CASEY Kearney was a popular, happy teenager with her whole life ahead of her - murdered simply because she was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
The 13-year-old did not know Hannah Bonser, a woman plagued by mental health problems.
But their lives collided in Elmfield Park, Doncaster, at around 1.15pm on February 14.
As the two walked past one another on the same path through the park, Casey full of excitement about a sleepover at a friend’s house, Bonser turned towards her and, without warning, plunged a knife into her abdomen.
The wound caused ‘rapid and catastrophic’ blood loss - and, as Casey fell to her knees dying, Bonser continued to walk calmly along the path and out of the park gates.
Jurors rejected claims Bonser, aged 26, of St James Street, Doncaster, was suffering from diminished responsibility.
And, speaking after the trial at Sheffield Crown Court, Casey’s father Anthony Kearney said: “There was never a doubt in our minds this was a calculated and deliberate act and therefore deserves the maximum sentence our judicial system allows.
“No sentence will bring Casey back to us and the severity of Bonser’s actions means we will never have the privilege of her in our lives again.”
Tragically, Casey need not have been walking through Elmfield Park at the same moment as Bonser at all. She had missed her bus stop, so got off at the next one to make her way to friend Lucia Franco’s house.
At around 1.15pm Casey passed Bonser, who was carrying two knives she had bought earlier that morning from a hardware store.
Graham Reeds QC, prosecuting, said Bonser pulled out a 16cm kitchen knife and stabbed Casey once before sliding the knife up her sleeve and walking on as if nothing had happened.
Minutes later Bonser rang the bell at the Rethink mental health charity offices where she told a worker she’d ‘done something silly’.
Bonser was arrested, taken to College Grove police station and, just after midnight, was informed Casey had died. She replied: “You’re joking.”
Richard Hebbert, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said Casey’s death embodied the worst fears of every parent.
He said: “Circumstances combined cruelly to put her in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was a pointless waste of a promising young life. The issue at trial was how responsible Hannah Bonser was for what she did.”
The court heard Bonser had a long history of mental health problems, had made two suicide attempts, and been sectioned under the mental health act.
In the latter part of 2011 her mental health deteriorated to the extent she told health professionals she was hearing evil voices and was going to harm someone.
She told a pagan priestess she was being haunted by demons and that an international conspiracy was out to get her.
Her defence team argued she was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killing - but the prosecution said she had a personality disorder and was able to understand her conduct, form rational judgements, and exercise self-control.
Mr Justice Ross Cranston said Casey’s parents’ lives would never be the same again, and they would never come to terms with her murder.
He said: “Casey did not deserved to be stabbed - she had done nothing wrong.”
Speaking after the hearing Det Supt Terry Mann said: “This was a terrible, unprovoked and random attack on an innocent young girl, robbing her and her loving family of her future years.
“It happened in broad daylight in a popular area, shocking the local community.”
He added: “We hope Casey’s family can find some solace in the guilty verdict and begin to rebuild their lives.”
Mad or bad?
JURORS heard from two consultant forensic psychiatrists - one for the prosecution and one for the defence.
They had to decide whether Bonser knew what she was doing at the time of the attack, or whether the responsibility for her actions was diminished because she was psychotic.
Defence doctor Dr Alexander Shubsachs assessed Bonser shortly after her arrest on February 14.
He diagnosed her with paranoid schizophrenia based on interviews, rambling letters and other writings she produced before and after the attack.
She claimed she could not remember the attack, was being persecuted by demons, and felt she was being ‘burned’ and hearing voices.
But Professor Nigel Eastman, for the prosecution, said Bonser was not suffering schizophrenia and instead had a personality disorder and suffered ‘pseudo psychotic’ symptoms.
Describing the difference, Prof Eastman used ice cream as a metaphor. He said a normal person was like a block of vanilla ice cream - but someone suffering mental illness such as schizophrenia was like a block of vanilla ice cream with a black cherry on top.
He said a personality disorder was like ‘raspberry ripple’, explaining: “It runs right through who they are. It’s a disorder of who that person is and you need to be able to trace it back so you can see signs of it in adolescence.”
He added: “If somebody has a personality disorder, that may lay them open to episodes of sanity or madness, but they are still in touch with reality. Misdiagnosing somebody with a personality disorder is quite common.”
Prof Eastman said Bonser was ‘unconvincing’ when describing her symptoms and almost displayed ‘too many’.
He said her supposed amnesia was so extensive it was not believable and added: “At times she may not be entirely honest and truthful.”