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Ryan Walker jailed for attack on Leah Pearce and Emma Keeble in Thornhill area of Southampton
HE unleashed a “monstrous” attack on two schoolgirls, leaving them with horrific injuries.
One teenager was stabbed in the face so hard by Ryan Walker that the blade of his vegetable knife broke off.
The other girl was savagely beaten, with her head smashed against a fence while her frenzied attacker shouted “die, die”.
The attack caused uproar in the Southampton community where the girls lived, sparking fears of vigilante attacks and appeals for calm from police.
Walker, 19, claimed that he launched the ferocious attacks in Thornhill after being goaded repeatedly by the girls – and after they described him as looking like Harry Potter.
As young victims Emma Keeble, 15, and Leah Pearce, 16, continue to come to terms with their devastating injuries, Walker is beginning a jail term of more than four years.
Southampton Crown Court heard how Walker was returning to his family flat in Thornhill after shopping for his mother when he had to pass three girls sitting on the stairwell. One touched his bag and they verbally abused him as well as telling him that he resembled Harry Potter, the court heard.
Walker’s response was to come back downstairs with a milk bottle full of water and throw the contents over them, said prosecutor Christopher Wing.
Walker then went back to the flat and re-emerged with a vegetable knife before heading to a recreation ground off Hinkler Road, knowing that they would follow him. There the girls further goaded him and, it was claimed in court, spat at him.
Walker then lost his temper, stabbing Leah in the face with the knife. She fled, bleeding profusely.
He then set about attacking Emma, flooring her with several punches. He then hit her again as she lay on the floor, kicked her, pulled her hair and smashed her head against a fence, shouting “die, die”.
After his arrest, he made a full confession, describing what he had done as “monstrous”.
Walker, of Chettle Road, Southampton, pleaded guilty to wounding with intent, attempted wounding with intent and possessing a bladed article.
Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ralls QC said that the girls might have been rude and behaved inappropriately but there was no justification for going to his flat and arming himself with the knife with the intention to injure them.
He added: “It was deliberate and planned. It was a sustained attack in which you used the knife as a weapon and your foot as a weapon.”
The judge, who read probation and psychiatric reports, said that he took into account Walker’s difficult background, depression and the provocation.
In mitigation, defence barrister Keely Harvey told the court of Walker’s vulnerability and violent upbringing.
“He is shocked at what he saw as he grew up,” she said.
At school, he was bullied and seen as a “wimp”. The provocation and verbal abuse he suffered inside and outside the flats were the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, Ms Harvey told the court.
“He finally lost it,” she added.
“He flipped and attacked them in this most horrific way, not justifiable but I hope they can now see where it came from. He is an intelligent man and has shown genuine remorse.”
Walker was sentenced to four-and-a half-years in jail.
Parents say sentence should have been longer
THE parents of the two girls have criticised the length of the sentence handed down to Walker.
And speaking to the Daily Echo they relived the horror of hearing that their daughters had been attacked.
Leah’s mum, Claire Pearce, said that after being called to the flats in Thornhill she saw the 16-year-old Woodlands Community College student covered in blood and with a gruesome 1.5in gash on her face.
Claire, of Dryden Road, Southampton, said: “Leah was shaking and really hot and her heart was beating very fast.
“When I saw her she shouted ‘Mum’ and we cuddled. The whole thing was awful.
“The injury has left a scar on Leah’s face that will be there for years.
“Leah has suffered panic attacks and has needed therapy because of anxiety.
“She is no longer her carefree, laughing self. She was quite outgoing but is not any more –
she’s just too afraid.
“I don’t think the sentence was enough for what he did. He admitted that he flipped and that
it was the final straw.
“I think he is a dangerous man given he flipped like that and attacked the girls. He needs to
be locked up for longer than he is. I feel sorry for the next person that calls him a name.”
Emma’s father Allen Keeble, 46, of Somerset Avenue, Southampton, revealed that he did not recognise his own daughter when he was called to the block of flats, such was the extent of her injuries.
In the days that followed, he had to help Emma around the house, with her face so swollen that she could not see her own way around.
The top of her nose was broken, requiring surgery, and she has since suffered panic attacks, anxiety and huge interruption to her school year.
Allen told the Daily Echo: “The effect on the family has just been mindblowing really. Never do you expect something like that to happen, especially to your own daughter who you believe you are going to do the best for in your life. I feel so demoralised by it.
“Emma has had sleepless nights and for a while she would not go to bed on her own and when she did go to sleep she would have to have the light on.”
When asked whether he believed the sentence should have been longer, he replied:
“Yes, indeed. What’s to say he is not going to do that again some day?”
Victim still has 'constant nightmares'
AFTER the sentencing, Leah described to the Daily Echo how the attack had affected her, saying that her “life is not the same anymore”.
She said: “I have to take antidepressants now and I can’t sleep at night. I am constantly having nightmares and every time I close my eyes I get severe flashbacks from the attack.
“I am forced to go to therapy now as it helps to put my mind at ease and stop me feeling so anxious. I can’t go out on my own anymore and I can’t even be left in my own house alone.
“The worst part is that I have a physical reminder on my face every day. I have a horrible scar on my cheek, which I try my best to cover with my hair daily. I have lost feeling in that part of my
face, and doctors aren’t sure if I will ever get that feeling back again.
“I hate that my last year at school has been ruined by this, as now I only attend three days a week for three hours each day. It is all can cope with at the moment. I wish for the days back where I can go out and have fun with my friends, without being constantly anxious and looking over my shoulder.
“I really hope that one day I will be able to put this behind me and focus on my future without it pulling me down. Although it is scaring me knowing he will be out there in no less than two years, I hope I can forget.”