Tia Rigg was a popular 12-year-old girl who attended Albion High School in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. She was described as a “happy girl, strong-willed and free-spirited” with a “bubbly personality.” Tia was no different than any other young child – she was healthy and happy and enjoyed nothing more than socialising with her school friends. She loved watching football, particularly Manchester United, and was caring and compassionate towards her younger siblings.
Tia’s mother and father were separated and Tia lived with her mother, Lynne Rig, her three younger siblings, and her grandparents. “Tia was my baby girl. She was always happy and never sad. She brought a smile to everyone who she met,” recollected Lynne.1
On the 3rd of April, 2010, Tia’s uncle, John Maden, called Lynne and asked if Tia could come to his home in the Dudley Brew estate to babysit his 10-year-old daughter. Lynne agreed and sent Tia over. Manchester United and Chelsea were playing that afternoon and Tia was excited to watch it at her uncle’s house.
Maden, however, had other plans. See, Maden had a grim collection of child pornography and rape pornography, and he had concocted a plan to act out his sick fantasies. Before inviting Tia over, Maden had studied a “snuffing handbook” and had googled how to drug people in a way that would prevent them going into unconsciousness to prolong their agony as they were tortured and killed.
When Tia arrived at her uncle’s home, he drugged the youngster with Olanzapine before raping her and subjecting her to horrifying sexual injuries with a broom. Once finished, he stabbed Tia several times and then strangled her with a guitar wire.2 At 3:45PM, Maden calmly called 999 and stated: “Hi, I would like to report a murder.” He gave the operator his name and address before telling her: “My niece has been murdered by me… I have just finished killing her now.” When the operator asked him why he had killed her, he responded: “Because I felt like it,” before hanging up.
When police arrived at the scene, Maden opened the door and ushered them inside. The officers would later recollect that he appeared to be “chillingly calm” as he directed them to the spare bedroom upstairs. On the bedroom floor, the officers found the body of Tia, surrounded in a pool of her own blood. She was nude except for a pair of socks. The guitar string was wrapped tightly around her neck and her hands had been bound behind her back with shoelaces. Nearby, officers found two knives, a broom, and a sex toy. All of the items were stained with Tia’s blood.
It was estimated that Tia had been dead for less than an hour. An internal examination revealed that she had been stabbed several times in the abdomen and had suffered severe internal injuries. A number of the stab injuries had been inflicted on Tia when she was still alive. While she had suffered from severe blood loss, the predominant cause of death was strangulation with a ligature. 3
Lynne rushed to the scene where neighbours could hear her screaming: “Why, why why?” before collapsing outside. “All murders are terrible but when it’s a 12-year-old girl, it’s just horrendous,” said Detective Superintendent Mary Doyle, who was leading the murder investigation. 4 As the media congregated outside, one neighbour named John Fisher said: “Tia was smashing, but her uncle was odd. This is a rough estate and it’s not the sort of place to raise a child. There are always police around here and there are lots of drugs.”5
On the 28th of April, hundreds of mourners packed into St. James’ Church in Cheetham Hill to bid their final respects to Tia. Instead of the traditional all-black, they all wore pink – Tia’s favourite colour. A horse-drawn hearse was at the head of the funeral cortege and carried her coffin, which was also in pink. During the service, Reverend Simon Cook said: “Love is the reason why so many of you have come here today. It’s what we hold on to in our deepest moments. Death seems always to take us by surprise – but especially when it comes to someone as young as Tia.”6 At the gravesite, 12 balloons were released to symbolise each year of her short life.
John Maden pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Tia. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the recommendation that he never be released. When handing down the sentence, Mr Justice Keith said that the case was horrific: “It’s inescapable that Tia Rigg died because you decided to realise your fantasies about torturing and killing a young child. The fact that you chose your 12-year-old niece, who had put her trust in you, makes what you did all the more unspeakable, as was the fact that all of this was planned by you and you lured her into your home by pretending you wanted her to babysit for you. It’s difficult to know how long Tia’s ordeal lasted. The terror, the unimaginable pain you inflicted on her, the indignities you subjected her… while still alive.”
Outside of court, Lynne spoke to the media: “When this nightmare happened, it killed me inside. My heart has been broken and will never mend. All that is left is a big empty hole. For me, this nightmare will never end but now justice has been done, at least Tia can rest in peace.” Alongside Lynne was Detective Chief Inspector Dave Warren, who added: “He’s refused to try and ease some of the pain by telling anyone why he did this and that has added to their upset. He will now have a long time to reflect on what he has done.”
It would later be discovered that Tia was known to child protection services. In 2011, a serious case review was carried out by social services bosses in Salford and they determined that social workers had missed opportunities to help Tia but said that her death ultimately could not have been “predicted of prevented” because there was no prior evidence that her uncle had posed a threat. The review, however, did find that Tia had come into contact with a number of agencies during her short life and these agencies should have recognised that she was at risk of harm because of her unstable home environment.7
It was acknowledged that while these missed opportunities didn’t directly lead to Tia’s death, they had increased the risk of neglect she faced during her life. The report found that Tia’s mother had a long history of offending and drug abuse and that removing Tia and her siblings from her care “should have been very seriously considered.” In 1998, child protection agencies had said that Tia was “likely to suffer neglect” and years later, this was changed to “likely to suffer physical abuse.” Then in 2001, Tia was removed from the child protection register and was not placed back on it until 2004 despite concerns about domestic abuse.
In 2005, Tia and her siblings were made the subject of child protection plans and they were placed in the care of extended family. In October of 2008, however, they were returned to their mother. The following May, it was decided by the Child Protection Review Conference that the child protection plans would be discontinued. The report after Tia’s murder found that this decision was “flawed” and was based on inaccurate information regarding Tia’s mother’s progress. In reality, Lynne was still abusing drugs and there was still violence within the family.
“No-one could have predicted what happened to her when she visited her uncle that day, but e know more could have been done during her childhood to support her in coping with her unstable home life,” said Councillor John Merry. “However, even if this child has been removed from her home, she would not have been prevented from having contact with her family as there was no indication she was at risk from her uncle and therefore no reason to stop her having access to him and other members of the extended family. Removing her from her home would therefore not have prevented her death.”8
- Coventry Telegraph, 5 October, 2010 – “Man Jailed for Killing His Niece”
- Evening Gazette, 5 October, 2010 – “Torture Man Jailed for Life”
- The Independent, 4 October, 2010 – “Man Jailed for Life for Torture, Tape and Murder of Niece, 12”
- Daily Post, 5 April, 2010 – “Girl, 12, Had Been Stabbed and Strangled”
- The Times, 5 April, 2010 – “Uncle Arrested Over Stabbed Girl’s Death”
- The Salford Advertiser, 29 April, 2019 – “Sad Farewell to Tragic Tia Rigg”
- Independent Television Network, 16 May, 2011 – “Missed Opportunities to Help Girl”
- BBC News, 13 May, 2011 – “Murdered Schoolgirl Tia Rig Failed by Agencies”