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Olly Stephens

The murder of Olly Stephens is a tragic and alarming event that has shocked the UK. Olly, a 13-year-old boy, was fatally stabbed in a park in the town of Emmer Green, near Reading, in January 2021.

Olly Stephens

The killing of a child is always a horrific event, but the circumstances surrounding Olly’s murder have made it all the more shocking. Reports suggest that Olly was attacked by a group of teenagers who had previously been his friends in what appears to have been an entirely unprovoked attack.

The murder of Olly Stephens has raised several important questions about the nature of violence in society, particularly among young people. It has also highlighted the need for better support and mental health services for children and young people, many of whom have struggled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We must be aware of the events surrounding Olly Stephens’ murder to shed light on this tragic event and raise awareness of the urgent need for action to address the root causes of youth violence and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Olly Stephens (1 November 2007 – 3 January 2021) was a 13-year-old schoolboy who was fatally stabbed in a field close to his home in Reading on the 3rd January 2021.

The subsequent police investigation found that he had been lured to the field by a 14-year-old girl, where he was attacked by two boys aged 13 and 14, the younger of whom was armed with a knife.

In July 2021, the two boys were each convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 12 and 13 years imprisonment.
The girl who lured Stephens to the field pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to be detained in a young offender institution for three years and two months, later increased on appeal.

The murder attracted considerable media attention, in no small part due to the young ages of both the victim and the perpetrators. Considerable scrutiny was paid to the role played by social media and knife culture in the attack, with Stephens’ parents subsequently calling for more stringent regulation of social media companies.

As they are under 18, none of Stephens’ assailants may be named or otherwise identified under British law.

BBC Panorama: A social media murder: Olly’s story

Thirteen-year-old Olly Stephens left home for the final time on a Sunday afternoon in January 2021, telling his parents he was meeting a friend nearby. Fifteen minutes later, he had been murdered. Lured out by a teenage girl and stabbed to death by two teenage boys she had met online, the entire attack was planned on social media and triggered by a dispute on a chat group. With exclusive access to Olly’s parents Amanda and Stuart, Panorama reporter Marianna Spring investigates the violent and disturbing world their son had been exposed to online and follows their campaign for tighter regulations on harmful content.

“Social media is not guilty of the murder, but it did nothing to protect him, and without it he’d still be here.”

It was only after Olly Stephens was murdered, in a field outside his home in Reading, that his mum and dad realised the violent and disturbing world their son had been exposed to through his phone.

For BBC Panorama, reporter Marianna Spring investigates the role social media played in his death and exposes how a 13-year-old’s social media accounts can be recommended violent videos and knives for sale

Last January, Amanda and Stuart Stephens watched their son from separate windows as he left home, not realising it would be the last time. Olly wandered over to a field, Bugs Bottom, opposite their house – sliders on his feet, his phone in hand.

Fifteen minutes later, he had been murdered.

That phone he was holding would provide the answers to what had happened.

Olly was stabbed to death by two teenage boys in a field behind his house, after they recruited a girl online to lure him there. The entire attack had been planned on social media and triggered by a dispute in a social media chat group.

His parents were shocked to discover the murky world of violence and hate that their son and his friends had inhabited through their phones.

I decided to investigate the role social media played in what happened to Olly – and what 13-year-olds like him are being exposed to.

“They hunted him, tracked him and executed him through social media,” Stuart tells me as we sit together on their sofa in their home in Reading.

“Social media is not guilty of the murder, but it did nothing to protect him, and without it he’d still be here.”

“No action was taken against a post showing off a knife on 13-year-old’s account on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat”

After running our dummy account experiment for two weeks, with it liking and following content suggested across the social media sites, as well as his original interests – the results were striking:

  • On Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, our 13-year-old account was recommended content such as people showing off knives, knives for sale and posts glorifying violence
  • When we used our profile to actively look for anti-knife crime content, the 13-year-old’s account was exposed to pro-knife groups, videos and pages on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube
  • No action was taken against a post showing off a knife on 13-year-old’s account on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. Tik Tok, however, did remove the content for violating its guidelines on dangerous acts, and the account was warned it was close to being suspended

We Don’t Carry #LivesNotKnives

We Don’t Carry #LivesNotKnives is our anti-knife crime campaign that gives you the facts on the dangers of carrying knives. We want to let you know that it’s never too late to make a positive change.