Down a sketchy street in northeast England, Angela Wrightson was known as “Alco Ange” — a 39-year-old alcoholic with a bad liver and a small, frail body decorated in homemade tattoos.
By most accounts, she fancied strong cider but, perhaps, craved human contact more — buying friendship from teenagers who wanted her for cigarettes and booze. She invited them into her home on Stephen Street, with its boarded-up houses, lager-stained sidewalks and grimy green dumpster that marked the end of the road in Hartlepool, according to BBC News.
Weeks before Christmas in 2014, Wrightson had a fight with her landlord.
The BBC reported that the man had refused to fund her alcohol addiction. She got upset and hurled her keys at him. He kept them and walked out.
But when he went to return them to her the next morning, the landlord found Wrightson dead — battered, bleeding and nude from the waist down.
Her killers, authorities said, were two of Wrightson’s young friends.
The 15-year-old girls, who cannot be publicly named due to their age, were convicted in Wrightson’s murder earlier this week after authorities said the pair beat her to death with items they found around her house: a shovel, a wooden stick filled with screws, a TV set.
The BBC reported that a mirror was smashed over the woman’s face.
During an hours-long torture session, authorities said, the girls goofed around on social media — posting pictures to Snapchat — and left for a “time out” before they returned to finish the job, according to the Guardian.
Police said in a statement that Wrightson sustained a “significant number of injuries” that resulted from some 25 blows to her face and body.
On Thursday, at Leeds Crown Court in England, the girls were given life sentences with minimum 15-year terms.
“Children, such as you, were attracted by her generosity and took advantage of her,” Henry Globe, the judge, told the girls in court, according to the Guardian. “You would go to her home. She would agree to buy you alcohol and cigarettes. She would let you drink and smoke in her home.
“On occasions, when it was obvious that she was being pestered, neighbors did what they could to scatter those who were congregating at her home. Nobody, though, expected her to come to any harm, still less to be attacked in the manner you killed her.”
In December 2014, the two girls were 13- and 14-year-old “partners in crime,” the younger teen wrote in a note that was read in court, according to the BBC.
The two had known each other since childhood — both had families, but both were in the government’s care, surrounded by a small army of social workers, foster parents and special-education instructors, the BBC reported.
They had recently become close friends, sharing secrets and makeup tips.
They vowed to be with each other “through thick and thin,” the BBC reported.
They shared an affinity for Cheryl Fernandez-Versini’s “I Don’t Care,” singing:
I don’t care
And it feels so f—— good to say I swear
That I don’t care
There are ordinary hearts that don’t play fair
But I don’t care
When the friends went to see Wrightson on Dec. 8, 2014, both girls, authorities said, had been drinking alcohol and wanted her to buy them more.
At one point, Wrightson was seen on surveillance footage at a local shop buying cider. But the girls eventually turned on her, according to reports.
Over the next few hours, the girls posted selfies showing themselves smiling and drinking. In one of the photos, Wrightson was seen in the background, battered.
The Guardian reported that one girl made a call from Facebook, during which one of the friends was heard saying: “Smash her head in. Bray her. F—— kill her.”
During the weeks-long trial, jurors heard how the girls beat Wrightson with household weapons, hurled a coffee table at her, broke a mirror over her and left her to bleed out on her living room couch, according to reports.
According to the BBC, the prosecutor, Nicholas Campbell, told jurors that one of the girls told a friend that Wrightson had pleaded for her life.
“Please don’t. Stop. I’m scared,” Wrightson said, according to Campbell.
But the savage beating continued, the prosecutor said.
“It was an attack that was carried out by the two of you as a pair; this made it a cowardly attack,” Globe, the judge, told them, according to the Guardian. “It was an attack carried out in Angie’s own home. She kindly invited you in; she kindly went out to buy you what you wanted; she kindly let you stay.
“You then abused her hospitality and attacked her again and again, in the very place where a person is supposed to feel safe. It was an attack that included gratuitous degradation.”
After the beating, the girls called police for a ride.
The chilling 911 audio is filled with laughter and profanities as the girls ask officers to fetch them from the freezing cold and take them home.
“I’ve just reported myself missing, me and my friend,” one of the girls said, giggling. “Right, I’ve just rang to let the police know where me and my are at, will you tell me how long they’re going to be? I’m … freezing and there’s loads of divvies walking past.”
The dispatcher scolded the teen for “swearing.”
“Well I’m cold,” the girl replied, laughing again.
After the girls’ conviction this week, Cleveland (England) Police Detective Chief Superintendent Peter McPhillips said in a statement that the motive remained unclear.
“Many questions remain unanswered about the motive for the murder,” he said, “but the family of Angela who have had to endure the most shocking and traumatic details unfolding over the last few weeks will get some satisfaction from knowing that her killers have now been convicted of the killing.”
Elizabeth Yardley, an associate professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, told the BBC that the girls’ behavior — particularly their social media use — seems to show a disregard for the consequences.
“For many young people, social media is a ‘performance of self,'” she told the BBC. “They use it to tell stories about their lives in real time. Young people are generally quite savvy when it comes to what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media — they know that pictures of illegal activity will have consequences.
“The actions of these girls suggests that they did not care about the consequences, or were simply not thinking about them, as their values about what is right and wrong are significantly off kilter.”
The girls’ attorneys portrayed them as “two deeply troubled children” who got trapped in an unforgivable environment — the older teen admitting in court that she had taken prescription drugs, according to the BBC.
That girl is reported to have a low IQ, between 60 and 70, according to court testimony. Her attorney, Jamie Hill, argued that she did not fully comprehend what it would take to kill someone, the BBC reported.
“Cases like this are often portrayed as good versus evil,” Hill said. “The reality is usually much more complicated than that and here we have two deeply troubled children who found themselves in a sad and unpredictable world which was Angela Wrightson’s refuge.”
The older girl also seemed to struggle with mental-health issues.
The judge said she tried to commit suicide several times during the trial — once in a court bathroom, where she tried to strangle herself with her own hair, according to the Guardian.
John Elvidge, who represented the younger girl, argued her age was a factor.
“She spoke as a child, understood as a child and thought as a child,” he said, according to the BBC. “So when others look for answers to the question as to why this happened, what they should bear in mind, whatever was said and done, it was done by 13-year-old girl.”
Before their convictions, the older girl wrote a letter to her friend.
“Have missed you so much you know. I can’t believe this has happened. I’m proper trashed,” she wrote, according to the BBC. “Whatever happens and however long we get, just keep your chin up bonny lass. I’m thinking of you every step of the way. Do our time, get out and start a new life.
“Wait until we get out, me and you on the sesh again but this time it will be bigger and better, I’m telling you.”