How did Brianna Ghey’s murderer become a killer? Teenage girl was raised by hard-working parents – before terrifying fellow students with her ‘kill list’ as she tried to recruit children to take part in blood rituals

To the outside world, she was a normal teenager raised in the loving arms of her modest and ‘very hard-working’ parents.

Photos on social media paint a picture of a happy enough childhood – family days out and a loving relationship with grandparents. 

Her father, a tradesman, and her mother, an education worker, were together for decades and known by neighbours as ‘such a nice couple’. 

But behind the scenes, a fantasy of being a ‘witch’ and a ‘thirst for killing’ led her to conduct one of the most brutal killings Britain has ever seen.

Girl X, as she is known for legal reasons, lured 16-year-old Brianna Ghey to a meeting in a village park under the guise of friendship, only to then stab her to death.

In a frenzied attack, Girl X, working alongside Boy Y, both 15 at the time, stabbed Brianna 28 times with a hunting knife, the first victim from their ‘kill list’ of at least five child targets. 

The pair had each bought a Sainsbury’s meal deal shortly before the killing, with Boy Y being given a lift by his mother. 

Following her arrest, Girl X was found to have traits of autism and ADHD. As well as hearing horrific details of how their daughter was murdered, Brianna’s family had to witness her killers being treated with kid gloves because of their age and vulnerabilities, only diagnosed after their arrest.

When the evidence against them was heard, both were given permission to play with fidget toys, to calm their anxiety, or, in the boy’s case, to do crossword or sudoku puzzles from a book.

Brianna was stabbed to death 28 times with a hunting knife on February 11

In a frenzied attack, Girl X and Boy Y, both 15 at the time, stabbed Brianna with a hunting knife

In a frenzied attack, Girl X and Boy Y, both 15 at the time, stabbed Brianna with a hunting knife

Officers found a note written by Girl X of an alleged 'murder plan' against Brianna

Officers found a note written by Girl X of an alleged ‘murder plan’ against Brianna

‘Timid’ Brianna’s slight body was found lying face-down in the mud at a popular beauty spot in a Cheshire village on February 11 this year. 

Now convicted of Brianna’s murder following a four-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, the pair – their identities protected because of their age – are facing mandatory jail terms for life. 

For many that knew the girl, her arrest came as a total shock.

Follow every detail of the case on The Mail’s acclaimed podcast The Trial 

The Trial… takes listeners behind the headlines and into the courtrooms of some of the biggest trials in the world.

The first series ‘The Trial of Lucy Letby’ was a global hit, with more than 13million downloads, while season two focused on the murder of Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher from Ireland.

Its third season follows the tragic case of Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old transgender girl killed in Warrington, England.

Follow the evidence as the jury hears it, in twice-weekly reports from The Daily Mail’s Northern Correspondent Liz Hull and broadcast journalist Caroline Cheetham.

‘They are such a nice couple, very hard-working, law-abiding people,’ one neighbour said of her parents this week. ‘When their daughter was arrested I just thought it had to be a mistake. She was never any trouble. I never so much as saw her drop a piece of litter.’

Another neighbour said she felt ‘sorry’ for the girl, adding: ‘I’ve lived here since she was little, and my overwhelming impression has always been that she looked very sad, very lonely.’ 

But for others, it was less surprising.

Sources close to the investigation have told the Mail that Girl X had been expelled from several schools, most recently for selling cannabis ‘gummies’ or sweets to pupils. She was caught after children became ill and teachers were informed.

‘She had problems at school but she had never been in trouble with the police, she had no previous convictions and her family life seemed very ordinary,’ said a source.

However, they added: ‘As well as her fascination with murder and torture, Girl X told friends she was into satanism and the occult. She claimed she identified as a witch. It is baffling why she behaved this way.’

She boasted – falsely – of having killed two other people before, and talked of a desire to take bodily parts as sick souvenirs. 

A parent of a child who attended the same school as her said her odd behaviour meant she had few friends.

‘It was common knowledge from 2020 that she had a “kill list” of kids she wanted to kill,’ he said. 

‘My daughter came home and told me about it, but no one took it seriously. Girl X tried to recruit other children to take part in blood rituals with her, everyone just thought she was weird and a fantasist.

‘You won’t find a single student that liked her.’ 

Giving evidence, the girl admitted she had self-harmed since the age of 12, which she said was a ‘coping mechanism’ for dealing with anxiety. 

She then referred to her favourite film, Sweeney Todd, the famous story of a murderous cut-throat barber turned pie-maker.

She told her friend: ‘It’s really good and dark and gory and romantic… I’m watching for the 9000th time… you should watch it.’

Girl X also revealed an interest in serial killers such as ‘Milwaukee Monster’ Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal and necrophiliac who killed and dismembered 17 men between 1978 and 1991, ‘Night Stalker’ Richard Ramirez, whose 13 victims included a nine-year-old girl and a 79-year-old woman, and ‘Dr Death’ Harold Shipman, the English GP suspected of killing around 250 people. 

And on December 5, 2022, she sent Boy Y an advert for an underground site for people who like rape, torture and murder.

'Timid' Brianna's body was found face-down in the mud in a Cheshire village on February 11

‘Timid’ Brianna’s body was found face-down in the mud in a Cheshire village on February 11

Brianna suffered stab wounds to her head, neck, chest, back and sides

Brianna suffered stab wounds to her head, neck, chest, back and sides

Brianna Ghey's mother Esther Ghey arrives at Manchester Crown Court on November 27

Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther Ghey arrives at Manchester Crown Court on November 27 

‘I love watching torture vids,’ she told him. ‘Real ones on the dark web.’

