Society has a morbid obsession with children who are capable of committing horrendous acts of violence. It is likely because the juxtaposition of cherub-faced adolescence and cold-blooded murder is so incredibly jarring. It is also because we feel our children should be safe when they are away from their families but are surrounded by their friends.
Unfortunately, this does not always prove to be the case and there are some gut-wrenching and heartbreaking stories of children who form an alliance – whether it be through blood, love or friendship – and turn their heinous acts upon those closest to them.
Throughout decades of criminal investigations, it has transpired that most child killers fit into one of three types of profile. Personal feelings that may be dealt with in a more amicable way, such as anger, jealousy, betrayal etc. can lead to a murderous outcome in the first type. Those who enjoy the torture before, the act of killing itself and even the mutilation afterwards make up the second type. While the third type generally single out specific targets and/or groups that represent something greater, such as school-shootings that are so prevalent in the US.
These accounts of youthful viciousness are not for the faint-hearted, so be warned that the following article contains lamentable details of extreme violence and torture.
15. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables (Murder of James Bulger)
Denise Bulger was in a shopping centre on February 12, 1993, carrying out her usual motherly chores. She had turned to pay a butcher for some meat when panic struck her. In just a matter of moments, her 2-year-old son, James, had disappeared. But, as toddlers are want to do, James had not merely wandered off. He had been lured away by two 10-year-old boys – Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. What followed was one of the most brutal and implausible acts of violence in British criminal history.
James’ body was discovered three miles away, stripped from the waist down and with paint thrown in his eyes. He had been beaten to death with bricks and an iron bar, causing 42 separate injuries, including a fractured skull. The killers had even had the chilling presence of mind to manipulate his body placement onto a railway track so that his death may appear as an accident.
Upon conviction, the judge, who sentenced them to custody until they were 18 before (being released on a lifelong license and given new identities), described their crimes as an act of “unparalleled evil and barbarity”.
14. Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig (“Let Him Have It”)
On 2nd November, 1952, 19-year-old Derek Bentley and 16-year-old Christopher Craig broke into a warehouse in London. Upon realising the police had been called, the pair fled to the roof of the building and hid. The first officer on the scene, Detective Sergeant Frederick Fairfax, managed to briefly apprehend the elder fugitive, Bentley, while the armed Craig stood by watching. After a short scuffle, Fairfax’s grip was lost and, upon freeing himself, Bentley shouted to Craig “Let him have it, Chris”. It is upon this point that the case hung, as Craig immediately fired the gun he was carrying, grazing the officer’s shoulder.
In spite of his injury, Fairfax continued to pursue Bentley and eventually arrested him. Craig continued to evade the pursuit and, when reinforcements arrived, proceeded to shoot Police Constable Sidney George Miles in the head, killing him instantly. When Craig had run out of bullets, he leapt from the roof and landed on the ground 30ft below, fracturing his spine.
In the resulting court case, Bentley faced execution as being of legal age to face such a punishment; Craig was not. The trial was not straightforward however as bizarrely, the police seemed unsure how many shots were fired and by whom. Additionally, the ambiguous phrase shouted by Bentley could have been interpreted as an attempt to surrender, rather than instruction to open fire.
13. Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf
“I stabbed and stabbed, stabbed and stabbed.” So goes the recollection of 14-year-old Shirley Wolf. Along with her friend, Cindy Collier, she had agreed to kill a complete stranger on a whim. “The lady was freaking me out, telling me to stop, that she was dying. I said: ‘Good.’ All of a sudden, blood came out of her mouth so I knew she was dead.”
The lady in question was Anna Brackett, an 85-year-old who’d kindly let the young girls in to use her phone. It was to be her last act of kindness, as the girls sat chatting with her, plucking up the courage to attack when Brackett turned to answer a phone call of her own.
The elderly lady was discovered by her son just minutes after the girls had fled, with 28 stabs wounds. Before apprehension, Collier had time to make a journal entry of her day’s activities, noting “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.”
12. Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate
A killing spree so noteworthy it inspired several movies, including The Sadist, Badlands, Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers, Charlie Starkweather was an American teenager who committed a spate of murders, most notably in January 1958, when he killed ten people. Even more remarkable, he enlisted the help of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate.
Starkweather was sentenced to death and executed by electrocution in Nebraska in 1959. To date, Fugate is the youngest female to have been tried for first-degree murder in United States history. She claimed that she was held under captivity by Starkweather, but he insisted she had murdered several of the victims herself, in addition to the ones he had personally killed. The jury agreed with Starkweather’s version, finding Fugate’s testimony that she was his hostage to be incredible and sentenced her to life imprisonment.
11. Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme
One of New Zealand’s most notorious crimes comes in the form of the gruesome murder of Honorah Parker by her very own daughter, Pauline and her friend Juliet Hulme. The girls, 16- and 15-years-old respectively, accompanied Honorah on a walk through Victoria Park one June morning in 1954. After stopping for something to eat at a tea kiosk, they proceeded to walk down a path towards a wooded area, where the girls began to beat the elder lady to death with a half-brick wrapped in a stocking.
Having planned the attack together, the girls then ran back to the tea kiosk to report to the owners that Honorah had fallen and hit her head. The body was found with major lacerations to the head, neck and face, and upon being questioned, the story the pair had concocted quickly unraveled. They were arrested, charged and convicted of murder.
10. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier (Slender Man Stabbing)
The Slender Man stabbing occurred in May 2014 when two 12-year-old girls – Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser – insisted the “Slender Man” forced them to repeatedly stab another girl of the same age, Payton Leutner.
Miraculously – despite being stabbed 19 times and being left to fight for her life by her supposed friends – Leutner was able to drag herself to a nearby roadside where she was discovered by a cyclist who promptly called 911. She came agonisingly close to death, but survived after six days in hospital and made a full recovery from her horrific injuries.
Peculiarly, The Slender Man was originally created as merely an internet meme. A tall, thin and faceless man donning a black suit, the girls claimed to believe he was real and that the only way to become a ‘follower’ was by murdering someone. They told police that they wanted to prove their loyalty to him and said they attacked their classmate in order to protect their own families from harm.
9. The Collie Killers (Eliza Jane Davis murder)
Having spent the evening at a party where they smoked cannabis and took methamphetamine, three young girls retreated to a shared house to sleep off the effects. When two of the girls awoke, they began to discuss, in detail, their desire to take somebody else’s life, simply to find out how it felt. Deciding it was worth the risk, they succumbed to their “compulsive urge” to kill and turned their attentions to the nearest person available – 15-year-old Eliza Davis, with whom they had just spent the night.
In a devastating scenario where the victim was nothing more than unlucky to be with the 16-year-old killers at the time they formulated their disturbing plan, she found herself being attacked while reading a school yearbook, one girl stuffing a chemical-soaked rag into her mouth; the other garroting her with an electric cable. Fought though she may, she eventually perished at their hands and her body was buried beneath the house in which she was killed.
8. Connor Doran, Simon Evans and Brandon Doran
Brothers Connor and Brandon Doran often spent their time running wild around the streets of Liverpool; particularly at night. On August 17, 2012 they were doing exactly that, accompanied by their friend Simon Evans, when an event transpired that Evans would himself later describe as “terrible”.
Turning to the 14-year-old Evans, the pack leader Connor – himself just 17 – challenged him to attack a homeless man they happened to encounter by saying “I bet you haven’t got it in you to do him in”. Kevin Bennett, 53 and sleeping rough in a doorway, was suddenly the victim of a cruel onslaught from Connor and Simon, while Brandon, also 14, stood watch.
Subjected to relentless and ferocious kicking from the two boys – and even receiving the full weight of Connor’s body after he’d climbed atop a storage unit and jumped onto the victim’s chest – Bennett suffered a broken ribcage, collapsed lung and fractured eye socket. He died after fighting for his life for six days.
After being arrested, they tried to blame each other and continued to deny the killing throughout their trial. Despite this, Connor, Simon and Brandon were sentenced to 12, eight and six years respectively.
7. Gang of 20 Teenagers (Sofyen Belamouadden killing)
In a bid to protect what they considered to be “their territory”, a group of 20 teenagers plotted an attack over social media one evening and even acquired knives as weapons from a nearby store during their lunchbreak the following day.
Wearing a single glove to identify themselves, the group descended on London’s Victoria Station carrying the knives, metal bars and even a samurai sword. They targeted the unlucky Sofyen Belamouadden – a promising footballer and schoolboy of just 15. They chased him down an escalator, pushed him to the floor and proceeded to hack and kick him to death in front of hundreds of commuters.
Initially, all 20 gang-members were charged with murder in the biggest joint-murder prosecution ever brought to court. Multiple trials over two years eventually led to three youths being convicted of murder, five convicted of manslaughter (including Victoria Oseteku, the only girl to be charged and the one who purchased the knives at lunchtime) and nine others convicted of lesser charges.
6. Chancey Luna, Michael Jones and James Edwards
Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old man from Australia who was in the US on a baseball scholarship, was out jogging along the street one sunny day in August when his life was tragically and needlessly snatched from him.
Unbeknown to him, three teenage boys, Chancey Luna, 16, Michael Jones, 17, and James Edwards, 15, had become bored that afternoon and taken the horrifying decision to commit murder as a way to stave off the tedium. “We were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody” one of them would later confess.
