Episode 14 Katie Rackliff

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In June 1992, Katie Rackliff was a 19-year-old apprentice hairdresser at Bumbles Too salon in the southeast of England. Katie had been showing great promise in her career, but she had been experiencing a few difficulties in her personal life.

At the beginning of the year, Katie and her first serious boyfriend had broken up, and she wanted to back together with him. A few months after that, around the time of her 19th birthday, Katie was caught and later charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. She had also recently left home following an argument with her parents, and had been staying with her friend Michelle.

A quick content warning, although not in any detail, this episode briefly mentions domestic abuse and animal abuse.

In June 1992, Katie Rackliff was a 19-year-old apprentice hairdresser at Bumbles Too salon in the southeast of England. Katie had been showing great promise in her career, but she had been experiencing a few difficulties in her personal life.

At the beginning of the year, Katie and her first serious boyfriend had broken up, and she wanted to back together with him. A few months after that, around the time of her 19th birthday, Katie was caught and later charged for driving under the influence of alcohol. She had also recently left home following an argument with her parents, and had been staying with her friend Michelle.

Like many young adults, Katie and her friends always went out at the weekend. On Saturday, June 6, 1992, Katie had just learned that her drink-driving charge could result in her being imprisoned. That night, perhaps wanting to forget her troubles, Katie and Michelle went to meet some friends at local nightclub, Ragamuffins. They arrived just before 9 pm. The club was inside a shopping centre in the town of Camberley in the southeastern county of Surrey, and it had been a popular nightclub for young people in the area since the 1970s.

Dressed in a white crop top, navy blue trousers, and a jacket, Katie didn’t go unnoticed as she danced happily on the dancefloor. Then she saw her ex. Wanting to rekindle their relationship, Kate approached him. But when she told him that she still loved him and wanted to marry him, he said that he was seeing someone else.

Katie left the club alone at around ten past two in the morning. Michelle had seen Katie talking with her ex, so when the club had closed and she didn’t see Katie, she presumed Katie had gone to find her ex. Thinking that Kaite must have left with him, Michelle and their other friends made their way home without her.

Katie returned to Ragamuffins, which by then was closed. She sat in the doorway but the night security guards monitoring the shopping centre’s CCTV soon noticed her. One of the guards was sent to find her, which he did and escorted her to the exit. By this time, the doors were locked and the other clubbers had left the area. As the security guard unlocked the doors, Katie asked for a cigarette. The security guard obliged and Katie took the cigarette and stepped out into the night.

Later that morning, in the next country, four 14-year-old boys woke up when rain began to seep through their tent. The friends had spent the night camping in the garden of one of their homes in the town of Farnborough. Although Farnborough is in a different county to Camberley, it’s right on the border and only 5 miles from where Katie had last been seen outside Ragamuffins in Camberly. The four boys got up and went for a walk. Around 8 am, as they walked along a path alongside the Victoria Road cemetery, they discovered Katie Rackliff’s mostly unclothed and bloodied body. One of the boys said her body had been left between a wall and a parked car. “There was a lot of blood,” he later said, “We were very frightened.”

The scene was cordoned off and the police began to search the cemetery inch by inch. Katie’s father had the gutwrenching task of identifying his daughter’s body. A post-mortem later revealed that Katie had been stabbed a total of 29 times. Some of the inflictions had been delivered with such force that the blade passed all the way through her body. The majority of injuries were to her torso, piercing her heart, lungs, liver, and stomach, and the killer had inflicted deliberate wounds to her genitals.

When questioned by police, the teenage boys said that they had heard screams in the early hours of the morning but dismissed them as people playing around.

The wounds on Katie’s body indicated that the murder weapon was a knife with a blade around 6.5 – 7 inches long and about 3 inches wide. Marks on Katie’s body suggested that she had been dragged but the investigating police were unsure if her body had been moved within the area it was found, or if she had been killed elsewhere.

