Thursday, December 20, 2007

BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Five youths deny student's murder

BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Five youths deny student's murder

Five boys have denied murdering a woman who was kicked to death in a park.

Sophie Lancaster
Sophie fell into a coma after the attack

Sophie Lancaster, 20, was walking with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, 21, in Stubby Lee Park in Bacup, Lancashire, when they were attacked on 11 August.

Ms Lancaster was left with serious head and facial injuries and fell into a coma. She died on 24 August.

Three 15-year-olds and two 17-year-olds appeared at Preston Crown Court to deny murder as well as causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Maltby.

The hearing was adjourned for a pre-trial review on 22 February.

Three of the youths were granted conditional bail, while the other two were remanded in custody.

Judge Anthony Russell QC fixed a provisional trial date of 10 March.

Mr Maltby was also left in a coma with bleeding on the brain following the attack, but recovered from his injuries.

Date set for Sophie murder trial
This Is Lancashire, UK - 14 Dec 2007

The defendants, who are all aged between 15 and 17 and cannot be identified for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to murdering Sophie Lancaster when they appeared at Preston Crown Court yesterday.

The trial will take place on March 10 after a pre-trial review in February.

Former Haslingden High school pupil Sophie was walking through Stubbylee Park, Bacup, with her boyfriend, 21-year-old Manchester art student Robert Maltby when they were allegedly attacked in August. She died almost two weeks later in hospital after her life support was switched off.

The five youths have also denied causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Maltby.

Judge Anthony Russell remanded two of the youths in custody, while the other three were remanded on conditional bail.

They are banned from associating with co-defendants, contacting prosecution witnesses and leaving the UK.

Other conditions include an 8pm to 6am daily curfew. Sophie's death has prompted an outpouring of grief from friends and family in East Lancashire.

Her mother Sylvia has established SOPHIE (Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) to call for greater understanding for marginalised sections of society.

Several fundraising events have been held to support the groups work in Bacup, Blackburn and Blackpool.

An online petition launched in memory of Sophie on the Prime Minister's website has also attracted more than 1,500 signatures.

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