January 13, 2020
“Mummy, you won’t kill or hurt me, will you?”
How Shiregreens Children Are Coming To Terms With A Barbaric Double Murder
Hearing her daughter’s words, Sam Parker felt her heart wrench. These were not thoughts that should plague a 10-year-old girl.
But an unimaginable tragedy on their doorstep has left children and young people in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield struggling with some existential questions.
Teenagers Tristan and Blake Barrass were killed by their own parents – incestuous couple Sarah Barrass and Brendon Machin – in May. The rest of the country has simply labelled the case “The Shiregreen Murders”.Barrass, 35, and Machin, 39, were jailed for a minimum of 35 years in November after admitting two counts of murder; conspiracy to murder all six of their children, including Tristan and Blake; and five counts of attempted murder.Unknown to Barrass’s six children, Machin – her half-brother – was their father. They had been told their dad was dead.
Fearing their children would be taken into care, the couple hatched a plan to kill them.
Sheffield Crown Court heard how Barass would regularly tell the family: “I gave you life, I can take it away.”
First, she tried to kill her four eldest children by collecting tablets and forcing them to swallow them, the court heard.
When it became apparent the plan had failed, she began to search online for other ways of murdering them including suffocation, strangulation and drowning.
She contacted Machin to tell him the children were still alive, and the pair strangled the two older boys – Tristan, 13, and Blake, 14. They then ran a bath and repeatedly tried to drown one of the younger children, but failed.
Following the murders and attempted murder, Barrass took the surviving children into her bedroom and called the police. Barrass told police she had planned to kill the two younger children and herself after the older four had died.
For those living in the Shiregreen community, this is not just a grisly news story but a reality. The media and television crews have disappeared since the conclusion of the case, but families and young people are still living with the repercussions.
To outside appearances, Barrass was a single mum with six children who was heavily supported by her half-brother Machin.
Mother of four Sam Parker, 31, told HuffPost UK parents have tried to shield their children from the frightening nature of the teenagers’ deaths, but it is an impossible task.
Sam has three children at Hartley Brook Primary School, where the air ambulance landed following the tragedy.
It is also where Barrass and Machin’s younger children were being educated.
“It has shaken everybody around here up,” said Sam. “It is sick that parents could do that to their own kids.
“It hits children particularly hard and it makes them question everything. Even as an adult, it makes you question humanity and what people are capable of.
“It makes you want to keep your own children close to you and safe and you realise you don’t know what is going on behind closed doors.”Kerry Corbridge, 45, works at the nearby Jack’s Plaice chippy.
“We bring them up not to talk to strangers,” she told HuffPost UK, “but you think they’d be safe with their own parents.
“It will affect children. They don’t expect kids their own age to die suddenly in such a horrible way.”
The tragedy is something that will ripple through the community for a long time, said Kerry. Months on from the deaths, people still come into the chip shop discussing it.
“It is not something people are going to get over quickly,” she added.
Many in the community lay the blame at the foot of social services, saying staff should have realised the children were at risk – but Kerry doesn’t share these sentiments.
“Social services were on to her.” she said of Barrass. “I think the reason she did it was because they were digging too deep. She was worried they would find out he was her brother.” How a mother can deliberately end the life of children she brought into the world is something Susan Allen cannot comprehend.
Susan, who works at Queenies Chippy and the local shop Allen, has a 21-year-old son of her own.
“Most people would die for their kids, not kill them,” she said. “What they did was completely unnatural.
“When you give birth to a  baby, you have unconditional love for that child. How can a mother have the mindset to think: ‘I want to kill my child?’ Even if she felt that way, why didn’t she get help?
“We are all shocked and upset and can’t understand how someone from this community could be so wicked and cruel.”
Susan told HuffPost UK Machin used to come into the shop where she works to buy cigarettes and bread, and she would cheerily greet him like she does all her customers.
Shrugging her shoulders in bewilderment, she said:  “He was just friendly and like a normal person. I was shocked when I found out it was him.”Lyndsey Prie, 31, who has five children and a step-daughter, says her partner worked as a security guard with Machin for a few years and was quite friendly with him.
“My other half was shocked and felt really bad when he found out what had happened,” she said. “He thought Brandon was perfectly fine. It just shows you never really know someone.
“I think there will be a lasting effect on some children. It will make them afraid that parents who are supposed to look after and care for you can kill you.
“I had to explain to my own children that [Barrass and Machin] were bad people to do that to their kids.
“I feel sorry for the kids who lost their lives and their siblings who survived. With parents like that, they didn’t stand a chance.” Student Chloe Mahmood, 16, went to Firth Park Academy with Tristan and Blake Barrass.
Although the two boys were in years below her, she spent time with Tristan as part of the INSPIRE project for mental health and well being.
“When you have anxiety and mental health issues, you have time out together,” she explained.
“Tristan was quite a nervous person and had some troubles and issues and would sometimes get picked on. But he was such a loving and caring person and did nice things such as dye his hair to raise money for Children In Need. 
“I was just about to leave for a school trip for the weekend when I heard what had happened. It really upset me and I started crying.
“I was friends with Tristan and we used to talk as we had the anxiety in common. It upset a lot of people in school.”
Outside Firth Park Academy is a white bench decorated with blue ribbons and flowers in the boys’ memory. Behind closed doors, the school has been offering counselling to pupils affected by their murder.Such a tragedy can leave a lasting mark on young people, says psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, and it is important they get the support they need.
Dr Gummer is the founder of Fundamentally Children, which is dedicated to promoting the value of play in healthy childhoods.
If children ask a question, they should always be given an answer and their fears and anxieties shouldn’t be fobbed off, she told HuffPost UK.
