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Another Slaying - This Time of Elderly Woman - Rocks Britain

March 10, 1993

LONDON (AP) _ Two 17-year-old girls have been jailed for torturing and butchering an elderly woman, less than three weeks after a pair of 10-year-olds were charged with murdering a toddler. Again, a troubled nation is asking, how could this happen?

Edna Phillips, 70, was throttled with her dog’s leash and stabbed or slashed 86 times. The mental images of the crime have shocked the nation just as the video pictures of little James Bulger being led to his death did last month.

″You are the evil products of the modern age,″ Judge Scott Baker said after sentencing Maria Rossi and Tina Molloy, two high school dropouts, to indefinite prison terms at Cardiff Crown Court in Wales.

The sentencing of two teen-agers for Miss Phillips’ murder has renewed public outrage over the upsurge in violent juvenile crime and put the spotlight on the plight of old people.

Miss Phillips, who was partially blind, had been tormented for years by one of her murderers, who lived next door.

″Clearly, with hindsight, everybody must ask the question, ‘Why was it that so many people around her clearly knew what was going on but did not take any action on her behalf?,″ said Ann Clwyd, the Labor Party lawmaker who represents Wales’ poverty-stricken Cynon Valley where Miss Phillips lived.

Six weeks before her death, Miss Phillips wrote to Mrs. Clwyd complaining that her house in a public housing project had been robbed of virtually everything that could be moved, and that police had not taken fingerprints..

She had previously complained that her neighbors were drunk, on drugs, and playing loud music, but they repeatedly told her that they couldn’t move her to another house despite incessant name-calling, rubbish dumped in her garden, and excrement smeared on her windows.

The details of her death last July 16 were only reported Monday, when the two 17-year-olds, who pleaded guilty to murder, were sentenced.

Prosecutor John Charles Rees said the two girls, high on drugs and alcohol, grabbed Miss Phillips as she called for her dog outside her house late in the evening, frogmarched her inside, and strangled her with the dog’s leash.

They repeatedly stabbed her in the chest and neck and slashed her face 35 times with a handyman’s knife, scissors and broken glass.

They also stamped on her body, breaking five ribs, broke her nose, and tried to scalp her before stealing 57 pounds 15 pence ($81.72) in pension money she had collected that day.

Rees said that Rossi, who had lived next door to her victim since she was a toddler, had breakfast with her family the next morning and sang ″We have killed Edna Phillips″ to the tune of ″The Wizard of Oz.″

The Independent, which published Miss Phillips’ letter to Mrs. Clwyd on the front page Wednesday, said in an editorial that the police and local council must accept a share of blame for her death.

″Yet the failure seems to go wider,″ the paper said. ″Old people are in their way as vulnerable as children. Yet there is no equivalent of the Children Act to protect them.″

Mrs. Clwyd said the social consequence of high unemployment in the depressed mining area contributed to the girls’ behavior.

Judge Baker, in sentencing the teen-agers, blamed other culprits.

″If as youngsters some discipline had been imposed upon you, whether in the home, at school or through the courts, you might not be standing in the dock for this dreadful offense,″ he said.

Defense attorneys said the girls had been drinking and taking drugs since they were 11. Rossi had previous convictions for burglary, theft and drugs, Molloy for criminal violence.

Antonio Rossi said drugs were too easily available to his daughter. But Daily Express columnist Jill Parkin noted that he said nothing about trying to stop her addictions.

″Parental responsibility is out of fashion these days,″ Parkin said.

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