Brutal East Lancashire murder debated 12 years on

From left, Martin Charlton and Garry Gluyas, with Sophies mum Sylvia Lancaster and journalist Catherine Smyth.
From left, Martin Charlton and Garry Gluyas, with Sophies mum Sylvia Lancaster and journalist Catherine Smyth.
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The brutal murder of an East Lancashire student captivated an audience at a recent talk into the shocking event.

Local journalist Catherine Smyth addressed an audience at Haslingden High School on the murder of Sophie Lancaster which sent shockwaves throughout the country in 2007.

Catherine’s book ‘Weirdo, Mosher, Freak’ which outlines the crime, court case, community reaction and work of the foundation set up in her memory, was debated, alongside Sophie's mother Sylvia.

The evening, in the Sixth Form Theatre at Sophie’s former school Haslingden High, was filled with discussion, debate and endless questions.

The murder was the result of an attack in the early hours of August 11th 2007 in Stubbylee Park, Bacup.

Sophie Lancaster was just 20 when she and her boyfriend Rob (21) were viciously set upon by a group of youths. She died 13 days later from the injuries she sustained in the assault.

Five admitted their part in the attack on Rob, Ryan Herbert admitted murdering Sophie while Brendan Harris was found guilty by a jury after a trial.

Sylvia, who went on to establish The Sophie Lancaster Foundation charity, set the scene by vividly describing her daughter to an engrossed audience.

Leading the questions was Garry Gluyas who took Catherine to task on her account of the negative aspects of Bacup.

Catherine told the audience: “There have been changes and improvements in Bacup, but at the time of this incident, Bacup could be a dark place.

“People who didn’t know the area kept asking me ‘how could this have happened in a place like Bacup?’ I had to explain that in the book and as a journalist I had covered the incidents I described.”

The debate highlighted the importance of challenging face value perception of a person’s character purely based around their appearance, dress or accent.

One attendee was Martin Charlton, who had travelled to Rossendale from Norwich and spent the weekend in the Valley so he could attend the debate.

Paula Smithson, from Haslingden, said: “It was a very informative evening; it took me back to Bacup that existed 15 years ago.

“Sylvia is amazing, so dignified and she painted such a detailed picture of Sophie. She has created a truly amazing legacy to her daughter.

“Well done Catherine, on standing your ground - your thorough research was evident to all.”

The evening documented the horrific events of the tragedy, which now has brought a change to the legal view of ‘hate crime’.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation received £319 from the event; money was raised by tickets and book sales.

Since publication £1,845 has been donated to the foundation from the sales of ‘Weirdo Mosher Freak’ and the 2016 version ‘The Sophie Lancaster Story’.