“Thankfully, these kinds of incidents are very rare,” she said.
“But it is really hard for a parent when a child turns around and asks: ‘You’re not going to kill me, are you?’”
Dr Gummer advised: “Don’t belittle their worries and acknowledge their fears. Say things like: ‘Come and give me a hug,’ and tell them you couldn’t hurt someone you love so much.
“Highlight the differences between your family and a family who clearly had psychopathic behaviour. Emphasise how rare it is and talk about the positives around your own family and how something like that would not happen in your home.”
However, Dr Gummer says, parents shouldn’t make false promises. “Tell them that bad things do happen in the world and that is really sad, but you will try to keep them as safe as possible.”
Giving age-appropriate information is also important, and Dr Gummer says parents shouldn’t overload youngsters with unnecessary information and make things more horrendous for them if they don’t ask for a certain level of detail.
At the other end of the spectrum are children who knew the young people directly. In some cases, their parents might want to consider professional therapy. Even if they seem fine at first, they can have a delayed reaction.
“If you break your leg and don’t treat it, it won’t heal and you will always limp,” she reasoned. “In the same way, if you experience an emotional trauma, the sooner it is dealt with, the less long-term the impact.”The house where the family lived, and where the horrific events unfolded, is boarded up and empty.
In the immediate aftermath of the murders, it was a sea of floral tributes; among them was one left by Chloe.
Now, a lone vase of flowers stands outside the gate with the words: “Tristan and Blake, never to be forgotten.”
Posters featuring photographs of the teenagers are stuck on the boards alongside a photo of birds being released in their memory.The house is within close proximity of both Hartley Brook Primary School, where the younger Barrass children went, and Firth Park Academy itself.
Many parents and children walk past the property every day. It is a permanent reminder of the horrors that occurred within and the children who lost their lives.“It sends a shiver down my spine whenever I walk past that house,” admitted Caitlin Pearson, 28, who has a four-year-old son at school nearby.
“Ideally, I’d like to see it knocked down, but I don’t think that will happen as it is attached to other houses.”
Sanctuary Housing, the landlord, said no decisions about the future of the house had yet been made.
Caitlin added: “The whole tragedy has put a downer on the community and it is like a dark cloud has descended.
“We need positive vibes and to look out for each other to get through it. It has scared a lot of young people and opened their eyes to the fact that parents can be capable of terrible things.”A neighbour, who didn’t wish to be named, told us: “It is terrible living on the same street as where something so awful happened.
“Every time you go out and see that house all boarded up, it brings it all back and it’s horrible.”
He added: “The pair who did it want hanging.”
Shiregreen is a close-knit working class community. Even those who didn’t personally know the two boys recognise them – particularly Tristan, who was distinguishable by his bright blue hair.Joanne Norfolk, who works at Queenies Chippy, remembers serving the two boys who died when they were younger.
“They were lovely lads and had good manners,” she said. “They were polite and always smiling. I remember them for their bright hair colours.
“Those two little boys would still be here if it wasn’t for their parents.”
Another woman, who works in the Co-op store at Shiregreen but didn’t wish to be named, said: “I remember serving those boys when they came to buy sweets. It makes you feel so sad that two people so young with their whole life ahead of them had it ended deliberately. It is a waste of life.”
Sheffield City Council has initiated a serious case review into the murders. It’s expected to take up to six months.
John Macilwraith, the town hall’s executive director of people services, said: “We need to understand, alongside all partners in the city, as much as we can about why and how  these tragic events happened, as much as it is ever possible to understand such a terrible act.”
Chief Superintendent Stuart Barton, district commander for Sheffield, said South Yorkshire Police were working to help young people affected by the incident get specialist support.
He said: “Incidents like this are fortunately rare. Sheffield is a place where people care for each other – a place where they look out for each other and a place that has community at its core.”
Sure enough, people in Shiregreen have united in their grief to raise money in memory of the boys.
Chantelle Needham, 32, a mum-of-two who works in the One Stop Shop, put out a donations box to help with the cost of the funeral.
She was amazed when the community donated £3,000.
But when she contacted funeral director Michael Fogg to hand over the money, he told her he wouldn’t take a penny and would meet the funeral costs himself. Instead, the money was put into four separate accounts for the surviving siblings.
Hundreds of motorcyclists and two Lamborghinis led the boys’ funeral cortege into the crematorium in August, in honour of their love of bikes and cars.
“Everyone pulled together,” said Chantelle. “You don’t realise how strong a community is until something like this happens. You don’t need to be recognised for it – you just do it as a human being.”Mention the name Soham and many will think first – or only – of the murders of 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Say Dunblane and people remember the mass shooting of children at a primary school.
Elected in 1972, Peter Price is Sheffield’s longest serving councillor. He hopes Shiregreen won’t be similarly tarred by association with a tragedy he described as “horrendous” and “beyond comprehension”.
“A tragedy like this is bound to taint a community,” he said. “It is a terrible loss for everyone and it will be particularly hard for young people as it makes them realise how fragile life is.
“Shiregreen has its problems like all estates, but it is a super place and was a nice and settled estate before this happened.
“I am very proud of the way the community has rallied together and done things in memory of the children, and they handled things with dignity when the media and TV crews descended.
“I am full of admiration for the Shiregreen community for how they have coped in the aftermath of this tragedy. I am convinced the people who live here will continue to pull together and heal in time from these tragic events.”Related... Shiregreen Parents Jailed For Murdering Sons And Plotting To Kill Their Other Children Bikers Lead Funeral For Teenage Brothers Killed In Shiregreen Sarah Barrass Pleads Guilty To Murdering Her Two Teenage Sons
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