottle of cider to their lips.

Shortly before 11pm, the younger girl made a phone call to a friend - who heard her encourage the older girl, shouting: 'go on. Smash her head in. Kill her.'

Soon afterwards, the two girls left Angela's home. It is not known whether she was dead or alive at this point. They walked to meet another friend. When he asked why they had blood on their clothing, they lied, telling him they had both fallen over.

They returned to Angela's home on Stephen Street at around 2am, to finish the job. It appears they scattered grit onto her body, and burnt some paper, before putting ash into her ear.

By 4am, they were bored. After failing to order a taxi, and knowing they would have been reported missing, they phoned the police for a lift home. They can clearly be heard giggling and laughing during two calls.

After they were picked up, they carried on taking photos, posting another online which said: 'in the back on the bizzie [police] van again.' A jacket is seen, used to hide the blood on their clothes.

Credit: PA

The younger girl's foster carer saw blood on her clothes when she arrived home, while the older girl went to bed in her residential home without incident.

The story begins to come out

At 8.46 that morning, 9 December, Angela's body was found by her landlord. She was naked from the waist down, and dead on her sofa. He phoned for an ambulance. The first paramedic who arrived said the scene in the living room was like a 'bombsite.'

Meanwhile, the older girl spoke to youth workers that day, showing interest in the reporting of Angela's death, and asking 'how long do you think you get for murder?' She also played a song, about a 13-year-old forced to murder someone as initiation for a gang - but did not admit to anything herself.

According to a friend of the younger girl, she was quiet and shaking when they met that day, and kept reading about the case. The younger girl told her friend: 'we done Angie in last night', that it had started when Angela threatened the older girl with a knife, and the older girl had done 'most of the stuff.' She said that, despite Angela pleading 'stop, I'm scared', they had 'stamped all over her head', and created 'pools of blood.'

The younger girl told her friend about how they had hidden, when someone had knocked at the door. Asked if Angela was still alive when the two girls left to meet a friend at 11pm, her responses varied from Angela being knocked out, to being dead. Asked why she didn't ring the police, the younger girl replied: 'cos I wanted her dead anyway.'

The younger girl messaged another friend on social media, saying 'I might be getting sent down' - but didn't reveal exactly what for.

Murder investigation and trial

A forensic scientist who examined Angela's home said there were 12 separate areas in the living room where blows had been struck. They found blood, skin and hair on a number of household implements - including the television, computer printer, coffee table, a kettle, picture frame, ornaments, a shovel and a wooden stick with protruding screws.

Cleveland Police launched a murder investigation, and both girls were arrested that day.

Stephen Street. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

When questioned, the older girl admitted they had visited Angela Wrightson that night, but denied causing any injury to her, and said she was 'okay' when they left her.

The younger girl told police that Angela and the older girl had got into an argument, and the older girl had hit her over the head with a table and kicked her several times, before she told her to calm down.

She said, when they returned around 2am, the older girl and Angela again argued, and the older girl hit her with the table. She said Angela was alive when they finally left. The younger girl refused to provide police with the password to her mobile phone.

Fingerprints belonging to the older girl were found at the scene, including one on the computer printer. No fingerprints belonging to the younger girl were found on any of the weapons.

Police found a sketch drawn by the older girl in her bedroom at her residential home, which appears to show someone being stabbed in the chest. It was shown to the jury during the course of the trial. She had drawn it in the weeks before Angela's death, after carers told her to use pictures to help express her feelings. Asked what it was supposed to be, she replied: 'I don't know. I was really angry. I just drew something.'

Sketch drawn by one of the girls

The girls have both always denied murder.

The older girl has now admitted manslaughter on the grounds on diminished responsibility. The judge told the jury in the girls' trial that she now admitted attacking Angela, but denied intending to cause her serious harm.

Her defence counsel said that the older girl has a recognised medical condition, causing an abnormality of mental function, impairing her ability to form a rational judgement, to understand the seriousness of her conduct, or to exercise self-control. They said that violence could have seemed 'trivial', as she had experienced it for much of her childhood.

The prosecution challenged this, claiming that the stop-start nature of the attack, the fact the girls hid at one point and left Angela's home before returning later, lying to friends and the police about what had happened, showed the older girl was control of her actions.

The younger girl denied contributing to Angela's injuries, or encouraging the other girl. Her defence counsel said she was 'preoccupied' with her mobile phone at the time.

Now, though, after a seven-week trial at Leeds Crown Court, the jury have found them both guilty of the brutal murder of a highly vulnerable woman.

Angela Wrightson

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