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Boy, 15, guilty of Sophie murder
A 15-year-old boy has been found guilty of murdering Sophie Lancaster - who was kicked and stamped to death for being dressed like a goth.
After the jury's verdict, the judge lifted an order so that Brendan Harris and Ryan Herbert, 16, who had previously admitted her murder, could be named.
Following the verdict, it emerged that Herbert, of Rossendale Crescent, Bacup, and Harris, of Spring Terrace, Bacup, have previous convictions for kicking and stamping on a 16-year-old boy in the park last April.
Four months after being given six months' community service orders at Rossendale Youth Court, Harris and Herbert carried out the 'savage and merciless' attack on Sophie, 20, and Robert, 21, who lived together in King Street, Bacup.
Police said that the pair were remorseless and seemed to have enjoyed carrying out the violence.
And Det Supt Mick Gradwell: "There seems to be groups of people who seem to enjoy going around doing this type of thing without any thought for the consequences and it must stop."
Sophie and Robert were walking home from a friend's house shortly before midnight when they began chatting with a group of teenagers.
They drifted into the park where the good-natured conversation continued and they even handed out cigarettes to the group.
However, the mood changed suddenly when the five teenage boys savagely turned on Robert in the skate park area.
Someone was heard to shout "let's bang him" and the Harris started the violence with a flying kick to his head.
Sophie cried for them to stop as she cradled her Robert's head on her lap.
Her plea went unheeded as Herbert delivered a volley kick to her face, with Harris joining in to kick and stamp on her head as she lay on the ground, the court was told.
The jury of nine men and three women took just two hours to return the guilty verdict at Preston Crown Court.
Harris, dressed in a dark grey suit, black shirt and not wearing a tie, did not react in the dock as the unanimous verdict was read out.
Sophie's family cheered as the verdict was read out before her mum, Sylvia, broke down in tears.
Three other teenagers have pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm against Robert.
They cannot be named for legal reasons.
The three youths were initially on bail at the beginning of the trial but were then remanded in custody by Judge Anthony Russell QC.
Judge Russell praised the conduct of Sophie's family throughout "the harrowing" trial.
He also went on to award £250 each to the four teenage witnesses who had stayed with Sophie and Robert and called an ambulance for their public spirit.
The judge said: "They were all clearly very shocked and outraged and in some cases their loyalties were very strained but they showed commendable courage."
Judge Russell said he was duty bound to give Harris and Herbert life sentences given their convictions for murder, but that he would set the tariffs after reading pre-sentence reports.
Sentencing was set for April 28.
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