The teen killer of Katie Rough has been locked up for life after smothering the seven-year-old with a glove and slashing her neck on a playing field.
The “disturbed” 16-year-old girl – who cannot be named for legal reasons – suffocated the youngster during the attack in York earlier this year.
She then used a Stanley knife to make a 6cm slash to the child’s neck and a 20cm wound to her torso, which cut through fat, skin and muscle, prosecutors said.
Little Katie was pronounced dead in hospital after being found with severe neck and chest injuries on the field, less than a mile from her home, on January 9.
A court previously heard how her distraught mum, Alison Rough, screamed and tried to cradle her head after finding her bleeding at the scene.
The teenager, who was 15 at the time, pleaded guilty to Katie’s manslaughter by diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing, but not guilty to murder.
Her plea, entered via videolink, was accepted by the Crown.
In September, an interim hospital order was granted to run for 12 weeks. A judge told the defendant at the time she posed “a high risk of serious harm to others and to yourself”.
And today, the teenager was handed a life sentence for Katie’s manslaughter at Leeds Crown Court in West Yorkshire.
She was ordered to be detained for a minimum of five years by the judge, who said it was a “truly exceptional case”.
The girl, who appeared by videolink at the court, sat with her head down, clutching a soft toy, throughout the hearing.
She was flanked on-screen by a court usher and a youth team leader who confirmed her name when she was asked to identify herself by Mr Justice Soole.
The judge told her: “The gravity of the offence of killing a small child speaks for itself.”
He said: “The level of danger to the public is high.
“In the circumstances of your continuing silence, the critical question is whether there is any reliable estimate as to how long that danger will continue.”
In a statement released via North Yorkshire Police after the sentencing, Katie’s grieving family said the little girl’s memory will “live on” in their hearts.
They said the youngster “brought more colour to her world”. They also expressed their gratitude to the “kind” and “generous” York community.
In the months before the attack, Katie’s killer had expressed disturbing thoughts – from grisly dreams and acts of self harm to the mutilation of a toy.
She lost most of her school friends and developed an interest in the macabre as her mental health nosedived ahead of the “pre-planned” killing.
Often very upset, the teenager experienced “delusional and bizarre” thoughts, the court previously heard. She became convinced that people around her “weren’t human and were robots”.
She also dreamed of killing someone and reported hearing voices inside her head, according to one friend, who described the teenager as “nice but weird”.
The girl’s mental health issues escalated over the course of more than a year until, in January, she smothered Katie on the playing field and slashed her.
The teenager was later found in the street by a member of the public, telling a police operator via phone that Katie was dead and she didn’t know where she was.
The young victim was rushed to hospital, but tragically couldn’t be saved.
When police visited the scene and the teenager’s home after the killing, they recovered a number of items, the court heard in July.
These included drawings of stick-men in various poses depicting killing and death, and a reference to “they are not human”.
The court was told the paper was blood-stained and that it had been cut with the same knife used to slash Katie.
In the teenager’s bedroom, officers discovered books, notes and comics of a violent nature, the prosecution said.
They also found a Lion King Simba soft toy that had its ears cut off and stuffed into its stomach through a vertical slash.
A friend interviewed by police following Katie’s death told them the teenager was “nice but weird”, the court heard at the time.
She said the girl liked to talk about death, had a book in which she drew pictures depicting death, and had plans to run away and self-harm.
The friend said the teenager told her she dreamed of killing someone, said people were out to get her and she heard voices in her head.
The court was told how the killer had talked of her belief that people around her were not human and could be robots controlled by a hostile, higher power.
It also heard she had been taken out of school due to the severity of her mental health problems and was under the care of a mental health team.
There were concerns over whether the teenager was suffering from psychosis.
Graham Reeds QC, prosecuting, previously told the court: “This was not formally diagnosed but was flagged up for further investigation.”
The prosecutor said the girl had talked of being convinced that people “weren’t human and were robots.”
“She thought that Katie was not human and was a robot,” he said.
He told the court she had become distressed when one doctor asked her “whether she killed Katie to test whether she was a robot”.
“The defendant has been examined by forensic consultant psychiatrists and psychologists,” said Mr Reeds.
“Between February and May 2017, Dr Chipchase spent approximately five hours with her. He reported that it’s very difficult to engage with her.
“His report is she appeared to be reasonably content at home and was doing well at school until the start of 2016.
“She lost most of her friendship group, she developed an interest in the macabre and started harming herself with a blade and reported being very upset and having suicidal thoughts.
