Image of the murder weapon

A 16-year-old girl is facing a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of murdering her teenage rival with a steel Afro comb.

Rebecca Douglas, who was 15 at the time, plunged the sharpened end of the comb into the head of Julie Sheriff, 16, during a row in Battersea, south London, in May last year. The girls had been arguing over “malicious gossip involving boys” on social networks accessed on mobile phones.

Rebecca Douglas was just 15 when she killed Julie Sheriff. Photograph: Metropolitan Police

A witness to the attack said it sounded “like the noise it makes when we kill a goat back home.” Sheriff, from Hackney, east London, suffered bleeding to the brain and remained in a coma for nearly five months but never regained consciousness. She died in-hospital on September 21 last year.

Jurors, at Britain’s highest criminal court, the Old Bailey, heard that the comb had been taken out of Julie’s red weave hairstyle before being used as a lethal weapon in the attack.

Judge Nicholas Cooke spoke out as he sentenced Douglas to at least 10 years for the murder. He warned parents to be mindful of the dangers of young girls wearing such combs as “fashion accessories.”

“We heard evidence that a pintail comb can be used as a lethal weapon,” he said. “We heard it can be worn in the hair as a fashion accessory. It can be as effective a killing instrument as a stiletto knife. It is not a very nice thing to have in your hair.”

Judge Cooke said Douglas, who had been sleeping rough at friends’ houses, killed Julie with “hate-filled fury.”

“Your victim died a long, lingering death some months after you attacked her,” the judge told Douglas. “You took possession of the pintail comb and struck out in fury.”

Jonathan Kinnear, defending Douglas, said she had had a traumatic and violent childhood but had not meant to kill Julie.

After Douglas was arrested, it was discovered that she left a BlackBerry message saying: “I see some girl that I hate, like I actually hate her with a passion, and I kind of stabbed her.”

The victim’s family moved from Sierra Leone to Britain in 2006 where her father, Raouf Sheriff, was a policeman.

“I am left to wonder why I brought her here and if I hadn’t, she would still be alive,” he said in a statement. “The result of seeing my beautiful, bubbly, brilliant daughter bedridden and in a vegetative state has left me extremely depressed,” he added. “The attack on my daughter was wicked, savage and senseless.”

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