Doodled hearts and lists of killers: inside the diaries of teenage murderer Scarlett Jenkinson

Scarlett Jenkinson Eddie Ratcliffe
Scarlett Jenkinson Eddie Ratcliffe

On the first day of her trial, Scarlett Jenkinson was seen shaking in the dock at Manchester Crown Court.

She seemed terrified of what the jurors were about to hear. Even Brianna Ghey’s mother, Esther, later admitted she had moments where she felt sorry for the 16-year-old who murdered her daughter.

As the days and weeks went by, however, it became clear that Jenkinson was anything but a scared, troubled girl who had been persuaded into carrying out the killing by her co-accused, Eddie Ratcliffe, also 16.

She was, in fact, in the words of the judge who sentenced her to life in prison on Friday, the driving force behind the “sadistic and transphobic” killing of Brianna, 16.

Unbeknownst to her family and friends, Jenkinson had long harboured a “deep desire” to kill and spent hours watching graphic torture videos in her bedroom and making notes on famous serial killers, scrawled in a notebook in pink gel pens.

Other notes in spidery blue Biro included a flow chart on “good and evil”, surrounded by doodled hearts.

Jenkinson had a relatively normal childhood. She lived with her mother in a £250,000 semi-detached house in Culcheth, Cheshire, on a quiet estate. Her mother was a secondary school home economics tutor, and her father was a construction company manager.

She was the youngest of four siblings, and her brothers attended court throughout the trial, sitting with their heads bowed as jurors were given an insight into the mind of a teenager with “no empathy” and a desire to see the “terror” in her victim’s eyes.

Before she met Brianna, Jenkinson had been expelled from Culcheth High School in October 2022 for poisoning a fellow pupil with cannabis edibles.

Cheshire Constabulary investigated the incident, which involved the drugging of a 13-year-old female. A spokesman for the force said: “The matter was reviewed and the victim’s family spoken to... They did not support further police action, so the matter was passed to the school to provide ongoing support.”

When she arrived at Birchwood Community High School, she struck up a friendship with Brianna, and later told Ratcliffe that she found the transgender teenager “fascinating” and “different”.

Brianna was described by her family and friends as being extremely anxious, shy and suffering with depression. She rarely left the house. Her mother told the court she had initially been delighted when she discovered her daughter had made a friend.

On Friday, at the sentencing of her daughter’s killers, she said this had been “the hardest thing for me and the rest of the family to come to terms with”.

“Finding out that one of the people who had been charged for her murder was someone we believed to be her friend. Someone that we trusted. Someone that I was so happy that she had, fearing that my child had been lonely, not knowing that this person had been planning to not only cause harm, but to take the life of my precious child,” she said.

Jenkinson, who has never shown any remorse for her crime, was secretly drawing up plans to lure the teenager to Linear Park, in Culcheth, so she could finally experience what it was like to kill.

Brianna was not the only person Jenkinson and Ratcliffe contemplated murdering. They also drew up a list of four other victims, and discussed in detail a number of murder plans.

Jenkinson had also downloaded a “dark web” internet browser app to watch videos of the torture and murder of real people in “red rooms”.

She discussed with Ratcliffe methods of murder, while he sent transphobic messages about Brianna, and she asked him whether potassium cyanide, sarin or ricin was a better way to kill someone.

Throughout the trial, it became increasingly clear that Jenkinson realised she could use Ratcliffe as a tool to help sate her desire to kill. She had his number saved under her phone as “Tesco John Wick” – referencing the hitman character played by Keanu Reeves.

Ratcliffe was diagnosed with autism and selective mutism at the start of the trial. Hours after his name was revealed, pictures emerged online showing that he was a kickboxer.

Throughout the sentencing, the court heard that Ratcliffe repeatedly referred to Brianna as “it”, and that he was motivated in part by his hostility towards her because she was transgender.

On Dec 18 2022, two months before the murder, Jenkinson sent him a message in which she said she had hallucinated that she was covered in the blood of a murder victim and could “hear him screaming” while she stood by “smiling and holding the knife”.

Two weeks later, on Jan 1 2023, Ratcliffe sent her a picture of a knife. The purchase of the blade was significant. The pair had just taken the first step in turning their fantasies into reality.

By Jan 23, Jenkinson had moved on from watching videos of torture and murder. She had to try it for herself. Jenkinson sent Ratcliffe a picture of some red ibuprofen gel tablets and claimed she had tried to poison Brianna.

Around the same time, Brianna’s mother said that she remembered her being violently sick and screaming: “I feel like I’m dying”. She said that there were lots of what appeared to be grape skins in the vomit, which she now believes were the gel tablets.

Weeks later, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe lured Brianna to the park, in the middle of the day. They stabbed her 28 times with a hunting knife.

Jenkinson, who denied stabbing Brianna herself throughout the trial, admitted after being found guilty to stabbing the teenager after her “hitman” panicked and handed her the blade.

She also confessed to wanting to take a part of Brianna’s body as a “token” and later told psychiatrists she “enjoyed the feeling of power” to see her victim treated in such a brutal manner. She claimed to feel satisfied and excited by the murder, and enjoyed the feeling of killing.

The court heard she had a severe form of conduct dissocial disorder, lacked empathy as a result, and that killing, to her, would not have felt wrong. “It may not have felt wrong but there is no doubt you knew it was wrong to act as you did, and you chose to do so anyway”, said Ms Justice Yip.

The judge said despite Jenkinson’s obsession with killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, her murder plan had been in some ways “quite childish”. She left notebooks detailing the plot in her bedroom, where they could easily be found, and the story she concocted for detectives was dismantled in minutes.

In court, as Jenkinson was sentenced, the teenager’s mother dabbed tears from her eyes.

Just minutes before, the court heard that Jenkinson had expressed to psychiatrists that she wanted to kill again.

Ratcliffe sat silently in the dock as Ms Justice Yip told him he knew of his friend’s sadistic desires, and that as an intelligent young man, he should not have been drawn into her plot.

“You actively participated in this brutal murder, knowing the sadistic motives behind it, and you cannot avoid the same consequences just by saying you did not have the same desires”, she added.

Brianna’s mother felt unable to deliver her victim impact statement to the court in person, but her words resonated nonetheless.

“I have moments where I feel sorry for them, because they have also ruined their own lives, but I have to remember that they felt no empathy for Brianna when they left her bleeding to death after their premeditated and vicious attack, which was carried out not because Brianna had done anything wrong, but just because one hated trans people and the other thought it would be fun,” she said.

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