Heartbreaking case of vulnerable Sheffield teen murdered by friends armed with farming scythes on camping trip

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Detectives likened the 'horrendous' fatal attack to the killing of toddler James Bulger.

March 2024 will mark 20 years since 17-year-old Terry Lee Hurst was murdered by three of his friends in what a judge described as the 'cruellest of crimes'.

Terry, who had learning difficulties, was described by his foster parents, Audrey and Roy Hurst, as a keen member of the Boys Brigade and as someone who loved 'camping and the outdoors lifestyle'.

Vulnerable Terry was enjoying some time in the great outdoors when he was set upon by three fellow teenagers - Rebecca Peeters, John Sawdon and Jermaine James - all of whom he considered friendsVulnerable Terry was enjoying some time in the great outdoors when he was set upon by three fellow teenagers - Rebecca Peeters, John Sawdon and Jermaine James - all of whom he considered friends
Vulnerable Terry was enjoying some time in the great outdoors when he was set upon by three fellow teenagers - Rebecca Peeters, John Sawdon and Jermaine James - all of whom he considered friends | Submit/NW

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The fatal camping trip

Beloved Terry was enjoying some time in the great outdoors when he was set upon by three fellow teenagers - Rebecca Peeters, John Sawdon and Jermaine James - all of whom he considered friends.

Sawdon and James were 17-years-old, while Peeters was aged just 15, when the trio carried out the murder during the camping trip at Broomhead Reservoir, near Bolsterstone and Stocksbridge, in July 2004.

All three were sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2005, when Sheffield Crown Court was told how the three youths, as they were then, stole the scythes from a churchyard.

Terry was in his tent during the evening of the trip on July 19, 2004 when the trio returned with the sharp bladed weapons.

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They initially planned to frighten Terry by putting up their hooded tops and walking around his tent brandishing the scythes but instead James went into his tent and punched him before guiding him outside.

The court heard how Terry tried to escape twice despite having already suffered horrific injuries but was caught and eventually slaughtered.

'It was the cruellest of all crimes'

Presiding over the case, Mr Justice Andrew Smith described the attack as "chilling" and added: "You knew he would be defenceless and you set about him mercilessly.

"After the initial assault, Terry Hurst tried in vain to run. He couldn’t escape. You all chased him and caught him and continued the attack."

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Terry Hurst, who had learning difficulties, was described by his foster parents, Audrey and Roy Hurst, as a keen member of the Boys Brigade and as someone who loved 'camping and the outdoors lifestyle'. He was just 17-years-old when he was murdered during a camping tripTerry Hurst, who had learning difficulties, was described by his foster parents, Audrey and Roy Hurst, as a keen member of the Boys Brigade and as someone who loved 'camping and the outdoors lifestyle'. He was just 17-years-old when he was murdered during a camping trip
Terry Hurst, who had learning difficulties, was described by his foster parents, Audrey and Roy Hurst, as a keen member of the Boys Brigade and as someone who loved 'camping and the outdoors lifestyle'. He was just 17-years-old when he was murdered during a camping trip | Submit

"You intended to kill him. It was the cruellest of all crimes."

Terry’s family wept in court as his injuries were described. He suffered more than 60 deep slash marks, his teeth were rammed down his throat and his jaw broken.

Defendant's festering resentment

After taking it in turns to stamp his head into the ground, the trio attempted to suffocate him with a plastic bag. The larger scythe was left through his neck and his body abandoned near the campsite.

While the motive for the attack was never fully understood, the court heard how Sawdon hated Terry because he had previously dated his girlfriend, which caused a 'festering resentment' to grow.

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It also led to Sawdon making several death threats against the murder victim. He was seen clenching his fists and saying he was going to kill Terry and had also threatened his girlfriend’s parents, threatening to fire bomb their home. Despite the 'erruption of violence' they inflicted upon Terry, the three teens were seen to sit calmly in the dock as Mr Justice Andrew Smith jailed them for life and told Sawdon he must serve a minimum of at least 15 years behind bars, while Peeters and James were handed a 13-year minimum term.

Speaking after the trio were jailed,  Det Insp Tom Whiteley, of South Yorkshire Police said 'there had been nothing of this magnitude since James Bulger was killed'.

Left to right: Jermaine James; Rebecca Peeters and John Sawdon were all sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Terry Hurst, during a Sheffield Crown Court hearing held in March 2005Left to right: Jermaine James; Rebecca Peeters and John Sawdon were all sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Terry Hurst, during a Sheffield Crown Court hearing held in March 2005
Left to right: Jermaine James; Rebecca Peeters and John Sawdon were all sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Terry Hurst, during a Sheffield Crown Court hearing held in March 2005 | Submit

He added: "Terry’s defence injuries were atrocious. We can’t say which injury killed him or whether it was the loss of blood."

Weeks before his death, former special school pupil Terry moved into semi independent sheltered housing in Penistone. Terry's parents revealed he had suffered at the hands of bullies for most of his life.

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He had a speech impediment, the mental age of a boy four years his junior and was fostered as a young child.

'They should pay for what they did - they were ruthless with my brother'

In November 2011, The Star reported that Peeters had been given a chance of early parole, after Mr Justice Henriques, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled her conduct in jail had been so 'exceptional and unforeseen' she merited a 10-month sentence cut.

The ruling meant that Peeters, who was then being prepared for a move to an open jail, could ask the Parole Board to free her in May 2016.

Less than a month later, in December 2011, Terry's loved ones spoke to The Star after setting up a petition, calling for his killers to be 'expelled from Britain' and their sentences to be extended.

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Speaking at the time, Terry's friend Michael Hill, said: "Terry Lee was brutally attacked, violently tortured and murdered.

"He was a kind, generous, young man, he was autistic and very trusting and vulnerable. He had many friends and a caring family who still love and miss him. "This petition is to extend the custodial sentences of his attackers and force them to be expelled from Britain at the end of their sentence."

Terry's brother, Richard Lee Khan said: "We were not living together at the time – we were both being fostered but we spoke as much as we could and he was getting on with his life and going to college. "

"At his funeral I carried his coffin – it's not what you ever expect to have to do for a brother at such a young age.

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"Afterwards I ended up in hospital with mental health problems because it knocked me for six – I could not cope with what had happened to him." "They should pay for what they did – they were ruthless with my brother."