Leeds teenage killer's first court appearance at 11-years-old

Morgan Banks
Morgan Banks

THE TEENAGER who murdered his 17-year-old girlfriend in Leeds had been placed in local authority care aged ten-years-old and first appeared in court aged 11.

Morgan Banks, 18, of Whitfield Square, Hunslet, beat Sophie Smith to death at her flat in Tempset Road, Beeston in the early hours of October 14 2016.

Sophie Smith

Sophie Smith

Leeds Crown Court heard Banks falsely believed Miss Smith - the mother of his five-week-old baby son - was pregnant by another man.

Prosecutor, Michelle Colbourne said Morgan Banks had been taken into care aged 10 in 1999 after his father was jailed for ten years for assaulting his (Morgan Banks') mother.

The court heard Banks lived in various children's homes, was bullied and got involved in petty crime.

He was first before a court aged 11 for shoplifting and was sentenced to a detention and training order for robbery when he was 14-years-old.

He has been before the courts on 30 previous occasions for 49 offences.

Mis Colborne said: "The defendant was 14 and Sophie Smith 13 when they started to go out with one another. There is a history of previous assaults by him upon her over the years from 2012.

The court heard a Leeds City Council children's services social worker started working with Sophie Smith in May 2016 after a referral was made following a domestic incident when Sophie was pregnant.

Miss Colbourne said Sophie attended a meeting with the social worker on July 21, adding: "Sophie Smith was torn between a belief that the defendant would change once the baby was born. It was clear that she was committed to him and although she said she could not trust him, could not see herself with anyone but him."

The court heard their unborn child was placed on the child protection register and the social worker arranged for her and the baby to be housed in the Tempest Road flat.

A child protection conference was held and it was agreed that Banks should not be allowed contact with the baby unless another adult other than Sophie was present.

One the night of the killing a couple in a neighbouring flat heard a man and woman arguing and Sophie shouting say a long "No."

At 12.29 am a call was made from Sophie's phone to BT operator services. Miss Colborne said Sophie said "help me" when the operator asked her which service she required and then the call ended.

The operator called police and they called the mobile back and spoke with Sophie Smith, who said nothing had happened.

Miss Colborne said more than four hours later, Andrew Boothroyd was walking along Tempest Road when a shirtless and heavily bloodstained Banks approached him in a "Frenzied" state and asked him to call an ambulance.

Mitigating, Mark George QC, said: "He bitterly regrets what happened. He knows there are no excuses, but he wishes the court to know how profoundly sorry he is. He is aware of the grief and heartbreak he has caused to so many by this."

Mr George added: "He had a very difficult childhood with problems between his mother and father. His mother died when he was 14-years-of-age. He was put in care at 10 and first convicted at 11. He got little by the way of formal education."

Mr George said Banks, who admitted murder, had used the drug known as Spice, which has one side effect of causing paranoia.

Banks wept as the recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, sentenced him to life with a minimum 17-year term.

The judge said: “This attack was without any justification or any real reason. You suspected her of having relationships with other men.”

Judge Collier said Banks beat false admissions out of Miss Smith and continued attacking her because of those admissions.

The judge added: “It was a savage and dreadful attack but I’m not able to be sure that you intended to kill her.”

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Swift, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said after the court hearing: "Banks murdered Sophie Smith in a brutal and sustained attack while their baby was at the address. She was only 17-years- old and it has left her family utterly devastated that her life has been cut short in such sudden and violent circumstances.

"Banks' actions have shown him to be a very dangerous individual and we hope it will provide some reassurance to Sophie's family and to the wider community to know that he has now been sent to prison.

"Sophie's murder was within the context of an abusive relationship and it clearly illustrates the appallingly tragic consequences of domestic violence."