LONDON — Two 17-year-old girls have been sentenced for torturing and butchering an elderly woman, less than three weeks after a pair of 10-year-olds were charged with murdering a toddler. Again, a troubled nation is asking, how could this happen?
Edna Phillips, 70, was throttled with her dog's leash and stabbed or slashed 86 times. The mental images of the crime have shocked the nation just as the video pictures of little James Bulger being led to his death did last month.
"You are the evil products of the modern age," Judge Scott Baker said after sentencing Maria Rossi and Tina Molloy, two high school dropouts, to indefinite prison terms at Cardiff Crown Court in Wales.
The girls' sentencing for Phillips' murder has renewed public outrage over the upsurge in violent juvenile crime and put the spotlight on the plight of old people. Phillips, who was partially blind, had been tormented for years by one of her murderers, who lived next door.
"Clearly, with hindsight, everybody must ask the question, 'Why was it that so many people around her clearly knew what was going on but did not take any action on her behalf?" said Ann Clwyd, the Labor Party lawmaker who represents Wales' poverty-stricken Cynon Valley, where Phillips lived.
Phillips had previously written to Clwyd to complain of robberies and neighbors who were drunk, on drugs or playing loud music, but officials told her that they couldn't move her to another house, which was in a public housing project.
The details of Phillips' death last July 16 were only reported Monday, when the girls, who pleaded guilty to murder, were sentenced.
Prosecutor John Charles Rees said the two girls, high on drugs and alcohol, grabbed Phillips as she called for her dog outside her house, marched her inside and strangled her with the dog's leash.
Rees said Rossi, who had lived next door to her victim since she was a toddler, had breakfast with her family the next day and sang "We have killed Edna Phillips" to the tune of "The Wizard of Oz."