Teenager committed 'terrible violence' - but is not a 'cold-blooded killer', Angela Wrightson murder trial told

Angela Wrightson
Angela Wrightson

A teenage girl accused of the brutal murder of a Hartlepool woman in her own home perpetrated "terrible violence" against her - but is not a "cold-blooded killer", a court heard.

The girl, now 15, and her 14-year-old co-accused are alleged to have battered tragic alcoholic Angela Wrightson to death at an address in Stephen Street in the town in December 2014.

Both girls deny murder at the trial at Leeds Crown Court, though the older girl admits manslaughter on the grounds she did no intend to kill her and her responsibility was diminished due to a mental abnormality she was suffering from at the time.

Making his closing speech, the older girl's defence counsel, Jamie Hill QC, told the jury that the defendants were 'chaotic teenagers' rather than the 'callous murderers' they had been painted as by the prosecution.

He argued that the older girl lacked the intent to murder 39-year-old Ms Wrightson for a myriad of reasons - including her low intelligence, the fact that her own upbringing had been rooted in violence and that she was 'led' by her co-accused.

He stated the older girl lacked the understanding that her actions could lead to the death of Ms Wrightson, pointing out that earlier in the trial she had made clear her belief people could only die from cancer, being shot in the head or stabbed in the heart.

The court has heard that Ms Wrightson, who weighed just six-and-a-half stone at the time of her death, suffered in excess of 103 injuries inflicted with an array of weapons over a prolonged period of time.

Summing up his defence, Mr Hill QC said: "She has admitted using terrible violence against Angela Wrightson.

"There is no getting away from that. It is not my job to excuse the inexcusable.

"It is my job to put it into context."

Mr Hill QC said jurors must find her guilty of manslaughter - not murder - if they agree with his submission that she may not have formed an intent to murder her or was unable to understand her actions, form rational judgements or exercise self control due to the disorder that independent psychiatrists have agreed she had at the time of Ms Wrightson's death.

Mr Hill QC added: "If she did not have the intent to kill or cause really serious harm then she is not guilty of murder, but of manslaughter.

He said he understood jurors would 'hate' what the defendant did to her frail and vulnerable victim - but must detach emotion when reaching their verdict.

Talking of her low intellect, he said: "She is in the learning disabled range.

"She may not have had the foresight or understanding of any other 14-year-old."

He said her own upbringing may also have had an impact on her ability to understand the consequences of her actions.

He added: "Having a background were fights and violence regularly occurred, then violence is a normality in the life of a child growing up.

"It maybe rather more trivial in her mind than off a 14-year-old in more stable surroundings.

"If violence is an everyday event and people don't die from it, how does that play in the mind of a 14-year-old."

Mr Hill QC said the 'dynamic' between the co-accused was crucial.

He told the court the younger girl was the 'stronger character' and did not have the learning difficulties of her friend.

He said the older girl would defer to her younger friend and had been egged on by her during the attack.

Mr Hill QC submitted that the younger girl also played a role in the violence, which she denies.

But he told the court that he believed neither girl set out to kill Ms Wrightson on the fateful night of her death - but a spark was lit on a 'powderkeg' which violently exploded.

He added: "The reality is that neither of these girls set out to kill anyone.

"Angela Wrightson had drank enough to kill a normal person.

"Both defendants were happy enough to take solace in cider.

"The mixture of these three volatile people, Angela Wrightson angry with her landlord, (older girl) having family problems.

"It's not hard to imagine a spark being applied to that powderkeg.

"I have to say neither of these girls is a cold-blooded killer.

"It is just a terrible moment in history when these three people collided in the most appalling and tragic way."

Mr Hill QC said jurors should also consider that - due to her disorder - the older girl was not just a 'naughty teenager'.

He said she had persistent symptoms of anxiety, phobias, obsessional behaviour and fearfulness that manifested themselves in violence, cruelty, disobedience and temper tantrums.

He said the 'abnormality of her mental function' was a logical explanation for her behaviour.

"She is not just a naughty teenager, someone with a few tendencies towards criminal or violent behaviour.

"She is someone with a disorder.

"At the time of this incident, she was not thinking like a normal 14-year-old.

He told jurors that if they found her ability to understand her conduct, form rational judgements or exercise self control was 'substantially impaired' by her condition, she should be acquitted of murder.

Mr Hill QC concluded: "You have got to put the right label on this offending.

"I am not asking for her not to be punished.

"We would say on her behalf it is not murder."