SOPHIE Lancaster was murdered in August 2007 after her and boyfriend Robert Maltby were beaten and left for dead by a gang of drunken yobs.
Nearly 15 years after the horrific attack, Sophie's mother, Sylvia Lancaster OBE, has been brought in by Coronation Street producers to help with a shocking twist that mirrors the tragic case of her daughter's death, after she was placed in a coma following her injuries.
Who was Sophie Lancaster?
Twenty-year-old Sophie Lancaster was a self-described "goth" who enjoyed dressing with dark clothes and wearing her dyed hair in dreadlocks.
On the night of 11 August 2007, the prospective English degree student was walking with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, 21, through Stubbylee Park in the small town of Bacup, Lancs.
While making their way home the couple came across a group of youths at the entrance to the park who followed and talked to them with no trouble.
But without warning one of the gang began attacking Robert without provocation.
He was knocked to the ground and the sick gang set upon him, kicking him repeatedly in the head and knocking him unconscious.
Distraught Sophie tried to protect her boyfriend and was cradling his bloodied head when she was viciously kicked.
The twisted gang then turned their attention to brutally attacking her, taking turns to stamp on her head and egging each other on to ever greater levels of violence.
Revelling in their depravity, they told friends afterwards: "There's two moshers nearly dead up Bacup park – you wanna see them – they're a right mess".
Such was the severity of Sophie and Robert's injuries that police on arrival were not able to determine which of them was male and which was female.
Both were taken to Rochdale Infirmary. Robert was left in a coma with bleeding on the brain but he made a gradual recovery and now suffers from memory loss.
But Sophie, also in a coma, was transferred to Fairfield General Hospital and then on to the neurology unit at what is now Salford Royal Hospital.
On 24 August, 13 days after the attack, the decision was taken to turn her life support off.
What happened to Sophie Lancaster's killers?
Police arrested five teens in the days following the brutal attack. They were initially charged with grievous bodily harm until Sophie's death.
On 6 September, the five youths were charged with murder at Burnley Youth Court. Two were remanded in custody while three boys, a 15- and 17-year-old from Shawforth and a 17-year-old from Bacup were let out on bail ahead of the trial.
The trial was heard at Preston Crown Court on 10 March, where all five pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent.
But crucially, warped killer Ryan Herbert pleaded guilty to murder. Another youth, Brendan Harris, pleaded not guilty to murder, while the murder charges against the other three were dropped.
Prosecutors said: "Sophie and Robert were singled out not for anything they had said or done, but because they looked and dressed differently".
On 27 March, Herbert and Harris were found guilty of murder, and the judge allowed the youths to be publicly named for the first time.
Both were sentenced on 28 April to life in prison with a minimum of 16 years three months for Herbert, later reduced on appeal to 15 years six months, and 18 years for Harris.
In his scathing closing statements, the judge condemned the boys' "feral thuggery", saying: "This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it.
"At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself."
The three other attackers, brothers Joseph and Danny Hulme, and Daniel Mallett, were jailed for between four years four months and five years ten months.
What has Robert Maltby said since?
In an interview with the Guardian in June 2017 to mark nearly ten years since the attack, Robert Maltby said that he believes it is victim-blaming to suggest Sophie was killed because of her looks.
“I have never seen it as a hate crime,” he said. “It was always like: ‘Sophie Lancaster was killed because she was a goth.’ No she wasn’t: she was killed because some a***holes killed her.
"Why can’t we ask what it is about them that made them want to murder someone? Not what it is about someone that made them be murdered."
He said it was "patronising" and an "oversimplification" to say his girlfriend's killers were triggered by her appearance.
"Life hasn’t progressed in these poor areas. These areas are still forgotten, and forgotten people will feel like … well, it can breed nihilism", he said.
"I’ve never tried to demonise the attackers and, in many ways, they were victims.”
Robert also revealed he had received a letter from one of the two killers behind bars, which he described as "the hollowest thing" he'd ever read.
"It felt like an apology written by someone trying to get a shorter sentence", he said.
Describing his feelings during Sophie's funeral, Maltby, now 31, said: "My initial memory was seeing the coffin and thinking, that’s too small. Her entire life shouldn’t have fitted into that small box. That’s when I began to crumble".
What is the Sophie Lancaster Foundation?
Sylvia vowed to be Sophie’s “voice” following murder convictions for killers Ryan Herbert, 29, and Brendan Harris, 28.
She formed the Sophie Lancaster Foundation to create respect for subcultures and hopes this episode will urge victims of hate crime to come forward.
Sylvia said: “Sophie and Rob had actually been attacked three times previously, but they didn’t report it. They didn’t tell me, they didn’t tell the police.
“I would like to think if they had there might have been a different outcome.
“That’s what I want the message to be from this episode. If you are attacked you need to report it.”
What is happening in Coronation Street?
Sylvia Lancaster OBE has been brought in by producers to help with a shocking twist that sees Nina Lucas clash with Corey and his gang and ends in tragedy.
We can reveal she has been secretly working behind the scenes with bosses for over 18 months and was key to creating the character played by Mollie Gallagher, 23.
Mum of two Sylvia, 65, has used her knowledge of subcultures to ensure the goth cafe assistant is well rounded all in the build up to the tragic scene next month.
It will have echoes of the sickening attack that left her daughter dead in August 2007 – but insiders say it is still not clear how the episode will end.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, Sylvia said: “I wanted to make sure Nina is a proper representation, and she really is – she’s played so well. It’s a very good portrayal.
“When people see goths they just see this difference, and they’re scared of that. They don’t see the person underneath.
“That’s what drives these attacks. With Nina people have grown to love her, she’s now one of the most popular characters.
“This episode will really get people to question things, it should start the conversation in the living room about people’s prejudices.”
Nina first appeared in November 2019 and has recently fallen in love with Seb but after getting picked on for her appearance she will be attacked by Corey and his drunken pals.
Kelly Neelan will join in goading the couple and chasing them and the lovers end up in hospital sparking a police probe.
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