As you can see from the pictures above, Sophie Lancaster was a beautiful goth girl who had a loving boyfriend, great friends, overall, a wonderful life. But one thing changed it all.
Read the story of Sophie Lancaster:
Sophie Lancaster, 20, was a former pupil at Haslingden High School and a gap year student planning to attend Accrington and Rossendale College to do an English degree. She had been dating Robert Maltby, a 21-year-old art student at Manchester, for three years and they both had a long-standing attachment to the Goth subculture. The couple's family described them as "Goths", and remarked "They're both intelligent, sensitive kids. They're not the sort of people to get in trouble, but they have had problems in the past because they stand out." Sophie's parents said of her after her death: "We were proud to know our daughter. She was funny, kind, loving and brave. She was a beautiful girl with a social conscience and values which made her a joy to know. Not being able to see her blossom into her full potential or even to see her smile again is a tragedy beyond words." Sophie's mother said "The thing that makes me most angry is that it is seen as an isolated incident, maybe the seriousness of what happened to Sophie is isolated, but attacks are far from isolated. Just because you follow a different culture you are targeted; you are seen as easy pickings."
While returning home, Sophie and Maltby were subjected to a "vicious mob attack" from "a large group of people" between 01:10 hours and 01:20 hours on Saturday, 11 August 2007, at the skate park area of Stubby Lee Park, Bacup. The couple were walking home and came across a group of teenagers at the entrance to the park. The group followed them but there was no trouble until some of them suddenly assaulted Robert Maltby without provocation. When he was knocked unconscious the gang attacked Sophie Lancaster, who was trying to protect him by cradling him in her arms. A 15-year-old witness told police: "They were running over and just kicking her in the head and jumping up and down on her head." One distraught witness used a mobile to call for emergency services saying: "We need, we need an ambulance at Bacup Park, this mosher has just been banged because he’s a mosher." Witnesses revealed that afterwards "The killers celebrated their attack on the goths - or "moshers" - by telling friends afterwards that they had "done summat [something] good", and claiming: "There's two moshers nearly dead up Bacup park - you wanna see them - they're a right mess." The injured couple were assisted by some of the teenagers who called emergency services and then stayed with the couple and tried to tend their wounds. At the trial they were commended by the judge.
Police said soon afterwards it was "a sustained attack during the course of which the pair received serious head injuries and their faces were so swollen we could not ascertain which one was female and which one was male." Both were hospitalised as a result of the attack, first at Rochdale Infirmary. Maltby's injuries left him in a coma with bleeding on the brain, but he gradually recovered over the next two weeks. Lancaster, in a deep coma, was moved to Fairfield Hospital in Bury, then to the Neurology unit at Hope Hospital in Salford. It became clear to hospital staff she would not recover from her injuries and on August 24, 2007 her family agreed to switch off life support and Sophie Lancaster died.
Robert Maltby lies unconscious after the attack
The last photo of Sophie - taken as she lay close to death in hospital
The Arrests and Primary Investigation.
Lancashire Police arrested five individuals in connection with the attack soon afterwards, but conducted extensive further investigations as it appeared up to 15 people were in the area and may have witnessed or participated in the assault. The police identified the gothic dress of the couple as a possible cause for the attack. A 15-year-old and a 16-year-old were remanded in custody, while two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old were released on bail. They were originally being charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but following Lancaster's death the Crown Prosecution Service upgraded the charges.
By October 5, 2007, after questioning over 100 people, the police concluded that they were not expecting to make any more arrests in the case and although 15-20 people were in the park at some point during the night of the attack police believe many were not involved directly as the area was a regular night time hang out spot for teenagers.
Local residents identified the park as a spot often used by "drunken, violent yobs" guilty of vandalism and under-age drinking. They had asked for measures to be taken about the area before the tragedy occurred. Following the murder, residents called for improved security in the area but Rossendale Borough Council said park rangers would be too expensive.
