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Student admitted step-grandmother’s murder in truth or dare game

|News, Violent crime , Youth crime

A 21-year-old man was jailed for life today at Preston Crown Court for murdering his step-grandmother.

94-year-old Mary Gregory had dementia and lived alone in Heysham, Lancashire. Tiernan Darnton was a regular visitor to his step-grandmother’s house, his stepfather being the son of Mary Gregory.

A neighbour raised the alarm in the early hours of the 28th May 2018, when she looked out of her window and saw the flames at Mrs Gregory’s house.

Firefighters attended and found Mrs Gregory in the conservatory unconscious and suffering from smoke inhalation. She was treated by paramedics at the scene and treated at hospital but passed away in Royal Lancaster Hospital four days later, on the 1st June 2021.

At the time, It was determined that the fire leading to Mrs Gregory’s death was an accident, until Darnton’s counsellor contacted the police almost 12 months after the incident, saying that Darnton had admitted setting fire to the curtains at his step-grandmothers house and causing the fire which led to her death.

The subsequent investigation found that Darnton, who was 17 at the time of the murder, had disclosed to some college friends, during a truth or dare game, that he “had a secret he hadn’t told anyone” and “may have killed someone”. When pressed, he told his friends that he had killed his grandmother, then swore them to secrecy.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also produced evidence in court relating to Google searches done by Darnton following Mrs Gregory’s death, such as: ‘Murderer filled with despair’ and ‘under 18 murderer'.

Despite the weight of evidence against him, Darnton denied the truth from the outset, but the CPS were able to prove that he murdered Mary Gregory.

Darnton was convicted following a nine-day trial at Preston Crown Court. He was sentenced the following day, on 12th November 2021, to detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure, with a minimum term of 15 years.

Victoria Agulló, Senior Crown Prosecutor at CPS North West said: "Tiernan Darnton deliberately started a fire in his step-grandmother's house. He then unplugged her phone so she could not call for help and disabled a smoke alarm.

"I cannot begin to imagine the devastation this has caused to the family, by losing their beloved relative in this way. I hope they can take some comfort from the fact that Darnton has now been held responsible for his actions. Our thoughts remain with them."

Notes to editors

  • Tiernan Darnton Date of Birth 19.09.2000
  • Victoria Agulló Is a Senior Crown Prosecutor on the North West Crown Court Team.

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