Katie’s ex-boyfriend was ruled out as a suspect early on in the investigation. Years later, when speaking about seeing Katie the night she was killed, he told The Mirror newspaper, “If only I had taken Katie home as she asked me to, she would be alive today. That will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

The following day, police continued their search of the cemetery but they didn’t find any meaningful evidence or any clue as to who had killed Katie. The police continued to identify, find and interview other people who had been at Ragamuffins Saturday night. They were particularly interested in identifying and speaking with a man in his mid-20s. He had been seen dressed in black and watching people dancing from the side of the dancefloor. The police also wanted to speak with a man of Asian descent who was known locally as the “Koren kickboxer,” and two men, one white and one black with an arrow shaved into his hair, who police believed had spoken to Katie outside the shopping centre. In total, the police spoke to over 500 people who at been at Ragamuffins that night. Their inquiries led to an acquaintance of Katie’s who had seen her outside the club in the early hours of Sunday morning and described Katie as being, ‘obviously upset.’

The police were briefly interested in locating a car that had been stolen close to the area and a ‘bloodied motorist’ who was blond and about 20 years old who had been seen in a different vehicle at two gas stations early Sunday morning.

Two local businessmen offered a £10,000 reward and Katie’s unsolved murder was featured on the TV show Crimewatch, but neither effort turned up anything significant. In a televised press conference, Katie Rackliff’s father told the public, “We are numbed by the senseless killing of our daughter.”

There was a fleeting glimpse of hope in August when police questioned a man who had been arrested in Liverpool about Katie’s murder, but this too led to a dead end and the person responsible for killing Katie in such a brutal manner remained free.

On June 7, 1994, exactly two years after Katie was murdered, a 14-year-old schoolgirl named Sharon Carr walked into the girls’ toilets in her school in Camberley. Another student, named Anne-Marie Clifford, was already in the bathroom. Not long before, the girls had had an argument over a one-pound coin. Sharon approached Anne-Maire, raised her arm, and out of nowhere, she plunged her penknife into Anne-Marie’s back. the blade pierced Anne-Marie’s lung, Sharon left the bathroom and Anne-Marie fell to the floor, bleeding. Luckily, five other students entered the same bathroom shortly after and found Anne-Marie. The girls raised the alarm and Anne-Marie was rushed to Frimley Park Hospital. If the five girls had walked into the bathroom any later, Anne-Marie Clifford would very likely have died.

Sharon Carr was arrested and sentenced for causing grievous bodily harm. In 1995, when Sharon Carr was 15 years old, she was incarcerated at HMP Bullwood Hall Young Offenders Institution in Essex. She had been transferred there after she had attempted to strangle two nurses while she was being held in the secure psych unit of her previous institution.

Whilst being held at HMP Bullwood, Sharon developed a crush on a prison officer named Anette. One day, reportedly while she was cooking a curry, Sharon told Anette that she killed Katie Rackliff back in 1992 when she was only 12 years old.

The prison notified the police and officers came to interview Sharon. During her police interview, Sharon Carr again confessed to killing Katie. Sharon did live close to where Katie’s body had been found, but it’s not uncommon for inmates to make false confessions for several reasons. Katie Rackliff was killed in a small town so Sharon would definitely have heard about the murder, and she had a crush on the officer she confessed to, so her confession could easily be a made-up story told with the intention of trying to impress her crush. Plus, Sharon was only 12 years old when Katie was murdered.

Sharon Carr was born in Belize, on the east coast of Central America in 1979. At this time, Belize was a British colony. She was born into poverty. When the country gained its independence in 1981, Sharon would have been around two years old. She never knew her biological father and growing up, Sharon experienced cruel physical violence at the hands of her mother, Maria. Maria practiced voodoo and she shared her beliefs of the power of animal sacrifices with the young Sharon, teaching her how to sacrifice animals.

In the early 1980s, Carr’s mother met a Jamaican soldier serving with British forces named George Carr. Maria and George married in 1982 or 1983 when Sharon was 3. In 1986, after living in Germany a short while, the Carrs moved to the UK. However, their marriage wasn’t to last and in 1987, George sought a divorce. Before he left, and according to some reports in response to him saying that he was leaving, Maria threw a pan of hot oil over him. According to George, Sharon, who was then around 8 years old, witnessed this but didn’t react.

