25 years for killing teenage boy
A teenager who stabbed to death a 14-year-old boy he met while playing online video games has been sentenced to life with a minimum 25 years in jail.
Computer engineer Lewis Daynes, 19, pleaded guilty to the murder of Breck Bednar, from Caterham, Surrey, who was found with a fatal neck wound at a flat in Grays, Essex, on February 17 last year.
Today Mrs Justice Cox sentenced him at Chelmsford Crown Court for the "sexual and sadistic" killing.
Prosecutors told the court Daynes groomed Breck through an online gaming community which he ran, before inviting him to his home, slitting his throat and sending pictures of his body to friends.
Shortly before the death, Daynes engaged in sexual activity with his victim.
Mrs Justice Cox said: "Having lured the young victim to your flat, you murdered him.
"You had befriended Breck and a number of other adolescent friends through an online community.
"Your contact with Breck increased in a sinister way.
"The precise details of what happened in your flat are unclear and may never be known.
"I'm sure that this murder was driven by sadistic or sexual motivation."
Earlier, the judge lifted restrictions which prevented the reporting of five other counts that Daynes faced.
These included rape, attempted rape and two counts of engaging a person in sexual activity without consent and one of possessing indecent images. Daynes has denied these offences, which are said to have happened in 2011 when both he and the alleged victim were both 15.
It is understood the offences were reported to Essex Police at the time and he was arrested but officers decided not to take any action. They were then re-investigated as part of the murder inquiry and he was charged.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction as the victim had since refused to give evidence and the case will not be proceeded with.
The matter has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating this along with other matters raised about both Essex and Surrey Police by the Bednar family.
Breck's mother, Lorin LaFave, 47, contacted Surrey Police two months before the murder to raise concerns about Daynes's increasingly controlling online behaviour and the handling of this call forms part of the family's complaint.
Speaking after the hearing, she said: "When a person calls into a police number, you want a sense of security that somebody on the other end is taking it on board - you don't phone the police for fun.
"I don't know where it went wrong but that's what I want the investigation to find out."
Breck's father, oil futures trader Barry Bednar, 50, also attended today's hearing.
In a statement read to the court, he said he had lost his "joy and hope" and had been left a "shell of a man, wracked by grief".
He added: "He was too young to experience the pain and fear he must have gone through."
Ms LaFave has since launched the Breck Bednar Memorial Foundation and is distributing wristbands with the slogan Play Virtual/Live Real to highlight the dangers of meeting strangers online.
Daynes, of Rosebery Road, Grays, previously denied murder but changed his plea on the day he was due to stand trial.
The day before the murder was the first time the pair had met in person, but the court heard Daynes had groomed Breck through the online community dedicated to war games, including Call Of Duty and Battlefield.
He had sought to control him and encouraged him to isolate himself from his family, Mr Whittam said.
After slitting his victim's throat, Daynes sent pictures of the fatally injured body to two friends.
"Only one person remains who knows what happened," Mr Whittam added.
"A pizza was ordered and delivered. The next contact with anyone outside the flat was the following morning."
The nature of Breck's injuries meant death would have been "very rapid", Mr Whittam said.
Daynes made a 999 call and claimed Breck had tried to take his own life and, as he struggled to restrain him, he accidentally stabbed him in the neck. While remanded in prison, he later changed this story, saying two masked men were responsible.
In the months before his death, Breck, who had triplet siblings aged 13, became surly and isolated and his family were concerned at Daynes's attempts to control his behaviour.
Mr Whittam said Daynes sought to control all members of the gaming group and had promised Breck "great wealth" through a fictional software company.
"Daynes was the dominant party and exercised his power by barring would-be participants from his server when they displeased him," he said.
Simon Mayo QC, mitigating, said Daynes had Asperger's syndrome which "affects his ability to make sound judgments".
He added that Daynes did not accept that his behaviour had been sexual and sadistic.
Mr Mayo said: "There is insufficient evidence for the court to conclude that there was a significant degree of premeditation and planning for murder."
He said his client had been in care and felt rejected and isolated from his family.
Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Anne Cameron, from Essex Police, said: "Lewis Daynes has now been exposed as the dangerous and manipulative criminal that he is.
"He used his substantial computer expertise and his knowledge of the world of social media to control everyone he came into contact with in his virtual world."
She added that he "coerced and controlled" vulnerable teenage boys to exploit them.
"Tragically, his downward spiral of depravity went even further and ended in the brutal murder of Breck Bednar, an innocent 14-year-old boy who had placed his trust in a man he considered to be a friend," Ms Cameron said.
"Sadly, Daynes abused that trust in the most horrific way possible."
Daynes submerged his computer equipment in water in an attempt to destroy evidence, the force said.
But officers pieced together a picture of his behaviour by speaking to other members of the online community and examining their computers.
Information about the Breck Bednar Memorial Foundation can be found at www.breckbednar.com.
Outside court, Ms LaFave urged parents to use the case as a reason to speak to their children about the dangers of online predators.
She added that systems should be put in place so that police forces can better share information and deal with concerns about worrying behaviour on the internet more effectively.