Speaking after the guilty verdicts, Detective Chief Superintendent Mike Evans, head of crime at Cheshire Police, described both as having a ‘thirst for killing’ and relishing in the ‘enjoyment’ of Brianna’s murder. He also branded the killers ‘arrogant’ believing they would not be caught as Girl X claimed the local police were ‘s***e’.

Boy Y’s upbringing had not been dissimilar to that of his partner in crime.

Home for Boy Y was a house bought by his parents from the local council. His father is employed as a manager with a local company while his mother works in the creative industries. As was the case with Girl X’s parents, both were often present in court. 

Girl X referred to Boy Y as a ‘genius’ – and following his arrest and while being held in a secure unit passed eight GCSEs. 

He has since been teaching himself A Levels in biology, chemistry, physics, pure maths and English literature. As a child, he was also a skilled kickboxer.

On the day of the actual killing, Boy Y got a lift in with his mother.

Before meeting their victim, he and the girl had gone to Sainsbury’s to pick up a Meal Deal. She had an egg and cress sandwich, Fridge Raiders, a Dr Pepper and a pack of brownies. He bought a ham and cheese baguette, a white Kinder Bueno chocolate bar and a Coca-Cola.

The fizzy drinks, covered with their DNA, were left at the blood-soaked scene.

The trial heard Girl X and Boy Y plunged themselves into the darkest depths of the internet in the months leading up to an intended murder spree.

Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, argued the digital evidence recovered from the pair’s phones showed they were preoccupied with torture, murder and death.

Girl X, who described herself as a Satanist, told the jury she began to fantasise about killing people from as young as age 14 around the time she began to take an interest in ‘dark materials’, such as films of murder, torture and serial killers found on the dark web via an app she had downloaded.

In October, Girl X and Boy Y had even discussed the killing of another child – Boy M – in messages shown to jurors with Girl X saying: ‘If we kill Boy M, can I keep some things, a couple of teeth and an eye.’ 

By mid-December, Brianna, who lived locally and had a large following on social media, had entered their discussions. Girl X had got to know her that October. 

She said they became friends after Brianna had complimented her on her eyeliner, and they would ‘hang out’ together. She also admitted that she was attracted to Brianna.

A vigil was held for Brianna Ghey outside the Department for Education in London in February

A vigil was held for Brianna Ghey outside the Department for Education in London in February

Police forensic officers at the scene in Culcheth Linear Park in Cheshire on February 13

Police forensic officers at the scene in Culcheth Linear Park in Cheshire on February 13

In a message on December 15, she told Boy Y: ‘I’m obsessed over someone I know but don’t have feelings for them… She’s called Brianna… I don’t know how to explain.’ 

She sent Boy Y some pictures of Brianna that she had posted online. Boy Y responded: ‘Is it a femboy or a tranny?’ 

Girl X told him that she was ‘trans’ and that she sounded ‘just like a girl’ and ‘looked really pretty’.

On January 23, Girl X claimed to her friend that she had poisoned Brianna with some gel painkillers. 

‘You know that girl I mentioned, Brianna, I’m still tryna [sic] kill her and the easiest way is pill overdose… ppl [people] already know she is depressed and sh*t so nobody would get sus [suspicious] but for some reason she has a high tolerance like I gave her some today that should have been enough to kill her…’ 

Although Brianna had thrown up, ‘…she didn’t die’. 

Searching Girl X’s home after her arrest, officers found the note headed ‘Saturday, 11th February, 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey,’ with the word ‘plan’ written underneath and a smiley face and a heart shape drawn on the top right-hand corner.

The note read: ‘Meet [Boy Y] at wooden posts 1pm. Walk down to library, bus stop. Wait until Brianna gets off bus, then the three of us walk to Linear Park. Go to the pipe/tunnel area. I say code word to [Boy Y]. He stabs her in the back as I stab her in stomach. [Boy Y] drags the body into the area. We both cover up the area with logs etc.’

The prosecution claimed that the ferocity of the wounds – inflicted using a 5in hunting knife which the trial heard Boy Y’s parents bought him during a skiing trip the previous month – and their locations suggested Boy Y had done exactly that.

A separate wound in Brianna’s stomach area could have been inflicted by Girl X as she lay dying, Deanna Heer KC claimed.

But following their convictions, Det Supt Evans said: ‘As to who did what, I am not sure we will ever know.’

After murdering Brianna, Girl X attempted to cover-up her tracks by deleting a Snapchat conversation with Brianna from her mobile. 

She and Boy Y were quickly in contact, swapping jokes and updating one another with press reports about what had happened in the park, pretending to be shocked.

The following morning, Girl X sent a message to an account belonging to Brianna herself: ‘Girl, is everything okay? And some teenage girl got killed in Linear Park, it’s on news everywhere. And why did you ditch us for some random man from Manchester. Like wtf [what the f***]. That is so f***** up.’ 

At 6.25pm, Girl X posted a Snapchat tribute to Brianna. The caption read: ‘Brianna was one of the best people I have ever met and such an amazing friend, it’s so f*****g sickening what got done to her.’ 

Speaking of her daughter’s killers Esther Ghey said: ‘Prior to the trial I had moments where I felt sorry for the defendants because they had ruined their own lives as well as ours.

‘But now, knowing the true nature and seeing neither display an ounce of remorse for what they have done to Brianna, I have lost all sympathy that I may have previously had for them. And I am glad that they will spend many years in prison and away from society.’