In 1990, the headteacher of the junior school Sharon attended contacted social services concerning her behaviour. Around this time, Sharon’s mother had begun seeing a labourer who had two daughters from a previous relationship. Sharon would have turned 11 in 1990, which was when she said she began drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs.

In 1991, her mother’s new partner moved in. Sharon was now in her first year at Collingwood secondary school. According to the headteacher there at the time, Sharon’s first year wasn’t anything too much out of the ordinary. She was on the basketball team and she was on track academically, but this would soon change.

Carr became well-known and feared on the Old Dean council estate that she lived on with her mother in Camberley. At the beginning of 1992, Sharon was placed in the care of foster parents. The reasons for this aren’t publically known and Sharon returned to her home about a month later.

Around this time, just five miles away, Katie Rackliff was coming to terms with her first serious romantic relationship being over, and on Saturday 6 June, she went out with her friends and never returned home.

Two months after Katie Rackliff’s death, Sharon Carr returned to the foster home. It’s unclear how long she remained with her foster family, and little has been made public about her life at this time. In the spring of 1994, when Sharon would have been 14 or 15 years old, she was excluded from school on two occasions.

As the second anniversary of Katie’s still-unsolved murder approached, Sharon was back at Collingwood College, and on June 7, 1994, she launched the unprovoked attack on Anne-Marie Clifford. While serving her sentence for this crime, Sharon, now 15, confessed to attacking and killing Katie Rackliff.

The police interviewing Sharon in the young offenders’ institute wanted Sharon to show them how this had happened, so a reconstruction was arranged. Sharon reportedly laughed as she sat in the back seat of a car and demonstrated how she had stabbed Katie.

Sharon Carr was then arrested and charged with murdering Katie Rackliff in 1992.

Carr later recanted her confession but she had spoken of details that only the killer could have known. She had told the police that there had been a dog barking at the time of the murder and she had correctly described the graphic injuries Katie had sustained. She also confessed that she had stolen Katie’s bracelet. Although she didn’t provide the bracelet, a bracelet had been missing from Katie’s body and this information had been held back from the media and public.

During interviews Sharon had boasted that she had stabbed cats to death and that she had beheaded a dog; when police searched the common near her home, they found dozens of animal corpses which supported her claims.

When the police searched inside Carr’s home, they discovered diaries that she had written in the years after Katie was murdered. The diaries were full of references to the murder. An entry on June 7, 1995, the third anniversary of Katie’s death read,  “Killed KR. Death by knife wounds and sex go together.”

There’s no way to know exactly what happened in the early hours of June 7 1992 when Katie Rackliff’s life was so cruelly taken. In police interviews, Sharon Carr gave at least two versions before she recanted everything. In her first account, she claimed that she and two boys saw Katie walking alone in the early hours of 7 June, and they stopped to give her a ride. When Katie got in the vehicle, Carr said she stabbed her to death. In the second version, Carr claimed that one of the boys she was with had taken Katie down a lane and then an argument had broken out, and then she killed Katie.

Being just 12 years old at the time of the murder, Carr didn’t have a vehicle and couldn’t have driven, so what she was saying about there being other people must have been true. She must have had accomplices, but no one else was charged in connection with Katie’s murder.

Although there was no physical evidence to link Carr to Katie’s murder, the Crown Prosecution Service believed her detailed confession and the diaries she kept as tributes to Katie’s murder amounted to enough evidence for a conviction.

Sharon Carr’s trial was held in 1997 at Winchester Crown Court. During the month-long trial, Anne-Marie testified and was allowed to tell the jury of how Sharon had attacked her with a knife in the school bathroom.

