Monday, 17 January 2022

Teenager Olly Stephens' killers sentenced to custody

Teenage killers of Emmer Green teenager Olly Stephens sentenced to custody

TWO teenagers who killed a 13-year-old boy over a social media row have been sentenced to custody in a young offenders’ institution. 

Olly Stephens was lured to Bugs Bottom field near his home in Emmer Green on January 3 and stabbed to death. 

The two boys, aged 14, were found guilty of murder following a five-week trial at Reading Crown Court in July. 

One was sentenced to 13 years, minus 260 days he has already served, and the other 12 years, minus 260 days, at a hearing in the same court today (Friday). 

A 14-year-old girl who had earlier admitted manslaughter was given three years and two months. 

None of the defendants can be identified because of their age. 

Judge Heather Norton said: “Because you are part of a youth culture that thinks knives are cool and something to be celebrated, you caused the death of another child.  

“Whatever part each of you played – great or small – what you did that day was utterly cruel and totally pointless. 

“You have taken one life, damaged your own futures and you have caused so much pain to so many people. 

“The effects of what you did will stay with you and with Olly’s family forever.” 

The judge said the sentences would seem “unbearably short” to Olly's family, but “unbearably long” for the defendants. 

Olly’s father Stuart Stephens held Olly’s football shirt and black and white chequered glasses during the sentencing. 

He told the court: “As parents we like to think we have the strength of character to deal with our children’s problems.  

“As I held Oliver’s cold lifeless hand begging him not to leave us, I wondered what kind of evil could lead to this happening to a defenceless child. This is a question we will be asking ourselves for the rest of our lives.”  

Addressing one of his son’s killers, he said: “You might as well have stuck your knife in me the damage you have done.” 

He added: “We knew him the best we miss him the most”, but said Olly had been a son, brother, nephew, grandson and cousin, and his loss was felt by his family, friends, teachers and everyone who knew him. 

In her impact statement, Olly’s mother Amanda said: “People say to those grieving ‘you’re so strong how do you carry on?’ I never understood until now. How do they carry on, how do they put one foot in front of the other?  

“The day after Olly was murdered I was washing my hands in the downstairs toilet. I saw my reflection in the mirror. I looked like a ghost. I thought that I wanted to be dead. Then I thought that ‘your family needs you’. ‘Olly needs you.” 

On the morning of the attack, Mrs Stephens said she was sitting with her son in his bedroom.  “I said ‘you look handsome’, he said ‘then take a picture’. I said I don’t have my phone. He said then take a mental picture. I’m so glad I did.” 

The trial previously heard that Olly was convinced to go to Bugs Bottom field by the girl, where he was then “ambushed” and stabbed to death by the boys, who both had “grievances” with him. 

Jurors were told Olly’s killers had shared several hostile messages about him on Snapchat in the days leading up to the stabbing. 

Defence lawyer Timothy Raggatt, representing the younger of the two boys, argued that his diagnosis with a mental disorder should lead to leniency.   

Rossano Scamardella, representing the older boy, argued the two defendants should not be treated the same as his client did not physically stab Olly.  

He said his client had no criminal convictions and that his behaviour whilst incarcerated had been exemplary, that he was willingly accessing education and getting involved in extracurricular activities. 

Referring to messages where the boy said he wanted to kill Olly, Mr Scamardella said: “issues of credibility, issues of status, and issues of reputation were the reasons for engaging in those ridiculous messages. His remorse is genuine.” 

Kate Lumsdon, representing the 14-year-old girl, said her client had expressed acute remorse and has been awakening at night with nightmares.  

She said: “It is to her fault she lied to police but it is not unnatural of a girl who was terrified at what had just unfolded.” 

They said the girl told an officer: “I just want him to be okay, it’s my fault.”  

Speaking after the sentencing, Olly’s parents urged the parents of teenage children to “take their phones off them” after warning how social media “played a massive part” in their son’s death. They also called for new laws to be introduced to ban unidentifiable social media accounts. 

Mr Stephens said: “Oliver was our sunshine and our joy, he brought love and laughter to us and so many others. It was an honour and a privilege to call him our son, to be his parents and to embrace someone so loving, caring and protective.  

“We stand here today not victorious or celebrating but deeply saddened by the events that have led to the demise of our son. It started with Olly doing what he always did, standing up and protecting others and ended with a knife being thrust into our son’s body, not once but twice. 

“There is a cancer in our children’s lives, it starts with the use of a mobile phone, with apps provided to entertain that are misused to spread anger, hatred, misinformation and bile, and ends in cold blooded murder. Our laws need to change to protect our children.  

“If it was up to me no child under 16 would have a mobile phone. Our children deserve a care free and happy childhood, not to spend it cowering in their bedrooms terrified or contemplating suicide because they are made to feel worthless by some random spineless individuals. Online ID is imperative.”  

He also called for stricter rules around the purchase of knives, saying: “In an immature child’s hand a knife is as lethal as a firearm.” 

 

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