In upsetting scenes on Coronation Street this week, Nina Lucas and Seb Franklin will be left fighting for their lives after a brutal attack.
In a sickening twist, goth Nina and her boyfriend Seb are cornered by a gang of vile thugs and mercilessly beaten by a vile gang of drunken thugs led by prejudiced Corey Brent.
After having abuse hurled at her for the way she looks, Nina and Seb are chased in an unprovoked attack which leaves them battered and bruised in hospital.
The horrifying hate crime storyline is based on a real-life attack which resulted in the tragic death of teenager Sophie Lancaster, who was senselessly murdered simply because she looks different.
“I couldn’t believe it. Why on earth would someone want to attack that little girl who was so pleasant, so kind, so caring,” said Sophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster.
Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were walking in a park in Bacup, Lancs during the early hours of August 11, 2007 when they were beaten by a gang of teenagers.
Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris, both then aged 15, and four other teenage boys “savagely and mercilessly attacked” Robert.
Sophie, who was a gap-year student, rushed to help her boyfriend as he lay unconscious and shouted at his attackers to leave him alone.
Herbert and Harris then turned on her, subjecting her to a “sustained and vicious attack” which involved her head being kicked and stamped on until she too lost consciousness.
Describing how she felt after discovering her daughter had been attacked, mum Sylvia said: “It just didn’t make any sense. And [Sophie’s boyfriend] Rob was a very kind, very creative soul and I think that’s your initial reaction – ‘What on earth?’ And then obviously ‘Are they ok? Will they be ok?’ It’s very confusing really. You just aren’t able to take it in really.”
Tragically, Sophie never regained consciousness and died in hospital 14 days later.
Herbert pleaded guilty to murder at the start of the trial at Preston Crown Court in March 2008 and was given a life sentence.
He also admitted assault causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Robert and was given a minimum term of 16 years and three months – later reduced to 15-and-a-half years on appeal.
In February last year, Herbert had his tariff cut to 14-and-a-half years as a High Court judge concluded he has made “exceptional progress” in jail.
Harris, who was found guilty of murder and admitted the attack on Robert, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.
Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell of Lancashire Police said it was one of the most violent murders he had come across in his career
He added: “They have just done it without thinking, but they seemed to have enjoyed it, and carried on remorselessly kicking at two very defenceless people who were unable to protect themselves because of the level of violence inflicted upon them.”
Sophie’s mum Sylvia set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation in her daughter’s memory to focus on creating respect and understanding of subcultures.
When the storyline was first discussed producers and the research team approached Sylvia, who was delighted to be able to work with them to help highlight the issue.
“I know first-hand the abuse, harassment and violence that alternative people suffer,” she explained to The Mirror.
“Hate crime is usually directed at already stigmatised and minority groups and Sophie was assaulted three times before that final, sustained and brutal attack that took her life – but she never reported the earlier assaults.
” Coronation Street covering this issue means such a huge amount to me. We want alternative people to know that they shouldn't be putting up with this prejudice and intolerance, and they should report it.
“We want the wider community to really appreciate the horror of this violence and understand that difference in itself, is not frightening, it just makes us all who we are.
“We will also use this platform to continue raising awareness of Sophie's case with the police and judiciary to make sure that hate crime against alternative people is recognised and treated with the degree of severity that it deserves.”
Sylvia used to watch Corrie with Sophie and revealed her daughter would be “astonished” and “a bit giggly” that her mum was working with her favourite soap.
Actress Mollie Gallagher, who plays Nina, spoke with Sylvia as part of the diligent research into the hard-hitting storyline.
“It was lovely to speak to Mollie [Gallagher] and to actually see that she’s quite alternative in real life when she’s not playing Nina,” explained Sylvia.
“But what I thought interestingly was that people have taken Nina to their hearts and that’s obviously lovely to see.
“Because people are looking behind the image, they’re looking behind the clothes and they’re seeing the person, which is a massive part of the work that we’re doing, trying to get people to see that underneath all of this, that they’re just people same as you or I. And that is really important.”
Mollie was pleased that Sylvia shared her story with her as she wanted what viewers will see on screen to be a as accurate a reflection of hate crime as possible.
“Because this stuff has happened it's such an important story to tell. I felt a lot of emotions. I am really privileged to be given such an important storyline but I am also nervous because I want to do the story justice,” said Mollie.
“I have really put my all into it and hopefully it shows. You see the human effect this has on someone who you would say is strong.
“Knowing this has happened and does happen breaks my heart.”
Mollie admitted she wanted to cry as soon as she was made up to look battered before filming the intense scenes.
She added: “I knew it would look awful but when you are sat there, it is a really strange moment. I saw myself in that way and so I held that feeling [in the scenes] which was a massive help.”
Corrie boss Ian MacLeod has revealed that the powerful storyline was planned more than a year ago and has been steadily building up.
“It was very important to work with Sylvia and the foundation. It's a powerful story that still needs telling,” he said.
The Corrie boss has discussed the importance of tackling this storyline and where it is going in the future.
“The issue of intolerance and hatred towards people from different cultures and subcultures is arguably more relevant now than it's ever been,” MacLeod added.
“This incredibly hard-hitting storyline, which centres on a senseless act of violence, will draw in characters from all corners of our narrative universe and will, we hope, leave the audience with a clear message: everyone, regardless of how they look, how they dress or any aspect of how they live their life, should be treated with tolerance and respect.
“The story will run across the rest of the year and beyond, with many twists and turns, and will be heartbreaking and dramatic in equal measure. In the end, the story will see an optimistic outcome emerge from the traumatic attack.”
*Coronation Street airs tonight on ITV at 7.30pm and 8.30pm
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