Sarah Barrass attempted to blame half-brother Brandon Machin for the murders of their two sons in the hours following their deaths
In the days preceeding the tragic deaths of 14-year-old Blake Barrass and his brother Tristan Barrass, 13, their parents Sarah Barrass and Brandon Machin ‘hatched’ a plot to kill the boys, as well as their four younger children, Sheffield Crown Court was told during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.
Two days before the murders on May 24 this year, a social worker assigned to the family informed Barrass that their status with the local authority would change from ‘child in need’ to ‘child in protection,’ resulting in a higher level of scrutiny from social services.
Prosecutor Kama Melly QC described how on the following evening, the incestuous couple collected ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) medication from around the house that had been prescribed to several of the children and forced the oldest four children to take them, expecting they would be killed overnight.
However, when this failed, Barrass and Machin strangled Blake and Tristan to death and made an unsuccessful attempt to drown another of their six children.
Ms Melly detailed how, following this series of sickening acts, Barrass devised a plot of her own to blame Machin and absolve herself of any responsibility.
She took the four surviving children, none of whom can be named for legal reasons, into her bedroom and set about constructing a new narrative for the events that took place that night.
The court was told how, at 7.08am that morning – a matter of minutes after the deaths of Blake and Tristan, Barrass made a series of notes on her mobile phone.
The first one read: “Brandon is the dad to all the kids...the pills didn’t work so he’s had me kill Tristan, and he’s killed Blake and [a third child], I’m sat here with the other three.”
Another note said: “He’s going to kill them, then me.”
She continued: “He’s tried to drown [a third child] it’s not working. I’m so scared.”
Her chilling final note, written at 7.16am, read: “If by some miracle my kids live, please look after them and make sure they know I love them Xx. please’.
Less than 10 minutes later, she sent a text message to a friend that read: “He’s trying to kill us and Tristan and Blake are already dead.”
Both she and Barrass’ friend called the police a short time later, and they were at the property by 7.45am.
The court was told how after police arrived at the scene, Barrass told a police officer that the four older children ‘took a cocktail of medication, packing in the bin, I gave it them with the bottles, the children didn’t know.”
She then proceeded to hand the same police officer a notebook which was open at the page entitled ‘funeral arrangements’.
“The notebook did have pages of description regarding the funeral – it also contained messages for Brandon and her friends, stating that she had no choice but to do what she did because she couldn’t bear to be separated from her kids,” Ms Melly said.
Barrass and Machin were arrested at the scene and in police custody, she initially continued with her account that placed responsibility for the murders in Machin’s hands.
This contrasts with Machin’s behaviour, who told officers as he was cautioned: ‘she didn’t do it, I did it’ and agreed to sign an officer’s notebook confirming the statement.
Shortly after being placed into custody, Barrass told officers that ‘I believe my brother has killed two of my children’ and talked about feeding her children sleeping pills and that they would not sleep’.
“She said the social worker got too close to finding out that Brandon was the father to all of the children,” Ms Melly said.
Then, during a medical examination with a doctor, Barrass said she had given the four oldest children ‘lots of ADHD to kill them due to a social worker getting too close, she stated that she had been coerced into doing this by her brother’.
She went on to say that she had intentions to ‘do the same’ to their two youngest children, both of whom are under the age of four.
During her police interview, Barrass initially reiterated her claims that Machin was responsible for the murders before eventually admitting they formed a plan to ‘kill all of the children and tried to get more tablets in pursuit of that plan on May 22’.
The court heard how Barrass attempted to get repeat prescriptions of the children’s ADHD medications on May 22, after checking which medications they were on at her doctor’s surgery, but they were refused due to the requests being placed ‘too early’.
Referring to the plan devised by the couple, Barrass went on to say she ‘couldn’t cope with just losing the older two’ and talked of ‘trying to hide six kids’.
Barrass, 34, of Gregg House Road, Shiregreen and Machin, 39, of Burngreave Road, Burngreave pleaded guilty to all charges they face, including the murders of Blake and Tristan, the conspiracy to murder all six of their children, and the attempted murder of Blake, Tristan and another of their children at an earlier hearing.
Mr Justice Goss sentenced the pair to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 35 years, during yesterday’s sentencing hearing.