About 20 years ago, as a young journalist, I covered a court case concerning two teenage boys accused of savagely murdering one of their mates. They were aged 16 or 17 at the time, and they came from what we like to call “good families”. There were no drugs and no family violence involved, and they were all what police call “cleanskins”, meaning they had no previous criminal record. The murder was a crime of passion, motivated by the ringleader’s jealousy when he saw the victim flirting with his girlfriend. The younger of the two boys eventually confessed and pleaded guilty. The ringleader denied the crime and was sentenced, after a lengthy trial, to a 20-year jail term.

As tragic and horrific as the murder was, it was the relationship between the teenage killers that made the crime more complex. The older boy enjoyed a relationship of power over his co-accused. He made his younger friend do things he didn’t want to do. He hit him, made him shoplift, and ultimately drew him into a murder.

The bullying went unnoticed. As far as everyone knew, the two were close mates. The bully hid in plain sight. His behaviour was sly, calculating. It happened when they were alone, or on the sidelines of social gatherings when no one was looking. It grew worse over time, to the point the younger boy felt he couldn’t say no or walk away. It was only the catastrophic consequences that revealed what was going on.

This is an extract of a story which appeared in the 15 July 2023 edition of  The Saturday Paper. You can read more here.