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Ten teenagers guilty of murdering 18-year-old walking home from funfair

Jack Woodley (Northumbria Police/PA)
Jack Woodley (Northumbria Police/PA)

Ten teenagers have been found guilty of murder after fatally attacking an 18-year-old as he walked home from a funfair.

A court heard how Jack Woodley was “surrounded and isolated” by a gang of youths who chased him down an alleyway by a pub in Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland.

He was punched, kicked, stamped on, and stabbed with a 25cm long “Rambo-style” knife during the attack on October 16 last year, jurors were told.

The 10 male defendants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had all been charged with murder, with an alternative count of manslaughter.

One of the teenagers had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting that he stabbed Mr Woodley but denying that he intended to kill him, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

But on Wednesday, a jury convicted all 10 defendants of murder.

At the start of the trial in March, prosecutor Mark McKone QC said that while only one youth inflicted the fatal stab wound, the other nine were guilty due to “the concept of joint enterprise”.

Mr McKone said Mr Woodley and the defendants, whom he did not know, had been to the Houghton Feast before the attack in October 2021.

He told jurors the attack happened outside the Britannia Inn as the teenagers walked away from the festival.

Mr McKone said the defendants, who were all aged between 14 and 17 at the time, “surrounded and isolated Jack”, covering their heads as they prepared to attack him.

He told the court one of the defendants first put Mr Woodley in a headlock and punched him, before the others “joined in”.

Jurors were told one of them was heard shouting “get the chopper” – referring to the knife – in mobile phone footage of the incident.

The court heard one of the youths was “armed with a very dangerous knife”, while another admitted taking a knuckle duster out that night, but denied hitting Mr Woodley with it.

Mr McKone told jurors Mr Woodley was outnumbered as the group “not only attacked him but prevented him from escaping and other people from helping him”.

He said: “The prosecution say, based on the available evidence, that the defendants went out looking for serious trouble that day.”

Jurors were told one female witness had gone to the first defendant’s house earlier that day, where he had shown her “a machete style knife” and told her he had previously stabbed two people with it.

Mr McKone said the witness met up with him again an hour later, and four of his male friends, who talked about him “being in a gang” and “discussed how they were going to find someone tonight at the feast”.

She told police the group had “seemed quite excited”.

Mr McKone told the court: “This supports the prosecution’s case that this attack was planned and the stabbing was planned, albeit they had no particular victim in mind at this stage.”

Jurors were told another female witness had kissed another of the defendants at the festival, and was hit by a friend of his ex-girlfriend.

Mr McKone said when Mr Woodley, who did not know any of the defendants, asked one of them if he knew why the young woman had been hit, the defendant asked Mr Woodley “if he was starting”.

The prosecutor said: “This seems to be one of the trivial reasons for the group attack.

“The group had been looking for any reason or excuse to attack someone.”

Mr Woodley’s girlfriend told police she was with him at the funfair when a “big group of lads came over saying Jack had said he was going to punch one of them”.

Mr McKone said: “This was the group trying to create conflict with Jack so they could attack him.”

He told jurors Mr Woodley left the festival but the group followed him, with one suggesting they should have a “one-on-one fight”.

When Mr Woodley said he did not want to fight, one of the group patted him down to see if he had a knife before appearing to let him go, the court heard.

Several witnesses described the gang then putting their hoods up and “circling Jack from behind”.

Mr Woodley’s friend said in his evidence to police that, during the attack, “Jack got on the floor so he could curl up into a ball. He was so scared.

“Everyone in the group was just kicking the life out of Jack.”

The court heard Mr Woodley died the next day, after “valiant attempts at the scene and in hospital” to save his life.

The teenagers were remanded in custody until their sentencing in August.

Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Brooks, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a truly tragic case in which a young man has lost his life and our thoughts very much remain with Jack’s family and loved ones.

“Jack had his whole life ahead of him. On the morning he was attacked, he had just picked up the keys for a new flat in Sunderland and he was days away from starting a new job.

“He had this all taken away from him by the actions of those who have been convicted of being responsible for his death.

“Dozens of lives have been destroyed by what happened that night.

“I want to send an unequivocal message to anyone who chooses to carry a weapon of any kind or believes that violence is acceptable – the consequences can be devastating.

“Look at the pain this incident has caused – not only could you take away someone else’s future and destroy the lives of their loved ones, but also your own and those of your family and friends.”

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