Before you go any further, please watch the video above. It won't take long, and it illustrates a message. We apologise in advance, but it will upset you. It will upset you because it shows what happens when simple, senseless and idiotic prejudice and intolerance go too far. It will upset you because a beautiful young girl lost her life, simply because she was different.
On Saturday 11th August 2007, 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were walking home through Stubbylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire in the small hours of the morning, following a night out. As they entered the skate park area they were spotted by a gang of teenagers, who began to follow them across the park. Suddenly, and without provocation or even an exchange of words, Robert was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground. The gang began to kick him on the floor, prompting Sophie to cover his body with her own and cradle him in her arms to protect him.
The gang didn't stop.
Sophie was kicked to within an inch of her life, her head stamped and jumped upon, whilst Robert, protected by Sophie's sacrifice, sustained marginally less injury. Both had slipped into full coma by the time the emergency services, called by a terrified eyewitness, arrived at the park. Robert, thankfully, recovered from his injuries two weeks later. Sophie died in hospital, her wounds too severe to heal.
Police later rounded up five teenaged suspects, eventually releasing a fifteen year-old and two seventeen year-olds on bail. All five later stood on trial for grievous bodily harm and murder, all pleading not guilty, with only one - Ryan Herbert - switching his plea to Guilty as the trial progressed. All five openly admitted to GBH with intent. Ultimately, both Herbert and his companion Brendan Harris were found guilty of murder, whilst the three remaining suspects - brothers Joseph and Danny Hulme, and Daniel Mallett - we convicted of the GBH they had previously admitted. Mallett received a four-year four-month sentence, the brothers five years and ten months each. Brendan Harris received eighteen years, whilst Ryan received a sentance of sixteen years that was later successfully appealed and reduced to fifteen years six months.
At the conclusion of the trial on 27 March 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."
-- Wikipedia Article, Murder of Sophie Lancaster
A beautiful and selfless young girl lost her life defending her boyfriend. You're probably asking yourself why. That's what reasonable people do: they look for the reasons. Well, the eyewitnesses knew exactly why.
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."
-- Wikipedia Article, Murder of Sophie Lancaster
Sophie Lancaster lost her life because she and her boyfriend were "moshers". Goths. Because they weren't the usual leering drunken teenaged idiots that frequented the park at that time of night. Because they were different.
If you're a regular to GeekPlanetOnline, odds are you've been bullied or otherwise abused at some point in your life because you too were different. Because you liked Star Trek rather than football. Because you couldn't care less about who's just been evicted from the Big Brother house. Because you'd rather be learning and getting your work done than hanging around boke sheds smoking and getting drunk on cheap cider. Because you're a comics fan. Because you're not mainstream. Because you're a goth. THIS HAS TO STOP.
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was formed by Sophie's family and friends in the wake of her death, to spread the message of tolerance to schools and youth organisations; to educate where parents fail, teaching these kids from an early age that differences are to be celebrated, not ridiculed. They need to raise money to continue their work, but even if you can't spare a donation please, please spread their message. Watch the film, read their website, and tell everyone else you know about the work that they're doing. The Foundation's aim today, the anniversary of the attack, is for everyone aware of their work to get just one other person that they know to watch Dark Angel, the animation at the top of this page, and to understand just how broken the world is that this sort of thing still goes on in an apparently civilised country. Their aim overall is even more simple.
Thank you for reading, and for watching.
-- Matt Dillon, GeekPlanetOnline Publisher, 11/08/2010