Jack Woodley: Mother of teenager murdered by 10 boys ‘stopped from holding dying son’s hand’

Written by Javed Iqbal

A mother whose teenage son was murdered has recalled the moment she was prevented from holding his hand because his body was to be used as evidence.

Zoe McGill saw 18-year-old Jack Woodley’s nearly lifeless body in hospital after he was attacked by a gang of 10 teenagers as he returned home from a funfair last October.

He was fatally stabbed after being “surrounded and isolated” by the group of then 14 to 17-year-olds who chased him down an alleyway in Houghton le Spring, Sunderland.

Recalling that night, Mrs McGill said: “When we walked into the intensive care unit, it wasn’t my son.

“It was like looking at someone else. He was bloated from all the treatment he had received. We went to hold his hand and we were stopped because he was proof.”

Nurses eventually arrived with gloves and a gown for his mother to wear so she could hold his hand.

Jack – who was punched, kicked, stamped on and stabbed with a 25cm “Rambo style” knife during the October 16 attack – died in theater during a second operation to save his life.

Prosecutors said the group had gone out “looking for serious trouble that day” and tried to “create conflict” with Mr. Woodley at the festival as they were “looking for any excuse to attack someone”.

Jack was fatally stabbed after being “surrounded and isolated” by a gang of youths who chased him down an alleyway in Houghton le Spring, Sunderland


On Friday, the 15-year-old who inflicted the fatal wound by stabbing Mr Woodley in the back was jailed for a minimum of 17 years.

Judge Rodney Jameson QC sentenced the other nine defendants, aged between 14 and 18, to minimum terms of between eight and 15 years in custody.

He told them that if they are then released, they will remain on license for the rest of their lives.

The total minimum terms for all the defendants are 124 years and six months.

Nine of the young people, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had refused murder and manslaughter.

Jack’s last phone call with his mother Zoe McGill was minutes before the attack


One pleaded guilty to manslaughter and admitted stabbing Woodley but denied intending to kill him, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

At the start of the trial in March, prosecutor Mark McKone QC said that while only one youth stabbed Mr. Woodley, the other nine were guilty because of the “concept of joint enterprise”.

A jury convicted all 10 defendants of murder in June.

Nine of them intend to appeal their convictions, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed this week.

Sentencing the group, the judge said: “No sentence can give Jack back to his family and loved ones or reduce the pain they will endure now and in the future.

“It may seem unfair that you will be able to live in freedom while you are still young men, while Jack cannot because of what you did.”

Jack, who was stabbed with a 25cm knife, suffered two stab wounds, one in the thigh and the other fatally in the back.


According to the court’s judgment, recordings of a ON TV interview between reporter Gregg Easteal and Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Brooks of Northumbria Police was released.

At one point, the officer recalled seeing the CCTV footage of Jack’s murder for the first time, in which the group of teenagers responsible for the 18-year-old’s killing can be heard saying the words “get the helicopter out” several times before his fatal stabbing

She said: “These kids went into a fight knowing they had a knife. The words ‘get the helicopter’ sounded more like an order – it was quite shocking really.”

“It wasn’t just the knife, one of the youths had a crack duster – they were quite happy to use them and were happy to attack someone.”

The 18-year-old was enjoying a night out in Houghton Feast with friends on October 16 last year when he was attacked

(Northumbria Police Handout)

Judge Jameson said Mr Woodley was due to start a job on the Monday after he was attacked and was on his way to collect keys to a new flat, saying he had “a lot to look forward to”.

He said the group had attacked Mr. Woodley “only for the thrill and pleasure of inflicting serious harm on a completely innocent and randomly selected stranger”.

The judge told the defendants that the violence inflicted on Mr Woodley, “although brief, was horrific” and all of them “played a part in causing Jack’s death”.

He said six of the teenagers had given evidence at the trial but none “were prepared to tell the truth about what the others did”.

He told them: “You decided to put the interests of yourselves and your co-defendants before those of Jack and his family. You did everything you could to deny them justice.

“I’m sure you regret what happened for many reasons, but regret is not remorse.”

Judge Jameson told the teenager who stabbed Mr. Woodley: “I have concluded that you intended to kill when you inflicted the second stab wound. I accept that the intention may have been formed in the heat of the moment.

“However, this is the kind of escalation that can occur when violence is carried out mob-led and armed with a deadly knife.”

During the trial, Mr McKone said Mr Woodley was leaving the funfair in Houghton Feast when the defendants, whom he did not know, “surrounded and isolated” him.

One of the teenagers first put Mr. Woodley in a headlock and punched him before the others “came along”, the court heard. Jurors were told one of them was heard shouting “get the helicopter” – referring to the knife – in mobile phone footage of the incident.

With additional reporting from the Press Association

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Javed Iqbal

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