Jack Woodley's killers handed life terms for ‘mob-handed’ murder of teenager on way home from Houghton Feast
Ten teenagers have been sentenced to life terms for murdering 18-year-old Jack Woodley as he walked home from Houghton Feast.
Jack was fatally stabbed after being “surrounded and isolated” by a gang of youths who chased him down an alleyway.
He was punched, kicked, stamped on, and stabbed with a 25cm ‘Rambo-style’ knife during the attack on October 16, 2021, a jury was told.
Prosecutors said the group had gone out “looking for serious trouble that day” and tried to “create conflict” with Jack as they “looked for any excuse to attack someone”.
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On Friday, August 5 at Newcastle Crown Court the 15-year-old who inflicted the fatal wound by stabbing Jack in the back was detained for a minimum of 17 years.
Judge Rodney Jameson QC sentenced the other nine defendants, who are aged between 14 and 18 and cannot be named for legal reasons, to minimum terms of between eight and 15 years’ detention.
He told them that if they are then released, they will remain on licence for the rest of their lives. The total minimum terms for all the defendants adds up to 124 years and six months.
Nine of the youths had denied murder and manslaughter. One youth pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting he stabbed Jack but denying he intended to kill him.
At the start of the trial in March, prosecutor Mark McKone QC said that while only one youth stabbed the 18-year-old, the other nine were guilty due to “the concept of joint enterprise”.
A jury convicted all 10 defendants of murder in June and nine of them intend to appeal against their convictions, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed this week.
The defendants’ sentences in full
Judge Jameson sentenced the teen who inflicted the fatal knife wound to a minimum term of 17 years.
He told him: "You have a previous conviction for possessing a knife in 2020.
"You stabbed Jack once to the right hip, you did so while he was being punched, kicked, and stamped on by others.
"You had the opportunity to withdraw. Instead you picked your moment while Jack was still being attacked and and stabbed him fatally in the back."
Nicholas Lumley QC, who defended the teen who inflicted the fatal stab wound, said in mitigation that it was a single blow which happened in a "matter of seconds".
Mr Lumley said it was not due to a "pre existing desire for revenge" and that the youth feels "remorse, shame and regret" but added that he will be rehabilitated in custody.
*The two teens who collected the knife and brought it to the scene, both 17, were sentenced to life with a minimum term of 15 years each.
The court heard that whilst they did not intend to kill, their cases were aggravated by the fact they were involved in the provision of the weapon.
*One teen, aged 16, was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years as a minimum term for his role in the killing, after Jack was followed and attacked.
*Another of the youths, who was 14, was heard shouting "get the chopper out" in reference to the weapon and was in possession of a knuckle duster.
The judge sentenced him to minimum term of 13 years and told him he must have known his co-defendant was armed with the knife, and he "encouraged the use of it".
*One 16-year-old, who was 15 at the time of Jack's death, was seen on mobile phone footage moving towards the brawl while covering his face.
He was sentenced to a minimum term of 11 years.
*Another of the teens, who was 17 at the time of the attack but is now 18, was also handed a minimum term of 11 years after the judge said he was the most "heavily disguised" of the attackers.
*A third defendant, now 16, was handed a minimum term of 11 years after he grappled with Jack before he realised he was the victim, but the judge rejected his claim.
*Another of the youths, who was 14 at the time, told police he did fight one of Jack's friends, but the judge told him that would have prevented Jack getting help during the fatal attack.
It was accepted he wasn't a leader in the group, and he was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years.
*The youngest of the 10 defendants, who was 14 at the time of the killing and has an IQ of just 66, was ordered to serve life with a minimum term of eight years.
Liam O'Brien, mitigating for the youngest of the defendants, said: "He appreciates entirely he needs to be punished for his part in the murder of Jack Woodley".
The court heard some of the teenagers handed character references to the court.
One was described as "well mannered and polite" and another "acted out of character".
Peter Willock QC told the court that one of the teens displayed traits of autism and ADHD in an assessment carried out after his conviction, which could have made him act more impulsively.
One of the youths wrote a letter to the court stating his intentions to be rehabilitated while another was described as "lacking in self confidence" and didn't intend to kill.
‘Regret is not remorse’
Passing sentence, Judge Jameson said: “No sentence can restore Jack to his family and loved ones, or reduce the pain they will endure now and in the future.
“It may seem unfair that you will be able to live at liberty while still young men, while Jack cannot because of what you did.”
The court heard that Jack had been due to start a job the Monday after he was attacked. He had also recently picked up keys for a new flat in Sunderland .
The group had attacked Jack “solely for the excitement and pleasure of inflicting serious injury on an entirely innocent and randomly-selected stranger”, Judge Jameson said.
The judge told the defendants the violence inflicted on their victim “though short-lived, was appalling” and all of them “played a part in causing Jack’s death”.
He said six of the teenagers had given evidence during the trial, but none “was prepared to tell the truth about what the others did”.
He added: “You decided to put the interests of yourself and your co-defendants before those of Jack and his family. You did everything you could to deny them justice.
“I’m sure you do regret what happened for many reasons, but regret is not remorse.”
Judge Jameson told the teenager who stabbed Jack: “I have concluded that you intended to kill when you inflicted the second stab wound. I accept that intention may have been formed in the heat of the moment.
“It is, however, that sort of escalation that can occur when violence is carried out mob-handed and when armed with a deadly knife.”
Family will be ‘forever haunted’ by teenager’s murder
The tragic teenager is survived by his father John Woodley, mother Zoey McGill, stepdad Chris McGill and three siblings
Speaking during an earlier court hearing this week, Mrs McGill said the whole family would be "forever haunted about how horrific Jack's injuries were".
Explaining that Jack had been looking forward to the future, she added: "This has ruined our family's lives and life will never be the same again without Jack."
In an earlier statement, she told the court: "Jack was my reason to live and succeed in life. From the moment Jack was born he brought light and love to us all.
"In the months before October, Jack had sat and passed his English and Math Level 3, CSCS Operatives Card, Forklift Truck License and had secured a job with Amazon which he was due to start the Monday after his death.
"Jack had also secured his own accommodation and had received the keys for this on the day he was attacked. We were all very proud of Jack and this should have been a very exciting time in his life.
"The devastation of losing Jack is immense and far reaching. The trauma of reliving this whole incident over a long trial has had a devastating effect on us all. We cannot see a way of recovering from this.
"We feel imprisoned by our grief and trauma.
“We will never be able to share treasured family moments with our 'cheeky chappy blue-eyed boy' ever again."