On September 6, 2007 the five suspects were charged with murder at Burnley Youth Court, three were let out on bail, two boys aged 15 and 17 from Shawforth and a 17-year-old boy from Bacup. On October 18 at Burnley Youth Court all five were committed for trial at Preston Crown Court. A preliminary hearing was held on October 31, 2007, where the five accused faced a charge of murder for the death of Lancaster and a charge of grievous bodily harm with intent for the assault on Maltby. A further plea and case management hearing was ordered by Judge Anthony Russell QC for December 14. The judge also indicated a provisional trial date, on both allegations, of March 10, 2008. At the hearing on December 14, 2007 the five accused pleaded not guilty on both charges. At the beginning of the trial on March 10, 2008 all the accused admitted being guilty on the charge of grievous bodily harm with intent, Ryan Herbert pleaded guilty to murder, Brendan Harris pleaded not guilty to murder, while the murder charges against the other three were withdrawn. As the trial opened the prosecution told the hearing: "Sophie and Robert were singled out not for anything they had said or done but because they looked and dressed differently." The jury heard extensive descriptions of severity of the attack from a number of witnesses and through a recorded phone conversation taken at the time.
At the conclusion of the trial on March 27, 2008, Brendan Harris was found guilty of murder, and the Judge ordered the names of both Harris and Herbert, concealed during the trial, to be made public. Detective Supt. Mick Gradwell of Lancashire Police said it was one of the most violent murders he had come across in his lengthy career: "I do not think Herbert and Harris have recognised how violent the attack was. They have just done it without thinking, but they seemed to have enjoyed it, and carried on remorselessly kicking at two very defenceless people who were unable to protect themselves because of the level of violence inflicted upon them... I am very critical of some of the parents involved. I really don't think they have taken completely seriously how repulsive this incident was..." He said that when Harris was initially interviewed about the assaults he was "laughing and joking" with his mother."
Sentencing in the case was set for April 28, 2008.Both Harris and Herbert were sentenced to life imprisonment with the trial judge recommended that Harris should serve at least 18 years and Herbert at least 16 years.
In his closing remarks the judge described the attack as "feral thuggery" which raised serious questions about the "sort of society which exists in this country". He added: "This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself."
The three other defendants were also sentenced for their role in the attack. Brothers Joseph and Danny Hulme and Daniel Mallett who had all earlier pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent on Mr. Maltby were jailed. Mallett was sentenced to four years and four months and the Hulme brothers for five years and ten months each.
The park where the attack occurred was covered with floral tributes to the couple soon after the attack and online message boards have seen many tributes to Lancaster from well-wishers around the world including a special Facebook group in her honour. The attack was widely condemned in Lancashire and Rossendale by Council leaders and the local community. At the alternative electronic music festival Infest in Bradford on August 26, 2007, just after Sophie's death, Ronan Harris of VNV Nation dedicated the song "Illusion" to her and contacted the family to offer his condolences. There has also been discussion of a plaque in her memory in the park. A song was dedicated to Sophie in concerts at Bacup’s Royal Court Theatre on September 6 and 7, 2007, and a collection taken. A twelve hour long concert in her honour was held on October 6, 2007, at the grounds of Bacup Borough F.C. featuring 10 bands. The club played a game during the concert with all the takings going to the memorial fund. This included a song written in Sophie's honour. Her family and friends have set up a website in her memory and have decided to use the contributions from well-wishers and these events to set up a special fund to be known as "S.O.P.H.I.E" standing for "Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere" aiming to "provide an appropriate memorial; a lasting legacy to raise awareness of the injustice perpetrated against Sophie Lancaster and to work towards a more tolerant, less violent society." Lancaster's mother said "it will also help fund group sessions with young people to teach them about alternative cultures and to respect everyone." A special black ribbon was being sold to support the fund available at the many events being held across Rossendale and in local shops. Sophie's memory was further honoured at the Eccentrik Festival, in North Carolina, and three more concerts are planned in California, one in Iowa and one in Brisbane, Australia. A number of gothic gigs and club nights across the UK and Ireland dedicated a night to Sophie in October and November 2007, including the Whitby Gothic Weekend. A collection of over £3000 was raised from these events to place a memorial bench to her in Whitby. The bench was put in place on Whitby's West Cliff in January 2008. The "Sophie Award" has been established as an ongoing prize for innovative and experimental film making at Bacup Film Festival. Sophie's funeral was public and organised for November 12, 2007, and was attended by hundreds of people and BBC film crews. Her friends planned a memorial concert to "commemorate Sophie’s uniqueness" featuring her favourite local bands held on 25 November 2007, the night before what would have been Sophie's 21st birthday at St. Mary’s Chambers in Rawtenstall the concert was covered by Granada Television.