Brianna Ghey: A psychologist’s look at how two 15-year-olds became killers

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe exchanged hundreds of messages which showed a "real thirst for death and for murder". Credit: Family photo

Two teenagers who murdered 16-year-old Brianna Ghey are "arrogant" and "textbook sadistic" experts have said.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, previously known only as Girl X and Boy Y because of their ages, exchanged hundreds of messages which showed a "real thirst for death and for murder", and multiple plans to kill not only Brianna but other schoolchildren as well.

They also made multiple attempts to kill Brianna, and on one occasion attempted to give her an overdose.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe have now been officially named as Brianna's killers. Credit: Cheshire Constabulary

Despite the damning evidence, the pair maintained their innocence and instead blamed each other.

But, after a four week trial Jenkinson and Ratcliffe were unanimously convicted of the "sustained and violent" murder by a jury of seven men and five women at Manchester Crown Court.

They were sentenced to life in prison - Jenkinson to a minimum of 22 years, and Ratcliffe to a minimum of 20.

It was a trial which sent shock waves through the community and the wider population as a whole - so how could two then 15-year-olds kill so brutally and was there anything indicating this would happen?

Brianna Ghey (left) and her mum, Esther Ghey. Credit: Family Handout

"We haven't had many cases like this that really stand out," Dr Dara Mojtahedi, a Reader in Forensic and Criminological Psychology at Bolton University says.

"When most people think about a case where children or teenagers were involved in murdering another they think of the horrific murder of James Bulger.

"But even this case differs from that.

"Firstly these culprits were far older and they should be biologically more capable of moral decision-making, moral reasoning, but what also stands out the most about this case is the pre-meditation and the amount of fascination that these individuals had leading up to the incident.

"They planned it, they really were looking forward to it, and it was very clear that there was an early fascination and obsession with murdering someone."

Dr Mojtahedi said while many try to explain the actions of murderers, especially those who are children, by blaming severe mental illnesses such as psychosis, there was no evidence Girl X and Boy Y were suffering from that.

Instead he said the "intelligent" pair were able to "meticulously plan ahead".

He added: "They seem like intelligent individuals that were very capable of what they were doing and that's the scary thing.

"These are two very ordinary individuals to some extent and it scares people because they think, 'well who else is capable of doing this?'"

  • 'They planned it... they were really looking forward to it', says Dr Dara Mojtahedi

The two teenagers were identified within 24 hours of Brianna’s murder - after Family Liaison Officers were able to piece together who the teenager was meeting.

After arresting Jenkinson and Ratcliffe, Cheshire Police carried out searches of their homes, uncovering a kill list, as well as a handwritten plan of how the pair were going to murder Brianna.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans, said the evidence revealed "how arrogant the two of them were".

He said: "The kill list was quite a significant piece of evidence and it was quite unusual to have found it.

"I think all of this indicates just how arrogant the two of them were and how they thought they would never get caught.

"You saw comments in the text messages about the police and the fact they wouldn't be caught.

"I genuinely believe to take the knife home, back to your address and keep it in the house, to keep the clothes in the house, to have a list of how you were going to execute someone and keep that, shows their arrogance that they thought they were cleverest people and no one was ever going to catch them."

He added: "I think probably their downfall has been their confidence and arrogance around the fact they thought they could take another human life, and then thought there would be no come up and for them and they would never get caught."

  • Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans: 'They thought they would never get caught'

Could the pair have continued to kill?

The discovery of a 'kill list' was a "terrifying" part of the case and indicated Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe could have gone on to kill more had they not been arrested, Dr Mojtahedi said.

"It's such an anomaly of a situation," he said. "But the fact that they had almost a list of people that scorned them should be terrifying.

"It means this wasn't a one-off, it means if they could they would kill a lot more people and they would get a lot of fascination out of that, a lot of enjoyment out of that, which again is what's so eerie about this case."

He added that he "strongly believed" the teens were on "a pathway towards serial murderers", but because of the high standard of policing they were prevented for it getting that far.

Was Brianna the sole target?

Although a handwritten note of how the two teens planned to kill Brianna was discovered, it is not believed Brianna was the sole target.

Instead, Dt Ch Supt Evans said, police believe although she was one of those listed on the kill list, it was Brianna’s "availability" which led the pair to ultimately choose her.

He said: "This [kill list] is a really unusual feature and again came predominantly via text messages, WhatsApp messages, on their phones and we now know they'd identified a number of essentially children and they had a real thirst for death and for murder.

"The two of them were quite depraved in terms of the conversations they were having and we believe that they genuinely set out intent on killing someone, and as tragic as it was, it was Brianna.

"I think it was Brianna’s availability or accessibility that led to her being a victim on that day.

"We believe that there were others who it possibly would have been had it not been Brianna on that day."

How dangerous are they?

Dr Mojtahedi said the teens were "right on top of the scale when it comes to dangerousness and risk".

He added: "The main reason is there are zero signs of remorse in the court, not even feigning remorse.

"You look at the way they are behaving - neither of them are sad.

"I believe the boy was asked if he was sad he said no, the girl’s behaviour also indicated that she wasn't bothered about what was going on, that is the scariest thing about all of this - it's clear indication that they don't feel what they did was much of a problem and they’d do it again if they were released."

  • This should be 'terrifying', says Dr Dara Mojtahedi

What was their motive?

Officers still do not know what the motive was to kill Brianna, Dt Ch Supt Evans said.

"Brianna was a very vulnerable girl and she was isolated in some respect socially,” he added.

"She lived a lot of life on a phone and TikTok and the likes, but actually we saw from the messages to her mum how anxious she was getting on the bus that day.

"I think this was the ultimate betrayal of someone who she considered a friend who has lured her out of a house, and that's one of the most tragic aspects in this case is that she thought she had a friend and actually that friend was plotting to kill her."

He continued: "I don't think many of us have ever seen the level of depravity show and the dehumanising nature of the text messages between the two, and the hatred towards Brianna and others for no reason whatsoever, and just that thirst for kill from two 15-year-olds, but that was really disturbing.

"We still do not know to this day why they've done it what led them to want to do it and obviously now they played on the fact they thought it was fantasy, but when you read those messages it was quite clear that was a plan that wasn't a fantasy, and I'm just glad that the jury have seen through and delivered justice.

"This wasn't a fantasy, this was a planned cold blooded murder that the two of them hatched a plan over a period of time."

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