“His report finds evidence of disturbed thinking but no evidence of psychosis. She was having thoughts that other people weren’t human and they were robots.”
“He found she was suffering with delusional thoughts and was suffering from emerging schizotypal personality disorder. He did not think she was suffering from schizophrenia.
“She got distressed when asked whether she had killed Katie to test whether she was a robot.
“There was a recent history of strange behaviour from the defendant towards other people and she had been put under the charge of child and adolescent mental health services.”
Mr Reeds said court reports had been compiled about the teen since the killing.
All agreed she was suffering diminished responsibility at the time, even though she clearly planned the attack, the court was told.
The prosecutor said the experts disagreed on her exact diagnosis.
One thought the teenager was suffering from an emerging schizotypal personality disorder, but she was not schizophrenic. Another expert disagreed, saying she was suffering from a severe depressive episode.
Mr Reeds previously told the court: “A search of her bedroom recovered a hooded top sliced over a pillow then slashed.
“There were also notes and books and comics which are described as being of a violent nature.
“Police later recovered a soft toy – a Simba toy – which had its ears cut off and stuffed into the stomach of the toy through a vertical slash.”
Speaking at a previous hearing, Nicholas Johnson QC said his client had been having “delusional and bizarre thoughts” for months prior to the killing.
He said the teenager had thoughts that people around her “may not be human and may be controlled by a higher and hostile force”.
He said it may be his client was “driven by the irrational belief (Katie) may not have been human and needed proof of this”.
The barrister added that his client had posted a picture on social media two days before the killing with a concerning message.
“She was clearly crying out for help and support,” he said.
He also told the court: “This was a shocking and deeply sad incident and a terrible and devastating tragedy for the family concerned.
“An extremely troubled and damaged girl which showed mental healthy problems which had increases of severity in weeks and days before this offence.
“She was disillusioned and had bad thoughts and she believed people were being controlled by a higher and hostile force.
“She spoke about her thoughts on rape.”
The court heard in July how Katie’s mum had called 999 after becoming concerned by her daughter’s absence.
Mrs Rough was told by the operator there had been a report of a crime at the nearby field, Mr Reeds said.
She rushed to the scene with her husband, Paul Rough, where Katie was lying on her back, with her hands “to the side and above her back”.
A police officer was attempting to resuscitate the child, whose face was covered in blood after being smothered and cut with the knife.
Mrs Rough began screaming after seeing blood in Katie’s hair, the prosecutor said.
She desperately tried to cradle the youngster’s head, before she and her partner were led away by a police officer in “considerable distress”.
As they went, Mrs Rough said: “She’s killed my daughter.”
“Upon seeing the bleeding in Katie’s hair, Alison started to scream,” Mr Reeds said.
“She tried to cradle Katie’s head and the officer led both parents away in considerable distress. Paramedics arrived quickly but there was little they could do.
“They saw a large incise wound, 20 centimetres from her sternum to her stomach. It had cut through fat, skin and muscle.
“After working on her body for several minutes Katie was taken to hospital.
“She was reported to have no heart output but resuscitation attempts continued until they arrived. However, attempts to revive her failed and she was certified dead at 5.44pm.”
The court was also told how the teenager was found in the street by a man after the incident. At the time, she was on the phone to police and had told the operator Katie had died, the court heard.
She also asked the man if he knew where they were.
The man then found Katie lying on a nearby piece of land with a cut to her neck, Mr Reeds previously told a judge sitting in the courtroom.
She appeared to have no pulse or signs of breathing, he said.
Post mortem results showed Katie died from asphyxiation, with her wounds inflicted after her death, the court was told.
Pathologists found that a gloved hand was held over her face to suffocate her before she had her neck and torso slashed.
The autopsy revealed the slash wound to the child’s neck and the cut to her torso, but the prosecutor said neither of the cuts were found to have caused her death.
Mr Reeds said Katie had been smothered before the injuries were made.
He added that it was around 4.20pm that a local returning from walking her dogs saw Katie and the teenager seemingly playing on the grass.
“She saw the defendant and Katie on the Square,” he said, referring to the playing field off Alness Drive. “Both girls appeared to be playing on the grass.
“As she got closer both girls got up and Katie didn’t appear to be in any distress. She thought they were just two girls playing and it didn’t cause her any concern.
“At around 4.35pm her husband Peter Mills was returning home by car. He saw the defendant standing on Alness Drive. She was distressed and covered in mud.
“His first reaction was that she had been the victim of a serious attack. She was on her phone and she asked Mr Mills if he knew where they were.
