Three schoolchildren who lured 13-year-old Oliver Stephens to a park where he was stabbed to death after a dispute on social media have been sentenced for their roles in his killing, as his parents said they were “completely broken” by his murder.
Stuart and Amanda Stephens urged the parents of teenage children to “take their phones off them” after warning how social media “played a massive part” in their son’s death.
Two 14-year-old boys, convicted of Olly’s murder, were sentenced to 13 years and 12 years respectively in a young offender institution. A 14-year-old girl, who set up the “ambush”, and who had admitted manslaughter and perverting the course of justice, was sentenced to three years and two months in a young offender institution. None of the defendants can be named because of their age.
Olly, as he was known, and who had autism, was lured to a field in Emmer Green, Reading, by the girl on 3 January this year, where he was knifed to death by two of his former friends, whom he had met only online and who were lying in wait.
Sentencing the three, Judge Heather Norton said: “What you did was utterly cruel and utterly pointless, you have taken one life and you have damaged your own futures and you have caused so much pain to so many people.”
Stuart Stephens told Reading crown court: “We are strong enough to deal with most problems thrown our way but this has completely broken us.”
“Olly trusted people too much, it was part of his makeup, it was part of his autism – it was why we loved him.”
He described the “utterly horrific” moment he was told his son’s body was now forensic evidence, and that he would no longer be able to hold him or touch him.
He said: “I had one job as a father, to protect my children, and I failed miserably – I will never forgive myself”.
“[Olly] didn’t deserve his fate no matter what he might have said or done, no child deserves such a callous fate.”
Amanda Stephens said she was unable to understand why none of the teenagers present at the scene of the crime had stepped in to help their son. In a victim impact statement, she said: “Why didn’t just one of them to step in to stop it happening, why didn’t one care enough to stand up for him?
“Olly always stood up for the underdog, it got him into trouble, but that was just him.”
The trial previously heard that Olly was convinced to go to Bugs Bottom field near his home in Emmer Green, by the girl, where he was then “ambushed” and stabbed to death by the boys, who both had “grievances” with him.
Jurors were told Olly’s killers had shared several hostile messages about him on Snapchat in the days leading up to the stabbing.
Speaking after the sentencing, Olly’s parents urged the parents of teenage children to “take their phones off them” after warning how social media “played a massive part” in their son’s death. They also called for new laws to be introduced to ban unidentifiable social media accounts.
His father recalled how he detected Olly was troubled by something in the days prior to his murder, and pleaded with his son to confide in him. “I said to him: it’s my job to protect you, you need to tell me what’s going on,” Stephens said. “I just couldn’t get it out of him – ‘Snitches get stitches’ is all he’d say.”