Murder verdicts returned for 10 teens accused of killing Jack Woodley, 18, in Houghton le Spring

191021 - Jack Woodley Houghton stabbing - family photo
Jack Woodley was punched and kicked, stamped on, and stabbed with a 25cm long knife, the court heard. Credit: Family photo

Ten teenagers have been convicted of murdering an 18-year-old as he walked home from a funfair on Wearside.

Jack Woodley was fatally stabbed following an evening out at the fair in Houghton le Spring in October last year.

Following a 78-day trial, a jury returned murder verdicts for all male ten defendants at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday 1 June.

The ten defendants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had all been charged with murder, with an alternative count of manslaughter.

One of the teenagers had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting that he stabbed Mr Woodley but denying that he intended to kill him.

At the start of the trial in March, prosecutor Mark McKone QC said Mr Woodley and the defendants, whom he did not know, had been to the Houghton Feast before the attack on October 16.

He told jurors the attack happened outside the Britannia Inn in Houghton le Spring as the teenagers walked away from the festival.

Mr McKone said the defendants, who were all aged between 14 and 17 at the time, "surrounded and isolated Jack", covering their heads as they prepared to attack him.

The attack happened outside the Britannia Inn in Houghton le Spring. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

He told the court one of the defendants first put Mr Woodley in a headlock and punched him, before the others "joined in".

Jurors were told one of them was heard shouting "get the chopper" – referring to a knife - in mobile phone footage of the incident.

The court heard one of the youths was "armed with a very dangerous knife", while another admitted taking a knuckle duster out that night, but denied hitting Mr Woodley with it.

Mr McKone told jurors Mr Woodley was outnumbered as the group "not only attacked him but prevented him from escaping and other people from helping him".

He said: "The prosecution say, based on the available evidence, that the defendants went out looking for serious trouble that day."

Jurors were told one female witness had been shown "a machete style knife" by the first defendant the same day - and that he told her he had previously stabbed two people with it.

Mr McKone said the witness met up with him again an hour later, and four of his male friends, who talked about him "being in a gang" and "discussed how they were going to find someone tonight at the feast".

She told police the group had "seemed quite excited".

Mr McKone told the court that this supported the prosecution's case that "the attack was planned and the stabbing was planned" though they then had no victim in mind.

Jack Woodley was stabbed with a 25cm long knife. Credit: CPS

Jurors were told another female witness had kissed another of the defendants at the festival, and was hit by a friend of his ex-girlfriend.

Mr McKone said when Mr Woodley, who did not know any of the defendants, asked one of them if he knew why the young woman had been hit, the defendant asked Mr Woodley "if he was starting".

The prosecutor said: "This seems to be one of the trivial reasons for the group attack."

The court heard Mr Woodley's girlfriend told police she was with him at the funfair when a "big group of lads came over saying Jack had said he was going to punch one of them".

Mr McKone said: "This was the group trying to create conflict with Jack so they could attack him."

He told jurors Mr Woodley left the festival but the group followed him, with one suggesting they should have a "one-on-one fight".

When Mr Woodley said he did not want to fight, one of the group patted him down to see if he had a knife before appearing to let him go, the court heard.

A jury returned their verdicts after a 78-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court. Credit: PA

Several witnesses described the gang then putting their hoods up and "circling Jack from behind".

Mr Woodley's friend said in his evidence to police that, during the attack, "Jack got on the floor so he could curl up into a ball. He was so scared.

"Everyone in the group was just kicking the life out of Jack."

The court heard Mr Woodley died the next day, after "valiant attempts at the scene and in hospital" to save his life.

The teenagers were remanded in custody until their sentencing in August.