Two brothers aged 10 and 12 who tortured and sexually humiliated two boys were spared trial for attempted murder yesterday when prosecutors decided to accept their guilty pleas to lesser charges.
The brothers pleaded guilty to robbing, sexually abusing and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm to their victims, aged 9 and 11, during a pre-planned attack of extreme, sadistic violence that has drawn parallels with the murder of James Bulger and to assaulting another boy a week earlier. The Crown Prosecution Service said that it had accepted the lesser charges to save the victims from having to relive their ordeal in court and said that the brothers would still face the same maximum term of life imprisonment.
The attack happened in April, 25 days after the brothers had been taken into care and placed with a foster family in the mining village of Edlington, South Yorkshire.
The nine-year-old victim raised the alarm after being found wandering the streets barefoot and dazed and covered in mud and blood. His 11-year-old friend was found a short time later at the foot of a steep ravine. He was unconscious, naked from the waist down and half-submerged in water. He had been left for dead after a sink was smashed down on his head.
The court heard that the younger boy had tried to kill himself on the instructions of his attackers by shoving a sharpened stick down his throat after having the same stick driven into his arm and a lit cigarette pushed into the wound. The brothers had burnt his ears and eyelids.
The families of the victims were in Sheffield Crown Court yesterday to hear the guilty pleas. The defendants, both in shirts and ties, grinned occasionally at their social workers and solicitors during the two-hour hearing. Their parents were not present.