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.”
* CASEY Kearney was described by her parents as ‘the most beautiful, intelligent and bright young girl with her whole life ahead of her’.
The teenager, who would have celebrated her 14th birthday last Saturday, lived in Rossington, Doncaster, with her mum Kerry and stepfather Andrew Day.
Casey was doing well at school and wanted to be a film producer when she grew up, Sheffield Crown Court was told.
But, in a cruel twist of fate, her path crossed Hannah Bonser’s in Elmfield Park after she missed her bus stop while on her way to a half-term sleepover with a friend.
In the last text message sent as she got off the bus, Casey said she was excited about the sleepover.
Hundreds of people attended Casey’s funeral in March, many wearing orange - her favourite colour.
A tribute was read from her father which said: “From the moment you were gone I knew life could never be the same again and the pain of losing you would be intense for a long time to come, probably forever.
“I am sure everyone will agree what a wonderful young girl you had become.”