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Teenage killer of teacher Ann Maguire asked classmate to film attack

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/11/2017 Helen Pidd North of England editor
West Yorkshire Police undated handout photo of Will Cornick who murdered teacher Ann Maguire.: Will Cornick was given a minimum 20-year jail sentence in 2014. © PA Will Cornick was given a minimum 20-year jail sentence in 2014.

A 15-year-old boy who stabbed his teacher to death asked a classmate to video the attack and told many other pupils what he planned beforehand, a court has heard.

Most of Will Cornick’s classmates didn’t believe he was serious when announced he planned to kill their Spanish teacher, Ann Maguire, a jury at her inquest was told on Monday. Just one student at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds told a teacher, but their warning came too late, Wakefield coroner’s court heard.

Another backed down from reporting it when Cornick threatened to kill the pupil as well. Even those who saw the kitchen knife stashed up his sleeve didn’t think he would actually use it because Cornick was known for his “dark” sense of humour, the jury was told.

Cornick stabbed Maguire seven times during a Spanish lesson on 28 April 2014, having made numerous threats to kill her while chatting with friends on Facebook.

The coroner, Kevin McLoughlin, said Cornick harboured an “irrational, smouldering hatred” of Maguire, who had taught at the school for almost 41 years.

He read out a series of private messages the boy had sent a friend on the social network in the months leading up to the murder. In one, Cornick offered the other student “a tenner” to “brutally” kill Maguire. In another, sent on Christmas Eve in 2013, four months before the murder, he asked: “So If I kill Maguire on Tuesday in school will you bail me out?”

Police arrested the other boy but released him without charge, believing Cornick acted alone, the jury heard.

Another Facebook message suggested the teenager had hated Maguire for two years before he killed her, writing in June 2012: “As long as she’s alive I’ll be depressed, sad and angry … so there’s only one thing to do.”

The teacher’s widow, Donald Maguire, told the jury he wanted to understand how his wife became the only British school teacher to be murdered in a classroom – particularly a teacher he said “everybody loved”.

He said he did not want anybody to feel guilty but that “difficult questions” needed to be asked – including of the pupils Cornick had told about his murderous plan.

Det Supt Nick Wallen, the senior investigating officer on the case, told the jury that he had instructed his officers not to ask any pupil at the school why they hadn’t reported concerns about Cornick.

“I made it extremely clear that no pupil should be made to feel responsible for what occurred in that classroom on that morning. I made it very clear to my officers that they were not to ask the question: ‘why did you not tell a teacher?’” said Wallen.

Giving evidence, Maguire suggested it was legitimate to ask the question, while stressing that he did not want to blame anyone. “This was a school that had one of the best reputations for pastoral care for 50 years. It might be in a rough place … but it was a really caring school,” he insisted. Understanding how it happened would undoubtedly be “complex and difficult” but it was essential, he suggested.

Nick Armstrong, a lawyer acting for Maguire and his four children, told the jury about a schoolfriend of Cornick’s, named only as NS, who asked Cornick if he was going to the school prom. When he said that he wouldn’t be around, he told the other boy he was going to kill Maguire and asked him to video it on his phone.

Warren accepted that his officers had failed to follow up these claims when they conducted a video interview with NS. “They should have asked the question,” the detective conceded, but asked: “Has it really affected the outcome of this?”

“I’m absolutely of the view that one person is responsible for the murder of Ann Maguire and that’s William Cornick,” he added.

Armstrong also asked why police didn’t seem interested in Cornick’s favourite tune: Jungle Boogie, the theme tune to what he described as “the killing spree movie” Pulp Fiction, which he would play out loud in form group at Corpus Christi.

The barrister asked too of a claim Cornick made last year to a review carried out by Leeds city council entitled “Learning Lessons”. Interviewed by the author, the boy claimed he told others what he was planning because he “wanted to be stopped”. Wallen suggested Cornick was rewriting history and having remained silent throughout the police investigation and court process could not be trusted now.

Armstrong told the jury of another pupil who heard Cornick’s threats to kill Maguire and reported it to a teacher, who is due to give evidence via Skype on Tuesday. The report was not made until several minutes into period three, the lesson when Maguire was murdered, the court heard.

Maguire said he wanted the evidence to be tested and examined. He told the jury: “This was a good lad. He was bright. He was doing well at school. He was from a good home. He had a bit of a dark sense of humour. He did this terrible thing. There’s no explanation and no logic to it.”

But he said: “I personally have always struggled a little bit with that narrative.”

Cornick pleaded guilty to murder and was jailed for a minimum term of 20 years in November 2014.

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