- Barrass and Machin decided children were ‘better off dead’
- Brothers Tristan, 13, and Blake Barrass, 14, were strangled
- Barrass told police she planned to kill the younger two children and herself after the older four had died
- Court reveals Machin is Barrass’s half-brother and father of the six children
- Sheffield City Council announces serious case review
Sarah Barrass, 35, and her half-brother Brandon Machin, 39, had pleaded guilty to murdering teenagers Tristan and Blake Barrass at an earlier hearing at Sheffield Crown Court.
The couple also admitted conspiracy to murder all six of their children – including Tristan, 13, and Blake, 14 – and five counts of attempted murder.
Mr Justice Goss handed the pair concurrent life sentences for the counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to murder, with a minimum term of 10 years.
Upon sentencing, a reporting restriction was lifted to allow the public to know that Machin is the children’s father. The couple had not told them this, and the kids believed their father was dead.
Kama Melly QC, prosecuting, told the court the defendants hatched a plan to kill the children because they feared they were going to be taken into care.
Mr Justice Goss said to Barrass: “You considered your love for them and fear of being parted from them entitled you to take their lives as well as your own.”
But the court heard that Barrass had threatened her children in the past.
Melly said: “Visitors to Miss Barrass’s house would hear her tell the boys: ‘I gave you life - I can take it away.’
“Speaking to the boys in that way was described as an everyday thing.”
The court heard heartbreaking testimony that the defendants gathered up tablets from around the house on the evening of May 23 and divided them between the four eldest children.
Melly said: “None of the children wanted to take the tablets but were forced to do so.
“The defendants expected the tablets to kill the children overnight.”
Jurors were told Barrass sent messages and made social media posts overnight claiming that they were suffering from a sickness bug.
But when she realised the tablets had not had the effect she wanted, she began to search for information on the internet about alternative methods of murdering her children, including suffocating, strangulation and drowning.
Barrass called Machin and told him the plan had not worked and he needed to come to the house.
Melly said: “They decided the children were better off dead than in care and he said he would help Sarah Barrass to the best of his ability.”
Barrass and Machin strangled Blake and Tristan then placed bin bags over their heads.
The defendants then ran a bath and repeatedly tried to drown one of the younger children.
Barrass strangled Tristan with her dressing gown cord. Machin strangled Blake with his hands.
The children’s mother told police she planned to kill the younger two children and herself after the older four had died.
She described how the children were “terrified” as she tried to make them take the tablets and the child she tried to drown was “hysterical” as she held his head under the water.
Following the murders, and the attempted murder of the younger child, Barrass took the surviving children into her bedroom and eventually called the police.
The court heard that Barrass had requested help with her children from the local authority.
Melly said the mother-of-six sent a message to a friend, in which she said: “I’ve thought of every possible solution to this mess. Mass murder, putting them all in care, checking in to the local nut house.
“I love my kids too much to kill them, I can’t put them into care for the same reason.”
Sheffield City Council today announced it has opened a serious case review into the matter, whose results are expected in about six months. Local authorities carry out these investigations when a child dies and abuse is suspected or proven; Sheffield’s most recent serious case review related to the death of 23-month-old Erin Tompkins, whose stepfather Martin Johnson was jailed for her murder in February.
Bryan Cox QC, mitigating for Barrass, described the mother’s crimes as “evil and nothing but evil” but said she was “profoundly damaged by her childhood”.
He said: “She was, over many years, subject to sustained neglect and emotional, physical and sexual abuse.”
Barrass had protested her innocence when she appeared in court earlier this year, shouting from the dock: “I didn’t kill my boys. Swear to God.”
The court heard that all of the surviving children are under the age of 13.
Police were called to the semi-detached property on Gregg House Road on the morning of May 24 after paramedics, including an air ambulance, were called to the street. Officers said a “major incident” had occurred in the house.
Hundreds of mourners attended Tristan and Blake’s funeral last month.
The boys were taken into the chapel at Grenoside Crematorium, Sheffield, in one white coffin accompanied by an honour guard of 300 motorcycles and two Lamborghini cars.
The riders answered an appeal after it emerged the teenagers both loved bikes and cars.