On Tuesday night in the U.K., candlelight vigils were held in honor of trans teen Brianna Ghey, who was found Saturday in a park in Warrington in the northwest of England suffering from mortal stab wounds.
The 16-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Monday, police arrested a 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl from the area on suspicion of murder. On Tuesday, Cheshire constabulary said the stabbing was being treated as a possible hate crime, after earlier characterizing the killing as a “targeted attack.”
Detective Chief Inspector Adam Waller urged caution at the outset of the investigation. “I understand the concerns that this incident is likely to cause, and I am aware that there are rumors circulating online,” he said on Saturday. “However, I would urge people not to speculate.”
The murder and search for a motive have gripped the nation and London’s tabloids, with The Sun, The Daily Mail, Express, and Mirror offering non-stop coverage. Early in the news cycle, the Times of London was criticized for deadnaming Ghey and for avoiding use of her correct pronouns.
Social media has been unsparing when discussing the context of the murder.
“‘We didn’t want this,'” posted Scottish activist Euan Yours to Twitter. “Well what the f*ck did you want, you didn’t want her to be referred to by her name or pronouns, you didn’t want her to use the girls toilet, you didn’t want her school to teach that bullying her was wrong, and you didn’t want an ‘F’ on her death certificate.”
In a statement released Monday, Ghey’s family wrote: “Brianna was a much-loved daughter, granddaughter, and baby sister. She was a larger-than-life character who would leave a lasting impression on all that met her. Brianna was beautiful, witty and hilarious. Brianna was strong, fearless and one of a kind.”
Emma Mills, Head Teacher at Birchwood Community High School where Ghey was a Year 11 pupil, said: “We are shocked and truly devastated to hear of the death of Brianna.
“This is understandably a very difficult and distressing time for many and we will do our utmost to support our pupils and wider school community.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” posted a fellow student at Birchwood Community on Twitter. “She went to my school and we are all mourning, it will never be the same knowing this is how the media causes people to behave.”
On Monday, friends and classmates gathered at the site of Ghey’s death in Culcheth Linear Park to lay flowers in her memory.
Reports from students and school parents indicate Ghey was serially harassed for being trans.
The Daily Mail reported Ghey was once attacked by a gang of schoolchildren and pulled downstairs by her backpack in a prank called “seat belting.” Bottles were thrown at the classmate.
One student’s father, Damian Harry, says Ghey was friends with his daughter.
“They bullied Brianna because she was trans,” Harry said. “All sorts of things were done to her.”
“Her dad has apparently said he raised safeguarding at the school a thousand times. But little was done. The abuse was constant all because she was different. Let’s be frank, she was bullied because of her sexuality. Of course this is a hate crime.”
Despite the reported harassment, the teen had amassed thousands of followers on her TikTok account, which has since been deactivated.
In one of her last videos, Ghey lip-synced to a clip of Zendaya from Euphoria. “One last try,” she says, looking into the camera. “I’m giving life one last try.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help Brianna’s family pay for funeral expenses passed £75,000 in donations from nearly 5000 contributors on Tuesday. According to organizers, the service will be “pink and colorful to match her personality.”