Woman and her half-brother jailed for life for murdering two of their sons
A woman and her half-brother have been jailed for life for the murders of their two sons.
Sarah Barrass and Brandon Machin both received life sentences with a minimum term of 35 years for the murder of their two sons Blake and Tristan Barrass, aged 14 and 13 respectively. They also planned to murder their four other children.
Both had pleaded guilty at a court hearing in September to two counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to murder relating to Blake and Tristan along with four other children in the family, all aged under 13, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that Barrass, 35, of Gregg House Road, Shiregreen, and her half brother Machin, 39, of Burngreave Road, had been in a secret sexual relationship for many years.
In the weeks leading up to the murders, the half siblings had grown concerned their "unnatural" relationship was going to be exposed and the children would be put into care due to questioning by social services.
Kama Melly QC, prosecuting, said: "It is the Crown's case that although clearly the defendants were motivated to prevent the loss of their children to the care of the local authority, this was combined with their fear of the authorities becoming aware of their unnatural relationship."
Together, the pair subsequently concocted a plan to kill all six of their children, who lived with Barrass at the family home on Gregg House Road, before Barrass would kill herself. The plan was for Machin to discover what had happened and raise the alarm.
On the evening of May 23, Barrass started to put the plan into action.
Ms Melly said: "Tablets from around the house were gathered up and divided between the four oldest children. None of the children wanted to take the tablets but were forced to do so - their mother insisting on it. The defendants expected the tablets to kill the children overnight."
Barrass tried to cover her tracks by sending messages to friends and posting on social media saying the household had been struck by a sickness bug.
The children were ill throughout the night but the drugs they had been given - which included ADHD medication - would not have caused a fatal overdose, the court heard.
Early the next morning, around 5am, Barrass called Machin to tell him to come over as "it had not worked", and as he was in a taxi to the house evidence shows she researched other methods of murder online.
After Machin arrived, Blake and Tristan were both strangled.
Before the alarm was raised by a friend Sarah had been messaging, the pair also attempted to drown one of the boys' siblings in a bath.
Police arrived on the scene at 7.45am and immediately began attempts to revive Blake and Tristan. Sadly, despite the very best efforts of police and the other emergency services, they died.
The four other children, two of whom are under three and two under 13, were taken to hospital and released later the same day.
At a court hearing on September 27, the two defendants pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to murder relating to Blake and Tristan along with their four siblings, who cannot be named for legal reasons. For these offences they were given concurrent life sentences with a minimum of ten years.
Chief Superintendent Stuart Barton, District Commander for Sheffield, said after the hearing: "Today the judicial process has taken its course and the judge has made his decision on the outcomes for those that were responsible for the events on 24 May 2019, a day that will be in the memory of many for all the wrong reasons.
"I am not here to comment on those sentences but there are a few things I would like to say today.
"Firstly, thank you to all those who have helped our investigating officers over the difficult last few months. I know it hasn’t been easy for loved ones, and you have been in the minds of the entire South Yorkshire Police family.
"We continue to work with partners to ensure any of the young people affected by this incident are given specialist support and the right direction in life as they move forward.
"Incidents like this are fortunately, extremely 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.
"On a final note I want to thank the press for their support in the reporting of this matter in sometimes difficult circumstances. Your support and understanding has been much appreciated by the family."