39-year-old Angela Wrightson was a vulnerable woman living in Hartlepool, County Durhman, England, when she was attacked and murdered inside her own home by two teenage girls.
Angela was plagued with her own demons and struggled to quit her alcohol addiction. She was known locally as “Alco Ange.”1 Due to her dependency on alcohol, Angela looked far older than her 39 years. She weighed less than six stone and was so frail she needed to wear multiple layers to keep herself warm.2 Angela’s alcohol dependency had exacerbated following the death of a boyfriend, who had died from an alcohol-related incident.
Despite her issues, Angela was very well-liked within the community and did her best to help anybody out who was in need. She often gave candy and chocolate to children and would feed the local dogs and offer refuge for a number of strays. Angela always kept her home meticulously clean and tidy. According to friends, Angela was desperate to turn her life around but struggled because of the destructive cycle that comes with alcohol addiction.
A number of teenagers in the area would take advantage of Angela’s kindness and vulnerability and would pressure her into buying them alcohol and cigarettes and let them drink in her home. Some friends would say that loneliness caused Angela to be very lenient with the teenagers that exploited her, allowing them to use her home as a drinking spot just so she would have somebody to talk to. “They preyed on her because she was too kind-hearted to turn them away. They wanted her for drink, which they would steal from her and if she refused them, they would turn nasty,” a friend said.
On the 8th of December, 2014, two of these teenagers showed up at Angela’s home and ordered her to purchase them cigarettes and cider.
The two teenage girls were both in care at the time. The older one was in local authority care while the younger one was placed with a foster family. They had both come from troubled backgrounds, with the older one a regular drug user from the age of 11. The older girl was one of four children and life at home while growing up was a haze of violence, drugs and alcohol. As a young girl, she had witnessed her mother being stabbed during a domestic row. By the time she hit high school, she was taking morphine, Valium, tramadol, codeine and drinking alcohol, some of which was obtained from her own mother before she was placed into care.3
The younger girl, who was said to be the less aggressive of the two but the more dominant one, was placed into foster care when her mother struggled to control her. One social worker said that she had a vulnerable side and could be cheerful and polite but only when it suited her. Despite this, she had problems with authority and was difficult to control while in school.
After Angela complied to the girls’ wishes and purchased them cigarettes and cider, they unleashed an extremely brutal and sustained attack on the vulnerable woman in her own home. The two girls had used a plethora of objects to beat Angela with, including a shovel, a wooden stick with screws in it, a computer printer and a coffee table. She had been struck by the two girls in 12 separate locations within the living room.
At one point during the sustained attack, the two girl posted photographs and videos mocking Angela. She can be seen in the photographs with bruising to her face indicating that they were taken as the attack was unfolding as opposed to before. When finished, the girls left Angela’s home and called police and asked for a lift home. They had assumed that they would be reported missing – which they were – and assumed that the police would be looking for them. When police picked the two girls up, they posted a selfie from inside the police van along with the caption: “In the back of the bizzie van again.”4 They had left Angela bleeding to death.
Angela’s naked, bloody body would be found on the sofa at approximately 8:45AM the following morning by her landlord. She had over 100 injuries inflicted on her body. Glass and gravel were strewn over Angela’s genitals and ash from burnt paper was discovered inside her ear.
Due the young ages of the two killers, they would not be named for legal reasons but they would be ordered to stand trial for the gruesome murder. During opening statements, Nicholas Campbell QC took the jury through the injuries that had been inflicted on Angela. He listed the items Angela had been beaten with: “Smaller items such as a kettle and a metal pan were used together with a glass vase and other ornaments.” The prosecution would state that the level of violence the two girls had inflicted on Angela was “hard to imagine,” adding that the fear and pain she felt during the last hours of her life were unimaginable. 5
The court would hear that the two girls had what was described as a very intense relationship. Many said that they could be “quite sweet” while alone but once together, their toxic relationship made them impossible to control. One friend would testify that she had a Facebook conversation on the night of the incident in which she heard the younger girl say: “Go on [names older defendant]. Smash her head in, bray her, fucking kill her.” The witness testified that she then heard laughter in the background.
During the trial, the two girls accepted that they were present at the time the injuries were inflicted on Angela but both denied that they had murdered her. The older girl said that she had hit Angela but only admitted to a charge of manslaughter. She would state: “Angela was sitting on the cough and [named younger girl] was saying to knock her out so I kicked her. [Named younger girl] said: ‘Fucking hell, isn’t she knocked out yet? She had sat back down and was on her phone while she was telling me to do it.”6
After the seven-week trial, the two girls were found guilty of the murder. As the verdict was read aloud, both girls broke down into tears. They would both be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years.
Following the sentencing phase, a series of independent reviews in how local agencies had handled the victim as well as the killers were launched. They would find that care home staff could not lock doors to prevent the older girl from running away to meet up with the younger girl before the murder. It also found that despite the girls’ anti-social behaviour and troubled backgrounds, care agencies could not have anticipated the level of violence they were capable of.7
According to the review, the parents of both girls blamed them for their bad behaviour instead of accepting any failures in how they had brought them up. Both girls had been abused and neglected before going into child case and had been left traumatised by their ordeal. Moreover, two months before the murder, the older girl was living in a care home and had been arrested for assaulting three members of staff and causing damage. Then four weeks before the murder, she was given a warning from police for attacking members of staff.
The review also found that in the two years before Angela’s murder, there were over 1,000 recorded contacts between her and mental health, alcohol, ambulance and hospital services. In addition to her alcoholism, Angela had mental health issues. She had a dependency on alcohol but despite this, she had not received any help for her addiction since 2011.
In 2021, it was ruled by the High Court that the identities of the two killers would remain a secret for the rest of their lives. The judge granted them permanent injunctions preventing them from being identified after finding that there was a real and imminent risk of serious physical harm or death to the duo if they were identified.
- International Business Times, 5 April, 2016 – “Angela Wrightson Murder”
- The Daily Telegraph, 5 April, 2016 – “The Tragic Life of the Woman Murdered by Schoolgirl Snapchat Killers”
- The Daily Telegraph, 5 April, 2016 – “Angela Wrightson Murder”
- International Business Times, 1 July, 2015 – “Teen Girl’s Batter Woman to Death”
- International Business Times, 7 April, 2016 – “Angels Wrightson Torture”
- The Guardian, 5 April, 2016 – “Together they were Devils”
- Evening Gazette, 13 July, 2017 – “Six New Details from Inquiry into Murder”