TEN years on from the harrowing hate-fuelled attack on Sophie Lancaster, her mother has recalled the horrific events that resulted in her death and reflected on the legacy her daughter left behind.

“I still remember the phone call telling me they’d been attacked, said Sophie’s mum Sylvia Lancaster, from Haslingden.

“I was just overcome with the initial shock. I couldn’t understand why it had happened.”

Self-styled goth Sophie had been with her boyfriend 21-year-old Robert Maltby in Stubbylee Park, Bacup on August 11, 2007 when they were attacked.

A group of teens jumped Robert because he choose to dress as in an alternative way.


In a desperate bid to protect her boyfriend after he was knocked unconscious, Sophie tried to cradle his head to prevent his attacker raining down more blows.

But instead of stopping the gang, their attention turned to Sophie.

By the time police arrived the 20-year-old was unconscious with multiple injuries.

When Sylvia and family got to the hospital to be by Sophie’s bedside, they were given the heartbreaking news her injuries were so severe she would never recover.

On August 24, 2007, 13 days after the senseless attack, Sylvia had to make the impossible decision to turn off her daughter’s life support machine.

Sylvia said: “They were bright, creative and intelligent young people. I couldn’t understand why would anyone want to attack them.

“Even though we are 10 years on, it doesn’t feel like it has been that long.

“The anniversary is always an emotional time, especially reaching this milestone.”

Robert, now 31, survived the attack but was left with poor short-term memory, a lack of coordination when tired and poor balance.

Five people were involved in the deadly assault.

Ringleaders Brendan Harris, then 15, and Ryan Herbert, then 16, were found guilty of murder and were handed life sentences.

In the days and weeks following Sophie’s death, Sylvia decided her beloved daughter would not die in vain, and set out to make attacking someone because of the lifestyle they choose or the clothes they wear a hate crime.

The 66-year-old did this by making Sophie a household name with the launch of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

She has travelled around the country trying to the spread tolerance and understanding and has delivered hundreds of moving speeches about the damage hate crime causes to the victims and communities.

Sylvia said: “The support we have got has been amazing.

“We’ve got a massive social media following and the amount of people we’ve been able to speak to is amazing.

“You’ve got to be looking at the positives, we don’t want to be dwelling on the negative, it’s not healthy.”

As well as attending alternative music festivals sharing Sophie’s story, the charity regularly visits schools to impress the importance of being tolerant.

In 2014, Sylvia was awarded an OBE for community cohesion and her fight against hate crime.

She said described the achievements of the charity as bringing a ‘bright light’ in the darkness of her daughter’s death.

Sylvia said: “We’ve made a huge amount of progress.

“Greater Manchester Police being the first force to recognise alternative hate crimes was massive.

“Just the work we have been doing in schools up and down the country as well has been huge.

“We’re showing people the effects of these sorts of incidents and what we’ve been through and making them aware of the importance of being tolerant.”

Earlier this year The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which has a base in Deardengate, Haslingden, was awarded £50,000 from the Government to support its work in schools, colleges and with young offenders.

Despite the hard work of the charity over the past 10 years, Sylvia said more still needs to done to prevent something like this happening again.

She said stories that school children relate to her during her campaigning visits prove hate crime still persists.

She said: “It’s still very much happening. It’s an issue all over the country. We go into all sorts of schools and talk about issues, some are more focused on homophobic abuse, some racial, sometimes lifestyle.

“We’re doing a lot of work at the Holocaust Centre at the moment, and work in places such as Blackburn and Bradford.

“We want to make sure young people think twice about this sort of thing.”

Looking to the future, Sylvia said her aim was to make the law recognise that attacking someone because of the lifestyle they follow was as unacceptable as attacking them because of their race or religion.

She said when it comes to sentencing guidelines, judges can give criminals extra jail time for hate crimes aggravated by one of five features known as the ‘five sentencing strands to hate crime’.

The five strands of hate crime include racial, homophobic, disability, religion and gender identity motives.

Sylvia said she sees it her mission to make attacking someone because of the ‘subculture’ they follow the sixth aggravating factor judges can consider when sentencing.

She said: “Definitely more needs to be done, we need that sixth strand.

“Hate crimes on lifestyle and dress code need to be treated with the same seriousness.

“I can see it happening, we just need to keep trying.

“Thankfully we’re making enough money for us to carry on doing what we’re doing.”

Slyvia will mark the emotional anniversary by attending Bloodstock Festival in Walton-on-Trent, Derbyshire, which has a stage named after Sophie.

This evening they will be releasing black balloons on the Sophie Lancaster Stage.

The stage was introduced to the heavy metal festival in 2009.

This month also sees heavy metal magazine Kerrang! devote its front page to Sophie and the battle against hate crime.

Journalists from the magazine spent two months with the foundation looking at the work they do to tackle hate crime. They have also done a feature on whether things have changed moved on enough since Sophie’s death.

Sylvia said she thinks Sophie would think it is ‘pretty cool’ the work she has done in her memory.

She said: “I think on the one hand she would think ‘shut up mum’.

“But on the other I think she’d say that it’s pretty cool.”