“He didn’t know she was on the phone to the police. She had called 999 and told the operator Katie was dead and she didn’t know where she was.
“The defendant did in fact tell Mrs Mills that Katie was on the field. She (Mrs Mills) said she wasn’t crying but looked pale and drawn and didn’t look well at all.
“As Mrs Mills took the girl into her house for safety, Mr Mills ran to the Square. He saw Katie around 15 to 20 yards beyond the entrance to the field.
“She was lying on her back, her hands to the side and above her back. Her face was covered in blood. He attempted to find a pulse or signs of breathing but with no success.
“Katie was lifeless. She didn’t respond to him talking. He covered her with his coat and ran back to the house and got his wife to call an ambulance.
“In the meanwhile, Alison Rough now began to be concerned by Katie’s absence and walked down to the Square shouting. There was no response.”
The court heard Mrs Rough dialled 999 at 4.47pm – 13 minutes after the defendant called the police – to report Katie missing.
The operator told her there had been a report of a crime at the field and she immediately returned to Alness Drive with her husband.
Mr Reeds added: “Mrs Mills told them: ‘She’s on the field.’ Both of them ran down to the field. An officer was just in front of them.
“He started chest compressions but Katie’s position revealed a substantial slash wound to her neck that was particularly deep.”
The prosecutor said the defendant was detained at the Mills’ house.
“She appeared upset and was crying and the officer who arrested her also thought she was in shock,” he said.
“All she would say is she had been on the field. She was asked if she had been in an argument, she said no. She was then asked if she had any weapons.
“She produced a red Stanley knife from one pocket and two spare blades were found in another pocket when she was searched.
“A blood-stained green glove was found in the pocket of her hooded top. The Stanley knife was blood-stained and it later tested positive for Katie’s DNA.”
The teenager sat next to a solicitor and looked at the floor as she pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility via videolink in July.
The solicitor confirmed her name when asked by the judge, Mr Justice Soole.
Mr Johnson asked the court if the charge of murder could be put to the girl again and she wrote her plea on a piece of paper.
Her solicitor told the court at the time: “I can confirm she has indicated not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.”
Mr Reeds said: “We are going to accept that plea of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.”
The teenager wore a black hooded top for the previous court appearance.
The judge said he wanted more questions answering by the medical experts before he could pass sentence.
He apologised to Katie’s family for the delay and said the case would be adjourned until July 20.
The teenager was remanded into youth custody and, two months later, the 12-week interim hospital order was granted.
She was given a life sentence for manslaughter this afternoon.
In a statement after the sentencing, released by North Yorkshire Police, senior investigating officer DCI Andrea Kell said: “This investigation has been one of the most tragic, and challenging, I have ever dealt with during my career as a police officer.
“There are no positive results from cases such as these. Regardless of the conviction and sentence, nothing will ever replace the loss of Katie.”
DCI Kell described how the lives of Katie’s parents have “changed forever” following the “devastating events” on January 9.
“I hope today’s conclusion of the court proceedings, will allow the family to now focus on trying to re-build their lives,” she said.
“I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the emergency services personnel and all those who responded the night of Katie’s death.
“I would also like to recognise and praise the dedication and professionalism of the investigation team, who were faced with aspects of the investigation which were deeply distressing for all.
“Our thoughts remain with Katie’s parents and the entire Rough family.”
“It’s not the end of our story”
Katie’s grieving family released a statement today, via police.
In the statement, they said: “Today is the end of a process, and that is a relief, but it is not the end of our story.
“Our story is about a loving home and family that was torn apart on a day when we lost our daughter.
“Our story goes on into a future where our home feels very empty, but we will keep going for sake of our other children and our grandson.
“We are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in these last months, including the whole community in York, who have been so generous with their kindness, their time and their money.
“We’re especially thankful for the support of our closest family and friends – you know who you are.
“We’re very grateful as well to the many well-wishers who sponsored Paul and the other members of ‘Team Rough’ in the Great North Run in September.
“They have helped pay tribute to Katie’s memory by providing 10 years’ worth of education and welfare for Pross and King, two Ugandan children of about her age.
“Our hopes for the future are for a loving and safe home for the rest of our family, and we hope we will now find the privacy for that to happen.
“Katie’s memory will live on in our hearts but also more widely, as a little girl who brought more colour to her world.
“You will find Katie’s memory in the flowers around the bench dedicated to her in the Museum Gardens in York; in the sculpture being made for Moorlands Nature Reserve; in the future we are helping to build for little King and Pross in Uganda, and above all in the strong community that has been such a support for us this year. Thank you.”