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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Safi Bugel and Robyn Vinter

Brianna Ghey: candles and flower tributes laid at vigil for trans teenager

Pictures of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey with the message 'Rest in power' surrounded by candles during a candlelit vigil in her memory on 14 February, 2023 in Liverpool
Pictures of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey with the message 'Rest in power' surrounded by candles during a candlelit vigil in her memory at St George’s Hall in Liverpool on 14 February, 2023. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Candles and flowers have been laid out on the steps of St George’s Hall in Liverpool in tribute to Brianna Ghey, a trans teenager who was stabbed to death in a Warrington park on Saturday.

A crowd of at least 300 people, many of them also teenagers and young adults, gathered quietly on Tuesday night to pay respect to the 16-year-old, who her family described as “strong, fearless, one of a kind”.

The vigil was organised by Brianna’s friends for members and allies of the trans community in Liverpool to show support and solidarity. Alongside posters of Brianna, attendees held trans and LGBTQ+ pride flags. Some dressed in the trans pride flag’s colours.

It came on the same day that police said they had not ruled out the possibility it was a transphobic hate crime.

Attendee at the vigil in Liverpool
Candlelit vigils are being held across the UK this week for the 16-year-old. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The vigil is one of many set to take place this week across over 30 cities, from Leeds to Brighton. Though the atmosphere in Liverpool was peaceful, messages against transphobia in the media, government and education system were expressed on placards.

“Your policies of hate are killing our trans youth,” read one sign.

“I’m sad and angry,” said Amber, one attendee. “Sad that we need to be here, angry that we are here.

“But it feels inevitable. The media’s hostility towards trans people has led to this. And we are in a position where the government knows what it needs to do but it doesn’t care. I think it’s only going to get worse. We’re going to be back here again in weeks, months.”

Brianna was found lying wounded in Culcheth Linear Park on Saturday afternoon. Police, who initially dismissed the possibility it was a hate crime, have arrested two 15-year-olds from the area, on suspicion of murder. Officers have been given a further 30 hours to question the boy and girl, who were taken into custody on Monday.

Cheshire constabulary said on Tuesday the stabbing was being treated as a possible hate crime, alongside other lines of inquiry, but urged the public to “avoid speculation online and be wary of sharing misinformation relating to this case”.

A spokesperson said: “All lines of inquiry are being explored, including whether this was a hate crime.”

The lead investigator, DCS Mike Evans, said earlier in the week that although police believed it was a “targeted attack” there was “no evidence” Brianna’s gender identity had played a part in her killing.

A GoFundMe crowdfunding page set up to help Brianna’s family has passed £75,000 in donations to help pay for her funeral, which will be “pink and colourful to match her personality”.

Tributes poured in on TikTok, where Brianna had thousands of followers, describing her as a “sweet angel” and a “beautiful girl”.

The LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall paid tribute to the teenager, who was from Birchwood, Warrington, and urged anyone with information to come forward, while Mermaids, a charity providing support and guidance to young trans people, tweeted its helpline, which is open until 9pm every weekday evening, for those affected by Brianna’s murder.

In a statement on Monday her family said: “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.

“The loss of her young life has left a massive hole in our family, and we know that the teachers and her friends who were involved in her life will feel the same. We would like to thank everyone for their kind words and support during this extremely difficult time.”

One of the attendees at the candlelit vigil in memory of Brianna Ghey
One of the attendees at the candlelit vigil in memory of Brianna Ghey. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A postmortem examination is taking place and police are still searching for the weapon used in the killing. They have asked anyone who might have been in the park between 1.30pm and 4pm on Saturday to contact them. Evans said: “We would ask people and businesses within the local community to check any CCTV or dashcam footage for anything that may aid our investigation.”

Cheshire constabulary said: “Patrols have been stepped up in the local area and officers will remain in the Culcheth area to provide reassurance and address any concerns that residents may have.”

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