Carr didn’t give evidence, but the jury heard how she had confessed to the police and saw the diaries she kept. In November 1995 Carr had written, “Last night it occurred to me that killing her did me good. I know what I am capable of and will do it again.” Below a sketch of a knife, another entry read, “Oh damn I’ve got a taste for red rum, and God I want to get drunk.” Even a month after she had been arrested for Katie’s murder, Carr had commemorated the anniversary of Katie’s death by writing, “Four years today!!!!”

On March 25, 1997, after nearly seven hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously found Carr guilty of murder. The verdict made Carr Britain’s youngest female murderer.

While sentencing her, Mr Justice Scott Baker told Carr, “The evidence suggests that you were not alone when you stabbed Katie Rackliff to death in June 1992. Who the others were and any part they played remains unclear. What is clear is that you had a sexual motive for this killing and it is apparent both from the brutal manner in which you mutilated her body and chilling entries in your diary recording what you had done that killing, as you put it, turns you on. You are in my view an extremely dangerous young woman.”

The judge gave her an indefinite sentence with a minimum of 14 years. In the UK, an indefinite sentence is a sentence that doesn’t have a fixed length. Instead, people who are handed this type of sentence spend a minimum length of time in prison before a parole board can decide that they are no longer a danger to the public and grant their release.

The judge lifted a previous order banning Carr from being named in the media, and she was taken to HMP Holloway.

Commenting on the verdict, Katie Rackliff’s father, Joseph, later told the press, “She should have been hanged. We’ll be grieving for the rest of our lives.”

Since her arrest for murder, Sharon Carr has been transferred numerous times due to her violence towards other patients and staff. At one point, she was diagnosed with schizoaffective emotionally unstable personality disorder and she spent time at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital. Carr experienced psychotic episodes and self-harmed, and would sometimes refuse to take her antipsychotic medication.

On July 8, 2019, the decision was made not to downgrade her Restricted Status. In the months before this decision was made, Carr had threatened to kill another inmate by ‘splitting her head open with a flask and throwing her down the stairs to snap her neck.’ In August 2019 Carr was transferred to HMP Bronzefield after a violent incident with another prisoner.

At the time of recording, Sharon Carr would be 42 or 43 years old and she remains in prison. She’s long passed her minimum tariff of 14 years, but her sentence has continued because she is still believed to be a danger to the public.

So, what do I think? Please remember that the following is my personal opinion and that I have no background in law or law enforcement.

This is obviously an awful crime, and, clearly, what makes it so shocking is the perpetrator’s gender and age when she committed this crime. It’s almost unheard of.

When I read that Sharon Carr is the youngest female murderer in Britain, I immediately thought of, and then Googled Mary Bell. Bell was convicted of in 1968 for the killings of two small boys, Martin Brown and Brian Howe, who were just 3 and 4 years old. At the time of the first killing, Mary Bell was just 10 years old. But she was convicted for two counts of manslaughter, not murder. Her accomplice, 13-year-old Norma Joyce Bell, was acquitted.

I’d like to know more about Carr’s accomplices; if Sharon revealed anything about them, or if the police had an idea of who they were, and if they did, why they weren’t charged.

When such violent crimes are committed by children, I think it reignites the question of nature vs nurture. It’s well reported that Sharon Carr’s childhood was far from idyllic. It was widely reported that she grew up in poverty, although to what extent is unknown. I couldn’t find any other information about Carr’s early life, but she was one of four children and none of their fathers seemed part of their lives. Having thrown hot oil over her then-husband, Carr’s mother was obviously very violent.

Her stepfather said, “Sharon was always listening, watching and witnessing violence. If you a cruel to a child, that child grows up learning to be cruel.”

I imagine that Carr’s life in UK was probably better off economically than their life in Belize, but likely not easy, and I’m certain they would have encountered a lot of racism. If she was drinking alcohol and taking drugs from the age of 11, that certainly would have had some effect on her developing brain. I don’t say any of this to excuse, her actions, but rather to understand how she came to taking them.

