Jack Woodley murder: Parents speak of immense grief after 'vicious' and 'senseless' attack on son

Jack Woodley's mother said he was her "reason to live" while his father said he had his "whole life ahead of him". Credit: Family photo

The parents of Jack Woodley have spoken of their immense grief following the "vicious" and "senseless" murder of their beloved son by ten teenagers.

Zoey McGill and John Woodley paid tribute to their boy following a 78-day trial during which they relived the horror of his last moments.

The 18-year-old was fatally stabbed and killed by a gang of ten male teenagers as he walked home from a funfair in Houghton le Spring in October last year.

They were found guilty of his murder at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday 1 June.

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs McGill said Jack's life was full of promise and she was now "imprisoned" by her grief.

“Jack was my reason to live and succeed in life. From the moment Jack was born he brought light and love to us all," she said.

“In the months before October, Jack had sat and passed his English and Math Level 3, CSCS Operatives Card, Forklift Truck License and had secured a job with Amazon which he was due to start the Monday after his death.

“Jack had also secured his own accommodation and had received the keys for this on the day he was attacked. We were all very proud of Jack and this should have been a very exciting time in his life.

“The devastation of losing Jack is immense and far reaching. The trauma of reliving this whole incident over a long trial has had a devastating effect on us all. We cannot see a way of recovering from this.

“We feel imprisoned by our grief and trauma.

“No parent, loved one or friend should suffer someone going to a fair and losing them forever.

"We will never be able to share treasured family moments with our ‘cheeky chappy blue-eyed boy’ ever again.”

On the morning he was attacked, Jack Woodley had picked up the keys for a flat in Sunderland and was due to start a new job. Credit: Family photo

'Jack had his whole life ahead of him'

Jack is survived by his mother, father John Woodley and stepdad Chris McGill.

A trial in Newcastle, which started in March, heard how the teenager was kicked, stamped on, and stabbed with a 25cm long knife on the night of October 16, 2021.

Mr Woodley, Jack's father, said he had found it "nearly impossible" to express how his life had changed following the death of his "beautiful son".

“My heart has broken into a million pieces and the hurt this has caused is unmentionable," he continued.

“My son went to a fair with his girlfriend to enjoy a night out and he didn’t come back. The pain and fear he must have endured that night is unthinkable. 

“Jack had his whole life ahead of him, he was just 18 years old.

"Those who attacked our Jack get to see their families and have a future, Jack does not.

“We visit Jack at his grave and wonder how his life would have been if he was still here.

“As a family we couldn’t even see Jack for six weeks after his death as he had to go through so many different examinations after the attack. We laid him to rest eight weeks after he died - eight terrible, painful weeks.

“The trial process has been extremely difficult to endure. The grief has been amplified through this long trial process. Having to relive what happened to Jack on that night has been horrific to us all.

“Jack my boy, I will love and forever miss you. All our hearts are forever broken.”

'Dozens of lives have been destroyed'

Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Brooks, of Northumbria Police, has served as the senior investigating officer throughout the investigation.She said: “Dozens of lives have been destroyed by what happened that night.

“I want to send an unequivocal message to anyone who chooses to carry a weapon of any kind or believes that violence is acceptable – the consequences can be devastating.

“Look at the pain this incident has caused – not only could you take away someone else’s future and destroy the lives of their loved ones, but also your own and those of your family and friends.”

She commended support and bravery of the community for their cooperation in the case.

Andrea Milsom, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East, echoed the sentiments of Det Ch Insp Brooks as she described the killing as “cowardly as it was senseless”.

She said: “Significantly outnumbered, Jack was chased down by a group of teenagers, some armed with weapons, before being viciously and fatally assaulted in front of his friends and other members of the public.

“While much of this was captured on CCTV and mobile phones the verbal evidence provided by witnesses, many of whom are young people themselves, has played a critical role in this prosecution.”

She added her thanks to Northumbria Police for an investigation which allowed the CPS to “meticulously piece together the chaotic sequence of events and to show clearly each defendant’s part in it”.