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Woman murdered sons ‘amid fears they would be taken into care’

Sarah Barrass and Brandon Machin are facing sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court.

Sarah Barrass and Brandon Machin (South Yorkshire Police/PA)
Sarah Barrass and Brandon Machin (South Yorkshire Police/PA)

By Amy Murphy and Henry Clare, PA

A woman murdered two of her sons because she feared they would be taken into care, a court has heard.

Sarah Barrass, 35, hatched a plan along with family member Brandon Machin, 39, to take the lives of her six children.

Tristan Barrass, 13, and his 14-year-old brother Blake died after being strangled by the pair at a property in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield on May 24, and having bin bags placed over their heads.

A court heard that, prior to the killings, Barrass and Machin had given four of her children tablets against their will.

The pair also tried to kill one of the younger children by attempting to drown them in a bath.

Barrass and Machin have each admitted two counts of murder, conspiracy to murder six children and five counts of attempted murder, and are being sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court on Tuesday.

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Floral tributes outside the property in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield where Blake Barrass, 14, and his 13-year-old brother Tristan died (Dave Higgens/PA)

Outlining details of the case, prosecutor Kama Melly QC said that visitors to the family home would hear Barrass tell her children: “I gave you life, I can take it away.”

Miss Melly added that, on May 23 this year, the two defendants gathered up tablets from around Barrass’s home and divided them among the four eldest children, expecting them to die.

The barrister said: “None of the children wanted to take the tablets but were forced to do so.”

The court heard that Barrass sent messages and made social media postings overnight claiming that the youngsters were suffering from a sickness bug.

But when she realised that the tablets had not had the effect she wanted, she began to search for information on the internet about alternative methods of murdering her children, including suffocating, strangulation and drowning.

She then called Machin to tell him that their sick plot had failed, the court heard.

Miss Melly went on: “They decided the children were better off dead than in care and he said he would help Sarah Barrass to the best of his ability.

“Barrass and Machin first strangled Blake, then Tristan, then placed bin bags over their heads to ensure their certain death.”

The court heard that Barrass had strangled Tristan by wrapping her dressing gown cord around his neck and pulling on it for around three minutes, while Machin strangled Blake with his hands.

Following the murders and the attempted murder of the younger child who was placed in a bath, the mother took the surviving children, who are all under the age of 13, to the bedroom and phoned the police.

Barrass has previously been warned that she could be given a whole-life jail term for her crimes.

The court heard how she had requested help with the children from the local authority, and had texted a friend to say: “I’ve thought of every possible solution to this mess. Mass murder, putting them all in care, checking in to the local nut house.

“I love my kids too much to kill them, I can’t put them into care for the same reason.”

Her defence, Bryan Cox QC, said that she was “profoundly damaged by her childhood”.

The court heard that Barrass told police she planned to kill the younger two children and herself after the older four had died.

She described how the children were “terrified” as she tried to make them take the tablets and the child she tried to drown was “hysterical”.

PA

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