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TOM RAWSTORNE: Killers ambushed autistic pupil over playground spat

When Olly Stephens left his home to meet a girl in the park he had no idea he was walking into an ambush. Yet 20 minutes later he would be dead, another victim of Britain’s teenage knife culture.

The ‘cunning and manipulative’ girl who had lured him to the park watched as Olly was attacked by two boys aged 13 and 14. The younger produced a blade and stabbed Olly twice.

Paramedics were unable to save his life and – as his father and sister said their final goodbyes – the three killers made their escape. The girl, who cannot be named, was ‘strutting along’ like a ‘Queen Bee’, according to one passer-by.

But for all the front, the 13-year-old was no gangster’s moll. And this was no typical gang fight.

She was raised in an affluent, middle-class family and, as Olly lay dying, she was picked up by her mother and given a lift back to their £500,000 home in a sought-after suburb of Reading.

The lives of the two boys had also been far from difficult. Raised by loving parents, the elder, known as Boy B, was in all the top sets at his school. And although the parents of Boy A were divorced he also came from a stable background.

Yet the pair chose to glorify and mimic the culture of inner-city gangs – joking online about stabbing people and posing on Instagram with knives and balaclavas.

Yesterday, following a trial at Reading Crown Court, the boys were convicted of murder after a jury deliberated for more than 18 hours.

When Olly Stephens (pictured) left his home to meet a girl in the park he had no idea he was walking into an ambush

Boy A had earlier admitted another count of perverting the course of justice after dumping the clothes he was wearing at the time of the killing.

Boy B had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and one charge of perverting the course of justice after deleting videos and pictures from his phone after the attack to cover his tracks.

The girl, who was not involved in the murder trial, had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter. All will be sentenced at a later date.

Speaking after the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Howard, senior investigating officer at Thames Valley Police, said: ‘The circumstances of this case are horrific, and will no doubt shock and appal people.

‘Olly’s completely unnecessary killing, orchestrated and carried out by three other children, should horrify us as a society.

‘Olly’s death is a tragedy that should never have happened. We all have a duty to educate and protect the children of our communities to ensure other families do not suffer the same devastation.’ 

Olly’s family had watched every day of the case, poignantly placing one of his signed rugby shirts on a spare seat to mark his presence.

They say they have struggled to understand the violence in their community.

The 'cunning and manipulative' girl who had lured him to the park watched as Olly was attacked by two boys aged 13 and 14. Pictured: Olly on CCTV on his fatal trip to the park

The ‘cunning and manipulative’ girl who had lured him to the park watched as Olly was attacked by two boys aged 13 and 14. Pictured: Olly on CCTV on his fatal trip to the park

‘The problems run deep,’ Olly’s father Stuart told a friend, citing concerns over the closure of youth clubs and the proliferation of sex, guns and knives on social media.

Raised in a cul-de-sac in Emmer Green, an area of Reading popular with families, growing up had not been easy for Olly, who was diagnosed with autism as a child.

‘He was so full of promise, goals, and ambitions,’ Mr Stephens, 51, told mourners at his funeral in February. ‘Although this stage of his life was awkward for him, we felt he was finally accepting his autism. Olly was our enigma, a square peg in a round hole, a puzzle to be solved, a teenager.

‘We loved, nurtured, and cherished him. We never gave up. We used to talk about his autistic “superpower” as we called it.’ Recalling how he was alerted to the tragedy in the next-door park, he said: ‘What happened was the stuff of nightmares. A knock on the door shattered our lives with the force of a baby rhino.’

The killing on January 3 was no random act. The three conspirators knew Olly and the girl was even known to his parents, making it even harder for them to process what happened.

‘For her to be involved with what happened to Olly is what shocked them the most,’ a family friend told the Mail. ‘It’s just inexplicable.’

And what, of course, makes it even harder to understand is the ages of those involved.

The two boys, the court heard, believed Olly had been talking behind their backs, risking them getting into trouble with some older pupils.

Their plan was to force Olly to apologise on camera – a ‘ritual of embarrassment’ in the belief they were ‘gang members’ who had been ‘disrespected’.

Another friend of Olly’s family said: ‘Nothing like this has happened in this part of Reading before. These are just kids trying to portray themselves as something they are not, trying to act up to this sort of lifestyle.’

To lure Olly out, the boys enlisted the help of the girl, who was also known to have fallen out with him. While she’d only just entered her teens, recent images of her on TikTok show her in full make-up looking more like an 18-year-old. She told the boys she did not care whether or not the ‘fxxxxx dies’ and that whatever happened to him would be ‘karma’.

She then became central to the plan to locate and set up Olly.

Alison Morgan QC, prosecuting, said: ‘This was not a consensual fight that Olly went alone to, willingly, knowing what was about to happen. This was an ambush.’

The parents of the girl, now 14, had requested they be allowed to watch the trial via a videolink ‘to understand the circumstances which led to these proceedings’.

We now know that it was no more than a school-yard spat that somehow ended up costing a very young man his life.

Having walked to the park, Olly was confronted by the two boys – both of whom were dressed in black. Boy B and Olly started to fight before Boy A stepped in and lunged at Olly with a vegetable knife that he had brought with him.

He admitted stabbing Olly in the upper arm to protect his friend but claimed he didn’t know that Olly had also been stabbed elsewhere as well.

He also insisted he had taken out the knife because he thought he saw Olly reaching for a blade of his own.

Boy B claimed he did not know his friend was armed and said he had only wanted a fist-fight. He said that Olly then started getting the better of him. ‘That was when [Boy A] completely lost it,’ the child said. ‘He began shaking, started going red, pulled out a knife and stabbed Olly.’

Boy B said all the ‘street slang’ talk on social media was just an act ‘to big myself up to other people’ and that in reality he lived in a strict household where he would be grounded if he got home later than his 8pm curfew.

Asked why he had done it, Boy A told a girl: ‘I just saw red. I couldn’t stop myself.’

Arrested within hours of the killing, the pair made no comment when quizzed by detectives.

Because of their age special arrangements were made for the trial, with lawyers removing their wigs and gowns. But Boy A had to be spoken to by the judge for not taking the case seriously enough and having an ‘attitudinal face’ as evidence was presented.

Later in the trial – and not in the presence of the jury – his barrister called for the judge to step down from the case, saying that the boy’s mother and his solicitors felt that she had been biased.

Judge Heather Norton refused the application.

Boy A had a conviction for robbing a 16-year-old of his trainers at knifepoint in September 2020, an offence for which he was referred to a youth offending team.

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