Scythe murderer to get early chance of freedom

Rebecca Peeters
Rebecca Peeters

A WOMAN serving life for the shocking and savage murder of a Sheffield teenager found with a scythe buried in his head after a camping trip has won an early shot at parole due to her ‘exceptional progress’ behind bars.

Rebecca Peeters was 15 when she, John Sawdon and Jermaine James, both 17, inflicted more than 60 wounds on 17-year-old Terry Lee Hurst during a camping trip at Broomhead Reservoir, near Sheffield, on July 19, 2004.

Terry Hurst

Terry Hurst

Terry, who had a speech impediment and the mental age of a boy four years younger, was hacked to death with two large scythes, one of which was left embedded in his skull.

His head was shrouded in a plastic bag and his body dumped in a ditch.

At the time the attack was described by detectives as ‘attrocious.’ They likened to the killing of toddler James Bulger in its magnitude.

Terry, a former Castle College pupil, who had been fostered as a child by Audrey and Roy Hurst, had gone camping with the trio near Broomhead Reservoir.

On the night of the killing the three chased him across fields before using agricultural scythes, stolen from Bolsterstone Church, to inflict horrific wounds on him.

Peeters, Sawdon and James admitted murder and were jailed for life in March 2005. Peeters was told she must serve a minimum of 13 years behind bars.

But this week, in a rare move, a judge ruled her conduct in jail had been so ‘exceptional and unforeseen’ she merited a 10-month sentence cut.

Mr Justice Henriques’ ruling means Peeters, who is being prepared for a move to an open jail, can ask the Parole Board to free her in May 2016.

She will be freed if the Parole Board is convinced she poses no serious threat to the public.

The judge, sitting at London’s High Court, said the ‘stroppy’ and ‘unruly’ teenager Peeters was when she was first jailed, bore little resemblance to the ‘mature, modestly ambitious, remorseful 22-year-old’ she was today.

The court heard despite the best efforts of her parents, she had gone off the rails before her horrific crime, running away from home and descending into cannabis and alcohol abuse.

Her early days in custody were troubled, but the judge said her growing maturity had heralded ‘a marked improvement’ in her behaviour and she had qualified as a beauty specialist in prison.

Reducing her minimum jail term by ten months, Mr Justice Henriques said: “I compare the unruly teenager who appeared to be substantially beyond control prior to the offence, in committing the offence and during her first three years in custody, and the mature, modestly ambitious, remorseful 22-year-old now at Low Newton Prison.”

If she is released in 2016 she will remain on ‘life licence’, and will be recalled to prison if she puts a foot wrong ever again.