Sarah Barrass (35) and her half-brother Brandon Machin (39) were sentenced by Sheffield Crown Court to life in prison with a minimum term of 35 years. Barrass and Machin had each admitted two counts of murder, conspiracy to murder six children, and five counts of attempted murder.
The couple lived together in Sheffield with their six children. The sexual relationship was a secret one and Barrass presented herself as a single mother supported by her brother. The children were unaware that Machin was their father. Barrass had reportedly told them that their father had died during the second world war.
Barrass and Machin shared the same mother. They had grown up together in a home where they suffered neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, eventually being taken into care.
They admitted to planning to kill all of their children to avoid them from being placed into care. They believed that the children would be ‘better off dead’ than in care.
Social services had been involved with the family leading up to the deaths of two of the children due to concerns about the behaviour of the children at home and at school. Social workers had also begun to ask questions as to the identity of the children’s father.
They strangled their eldest children Blake (14) and Tristan (13) and tried to drown a third child. They had initially given four of the children an overdose of ADHD tablets but when this did not work they searched online for other ways to kill her children, including suffocation, strangulation and drowning.
After the murders and the attempted murder of the younger child Barrass took the surviving children, who are all under 13, to the bedroom and phoned the police. Despite vomiting and hallucinations the younger children survived the attempt to kill them and recovered in intensive care.
The defence argued that Barrass loved her children and could not see any other option. She was ‘profoundly damaged by her childhood’.
This is an extremely sad and distressing case. It is accepted that parents who have been abused or neglected as children may be more liable to harm or mistreat their own children. There can, however, be no excuse for crimes of this nature which were described in Court as ‘nothing but evil’.
Written by Nicholas Leigh, associate, BLM