Two teen girls found guilty of brutal murder of woman
Two teenage girls have been found guilty of murdering a 39-year-old woman in her own home.
The pair, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were convicted of the murder of alcoholic Angela Wrightson by a jury at Leeds Crown Court.
Miss Wrightson was found dead in her blood-spattered living room in Hartlepool, County Durham, with more than 100 injuries.
Both girls were in tears after the verdicts and were led from the dock immediately.
The seven-week trial has heard that the girls, who were aged 13 and 14 at the time of the attack in December 2014, used a variety of weapons, including a coffee table and a computer printer, to carry out the "sustained and brutal" attack over a prolonged period.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for just over three hours before returning the guilty verdicts.
They had been told that shards of glass and small pieces of gravel or grit were strewn over and around Miss Wrightson's genitals and ash from burnt paper had been put into her ear.
The girls will be sentenced on Thursday.
The trial heard that the girls, who are now both 15, had visited Miss Wrightson, an alcoholic known as "Alco Ange", on a number of occasions as she would buy them alcohol and cigarettes.
On the evening of the murder, they let themselves into her home and asked Miss Wrightson to go to the shop for them.
Both had been drinking before they arrived and the older girl told the court she had taken prescription drugs earlier in the day.
Their accounts to the court of what happened next differed but the jury heard that Miss Wrightson, who was 5ft 4ins and weighed six-and-a-half stone, was assaulted in 12 separate locations around the room in an attack that took place over five hours.
Other weapons used included a wooden stick laced with screws, a television set, a shovel, ornaments, a picture frame and a kettle, and the court heard that Miss Wrightson was forcibly restrained while the pair battered and tortured her.
When she was found by her landlord the following morning, on December 9 2014, the victim had in excess of 103 injuries, including 80 to her face.
Her living room was described as "akin to a bomb site".
While at the house, the younger girl made a phone call over Facebook to a friend who heard her say: "Go on (older girl). Smash her head in. Bray her. F****** kill her," as another laughed in the background.
The court heard that the defendants left the house for "time out" at around 11pm, during which time they went to see a friend, who asked them why they were covered in blood.
They told him they had both fallen over and began listening to rap and high energy music.
The pair then returned to the scene at around 2am and stayed for a further two hours before calling the police to take them home.
The court heard they left Miss Wrightson in an "undignified manner", naked from the waist down on her sofa.
Officers who collected the girls described them as laughing and joking and in "high spirits".
While in the van, they took a picture, which was posted to the social media site Snapchat with the message: "Me and (older girl) in the back, on the bizzie van again."
An earlier selfie posted to Snapchat showed the defendants smiling with Ms Wrightson pictured in the background shortly before her death, with further selfies showing the girls drinking cider from a bottle.
Both defendants admitted being present at the time the injuries were inflicted on Miss Wrightson.
The older girl accepted that she struck the victim but said she did not intend her serious harm. She told the court that her younger friend told her to carry out the attack, telling her to "knock her out".
The younger girl said she played no part in the assault and did not encourage her co-accused in any way. She told police and the jury that her friend became angry and launched the attack after Miss Wrightson made a comment about her family.
She said her older friend had "whacked" the victim with a table and "booted" her in the head and face.
Gerry Wareham, of the Crown Prosecution Service, spoke of the lack of remorse shown by the girls after the murder and said he hoped Miss Wrightson's family could now move on.
He said: "In our society it is hard to imagine that two girls of such a young age could be capable of such violence.
"The attack that the girls committed against Angela Wrightson was brutal and sustained. One can only imagine the fear and distress that she must have felt in the final hours of her life.
"Given the severity of their assault on Miss Wrightson, one would expect the girls to have shown a degree of remorse in the wake of her death.
"Instead, they laughed and smiled while posing for a 'selfie', with each continuing to deny that they had murdered her throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case."
Detective Chief Superintendent Peter McPhillips, Cleveland Police, described it as a unique investigation due to the age of the girls and said questions still remained about the motive behind the killing.
"Angela Wrightson was murdered in her home address 14 Stephen Street Hartlepool, overnight on December 8 2014," he said.
"This was a highly unusual and shocking incident. Throughout almost 25 years of service I have never come across such a brutal murder committed by such young girls.
"Angela was subjected to a prolonged, sustained attack and the pathologist identified a significant number of injuries to her body caused by at least 25 blows with weapons.
"Officers have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and other partner agencies to build a case against the two girls and I am pleased that the overwhelming weight of evidence in the prosecution case has resulted in guilty verdicts today.
"In my experience this is an almost unique investigation in terms of the age of the offenders and the fact that they are girls.
"Many questions remain unanswered about the motive for the murder but the family of Angela, who have had to endure the most shocking and traumatic details unfolding over the last few weeks, will get some satisfaction from knowing that her killers have now been convicted of the killing.
"The Local Safeguarding Adult and Children Board have commissioned a Safeguarding Adult Review and a Serious Case Review, which hopefully will examine the circumstances leading up to the murder. The reviews will determine whether any lessons can be learned and the report will be made public."