A 14-year-old schoolgirl who lured a young boy to his death said ‘I’m so excited’ in a chilling voice note sent hours before the murder.
Olly Stephens, 13, was killed by two teen boys who recruited a girl to lure him into a park before they ambushed him with a knife.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, knew Olly in real life but had not met the two other boys in person until the day of the killing in January 2021.
She had been communicating with the killers on Snapchat, through which police uncovered hundreds of voice notes, videos, photos and screengrabs depicting an obsession with violence.
Some of the messages have been made public for the first time in a BBC Panorama investigation into the role social media played in Olly’s death.
They gave vital clues about the murder, showing how the whole attack had been planned online following a dispute in a Snapchat group.
In the weeks before he was killed, Olly had seen an image of a younger boy being humiliated and shared around in a form of cyberbullying called ‘patterning’ – where an attack is forwarded on and on to multiply the embarrassment for the victim.
Olly tried to alert the boy’s older brother, infuriating his killers who called him a ‘snitch’ and a ‘grass’.
One sent a voice note saying: ‘You’re going to die tomorrow Olly,’ and ‘I’ll just give him bangs [hit him] or stab him.’
In one voice note, the girl says: ‘[Male 2] wants me to set him up so then [Male 2] is gonna bang him and pattern him and shit. I’m so excited you don’t understand.’
The girl was sentenced to five years after admitting manslaughter, while the two boys, who pleaded not guilty to murder, were given jail terms of 12 and 13 years following a trial last summer.
The court case heard how the girl had also written in a message: ‘I don’t care if he f dies, I honestly don’t.’
One of the boys said: ‘I actually hate the kid with a passion – if I was to see him right now I’d probably end up killing him.’
However, none of the messages appear to have been picked up by Snapchat.
Olly’s heartbroken dad Stuart told Panorama he believes his boy would still be here without social media.
He said there were no online protections for his 13-year-old son.
‘They hunted him, tracked him and executed him through social media,’ Stuart said.
‘Social media is not guilty of the murder, but it did nothing to protect him, and without it he’d still be here.’
The panorama investigation exposed how social media accounts for people as young as 13 can easily be recommended videos glorifying violence, showing off knives and selling knives.
Olly’s parents called for social media giants to do more to verify the age of young users and to limit their exposure to harmful posts, even if that content might be legal.
A new online safety bill is making its way through parliament but has faced criticism it doesn’t go far enough.
Ministers have promised to set out what it defines as harmful but legal soon, with the government threatening penalties for companies that don’t comply.
A recent study by the Huddersfield University’s Applied Criminology and Policing Centre found that social media was a key factor in almost a quarter of crimes committed by under-18s, with the majority sparked by an online confrontation.
Thames Valley Police, which investigated Olly’s murder, also acknowledged the role it played, with DCI Andy Howard telling Panorama: ‘There is certainly a very unhealthy attraction to filming, recording, acts of really quite serious violence.’
In response to Panorama’s investigation, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tikok insisted there were strict policies in place to protect young people from bullying and harmful content.
But Olly’s dad said he believes companies aren’t facing up to the reality of what is happening.
‘Forget your profits, kids are killing each other,’ Stuart said.