While Lane was jogging, the boys snuck up behind him in a car, shot him in the back, and quickly drove away, leaving Lane dying on the roadside, screaming in agony. It later emerged that two days earlier, Edwards had posted a disconcerting tweet, quoting lyrics by rapper Chief Keef: “With my n****s when it’s time to start taken life’s [sic]”
5. Warren Glowatski, Kelly Ellard and The Shoreline Six (Reena Virk killing)
During an after-school party in a house where alcohol and marijuana was freely available, Reena Virk was subjected to heartbreaking taunts and relentless bullying by peers she may have one-time considered friends. She was swarmed by a group of eight children who proceeded kick her, punch her, extinguish cigarettes on her forehead and even attempted setting her hair on fire.
This attack by the so-called Shoreline Six (who remain unnamed) subsided after one onlooker pleaded for a respite for the victim. Two of the original members however, Warren Glowatski and Kelly Ellard, followed Virk after she’d managed to break free of the gang, dragging her to a nearby bridge and began beating her again.
The body of the 14-year-old was found eight days later, when it transpired that she had been drowned by Ellard, though the head injuries she’d suffered during the attacks were likely severe enough to have killed her anyway.
4. Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy
Skylar Neese, 16, was lured out of her bedroom one night in July 2012 by her two friends, Rachel Shoaf and Shelia Eddy, both also 16. She was driven 30 minutes away from her house towards a gravesite that the two girls had previously planned out where, “upon the count of three”, they both began stabbing their friend, plunging knives into her body more than 50 times. They originally tossed her body on the side of the road, but then decided to try to bury her. When these attempts failed, they simply covered her with branches.
After deciding “They didn’t want to be friends with her anymore” they had apparently been planning the murder for months. Some fellow students and even teachers had overheard the conversations in school, but failed it report it as they deemed it no more than twisted jokes.
3. Twilight Killers – 14-year-old sweethearts (Spalding murders)
The unperturbed execution of the Spalding murders, where 49-year-old Elizabeth Edwards and her daughter, Katie, were callously killed while sleeping in their beds, is enough to chill the blood of even the most hardened criminologist.
The toxic relationship of two 14-year-old sweethearts is believed to be the instigating factor in the disturbing events that took place in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Having planned the killings in advance and rehearsing the scenario together, over-and-over, the pair entered into the Edwards’ household and headed for the bedroom of Mrs Edwards. Once there, the victim was pinned to her bed while the boy stabbed her eight times – twice in the neck to ensure her screams would not wake her sleeping daughter. He then entered Katie’s room and, wielding the same knife that he’d just used to kill her mother, stabbed her before smothering her to death with a pillow.
After committing such vicious and unwarranted acts of violence, the pair then remained in the house to take a bath, washing themselves free of the blood, and then headed downstairs to watch the vampire flick Twilight. The girl ate ice cream and toasted teacakes as a snack during the film.
2. The Edlington Devil Brothers
In a case that had distressing echoes of the James Bulger abduction, two boys, aged just nine and 11, were persuaded to accompany the ‘Devil Brothers’ to a piece of waste ground where a senseless and unprovoked 90 minute procession of viscous torture took place. Using sticks, broken glass and barbed wire, the two young victims were subjected to multiple beatings, burns and strangulation. One was even stripped naked and forced to perform a sexual act. At another point, huge chunks of a broken sink was dropped on their heads. The brothers even filmed parts of the attack on a mobile phone.
Having grown too tired to continue, they fled the scene, leaving the two helpless infants for dead. The nine-year-old was discovered wandering in the street with several knife wounds. The 11-year-old, who’d suffered life-threatening injuries, was found lying face-down on a muddy bank.
1. Snapchat Killers (Angela Wrightson killing)
Across a sickening five-hour ordeal, a vulnerable and lonely woman, Angela Wrightson, was cruelly beaten to death with a variety of household objects. Using items such as a coffee table, a TV, a shovel and a stick studded with screws, the 13- and 14-year-old girls administered a sustained and remorseless attack on a woman who had allowed them into her own home.
During the assault, the twisted pair took selfies and the younger of the two made a video-call to a third friend who heard her say: “Go on [older girl]. Smash her head in. Bray her. F****** kill her.” The older girl could be heard laughing in the background in response to the taunts. There were also images uploaded to Snapchat – one of the two girls with the victim, moments before the attack commenced, and another from inside a police van after being arrested.
Prior to sentencing the judge told the pair: “This is not a case of instantaneous death following a shot, a stab or a blow. She pleaded for you stop. This was a sustained attack over a long period of time carried out with weapons in many different ways. She suffered mentally and physically before she lost consciousness and died.
“She must have despaired at being unable to escape you in the confines of her own living room. She kindly invited you in, she kindly bought you what you wanted and let you stay. You abused her hospitality and attacked her again and again.”