Something else that was mentioned throughout the newspaper reports following Carr’s conviction was what the Daily Mirror called her ‘Killer’s life of Voodoo’. Carr’s mother is said to have practiced voodoo and performed ritualistic animal sacrifices. Carr’s stepfather told the police that her mother claimed to have powers, and that “She reckoned that by reciting certain prayers, at certain times and in certain places, she could do people harm. Sharon believed in it.”

Carr had killed animals in her neighbourhood, as have quite a lot of other killers who never encountered Voodoo. I’m sure any religious beliefs Carr had are likely to have influenced her ideas surrounding death, but I don’t think the murder she committed had anything to do with Voodoo specifically. If it had, I’m sure she’d have mentioned it in her diaries.

Carr’s diary entries, which start when she was around 13 years old, show a level of violence that is definitely not typical of someone her age and I’m sure they would have had a powerful impact in court. I didn’t read out the worst of the diary entries I found because they really are quite disturbing. Many of the messages had extremely violent and violently sexual overtones that many would be shocked to hear from an adult, let alone a child.

However, some of her diary entries do seem to hint at some remorse. She wrote, “Look at me, I’m nothing but a disgrace, To my family, I shall no longer show my face. I am a sad specimen of human life. Oh, why did I use that knife.”

Due to Sharon Carr’s experience growing up and her behaviour at school, I do wonder whether more could have been done to avoid such a tragic outcome. Apart from brief mentions of her staying in a foster home, there is no indication of any other support she may have had from social services or any other organisation. She may well have received help and it just wasn’t reported on.

A recent appeal document stated that evidence suggested Carr, “formed intense relationships with females that turned into violent fantasies when thwarted.” In his sentencing comments, the judge said there was a sexual aspect to this crime, but I don’t know how much I agree with that, given that Sharon Carr and Katie Rackliff were strangers.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the injuries but Carr did make deliberate stab wounds to Katie Rackliff’s genitals, but I’m not so sure that that was sexual in nature, I think it was more to do with maybe jealousy. I found more than one claim that Carr attacked Katie due to jealousy and one of her own diary entries reads, “Nasty thoughts through the night, Pure jealousy makes me want to fight.”

Perhaps it was out of pure jealousy, but we really don’t know much about the two people she was with. They were driving and had a car from somewhere, so it’s likely that they were older than Sharon. For all we know, Sharon could have committed this murder to show how tough she was, or to prove herself in some way.

Overall, I find it unsettling that Carr’s accomplices weren’t found and held accountable and frightening to even try to comprehend what was going on in Sharon Carr’s 12-year-old mind to commit such a horrific crime.

All references to Carr being diagnosed with and given medication for mental illnesses referred to after her arrest for murder. Even if Carr was experiencing some form of mental illness prior to killing Katie Rackliff, she didn’t commit murder because of any mental illness. I’m sure any mental illness she had would have made her already bad circumstances more difficult to cope with, but mental illness is common and most people, with even the most serious of mental illnesses, don’t kill people.

If Sharon Carr is ever to be released, she must first prove that she’s no longer a danger to the public, and I just can’t see that happening any time soon. Even while locked up, she’s continued to pose a threat to those around her and I believe that while she is of able body, she probably always will.

Archived newspaper reports

  • Police step up search for cemetery maniac, Liverpool Echo, 08 June 1992
  • Woman killed in “frenzied” knife attack, Dundee Courier, 08 June 1992
  • Boy campers find sex murder victim, Daily Mirror, 08 June 1992
  • Three men sought in knife murder probe, Newcastle Journal, 09 June 1992
  • He faces quiz over two killings, Daily Mirror, 10 August 1992
  • Police confer on two women’s knife murders, Reading Evening Post 24 November 1992
  • Girl, 14, accused over knife attack at school, Evening Standard, June 9, 1994
  • Schoolgirl stabbed, The Guardian, June 9, 1994
  • Curry girl: I killed Katie, Daily Mirror, 05 March 1997
  • Teenage girl found guilty of Katie killing, Aberdeen Evening Express, 25 March 1997
  • She should be hanged, Daily Mirror, 26 March 1997
  • Youngest female murderer jailed, The Guardian, 26 March 1997