Ellen Higginbottom murder trial: Killer must serve more than 30 years in jail

The man who murdered college student Ellen Higginbottom has been sentenced to more than 30 years in jail.

Thursday, 14th September 2017, 12:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:37 am
Mark Buckley
Mark Buckley

Judge David Stockdale QC described the sexually-motivated, premeditated attack as "frankly chilling" as well as "savage and brutal".

Manchester Crown Court heard 52-year-old Buckley, from New Hall Lane in Preston, inflicted terrible wounds to the 18-year-old's neck and wrist with a knife.

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Ellen Higginbottom
A police officer near to the scene where Ellen's body was discovered

There were also signs that she had been strangled and her clothing had been disturbed, although there was no clear evidence of sexual assault.

Shaven-headed Buckley showed little emotion during the hearing.

Judge Stockdale gave him life imprisonment and said he must serve 30 years and 280 days before he can apply for parole.

Flowers at Orrell Water Park for Ellen

He also paid tribute to Ellen's parents, relatives and boyfriend Ryan Warren for how they have handled the ordeal.

At around 7.20pm on Friday, June 16, police received a call to report 18-year-old Ellen, from Worsley, missing from home.

Ellen had not returned from Winstanley College, this was extremely out of character and her family and friends were very worried.

A police search began in Orrell Water Park in Wigan, as this was the last place she was known to have been. Around 2.30am on Saturday Ellen’s body was sadly found.

DS Howard Millington who led the investigation

Detective Superintendent Howard Millington, of GMP’s Serious Crime division, said: “My thoughts will always be with Ellen’s family and friends, this was an absolutely devastating murder by a stranger of an innocent young girl with her whole life ahead of her.

“Buckley callously killed Ellen in broad daylight. He attacked her in the most brutal way as she was walking around Orrell Water Park before going to meet her friends who were taking their exams.

“I am glad Buckley will now be spending many years behind bars to contemplate the young life that he has stolen away, but I wish that we hadn’t even had to investigate this crime.

“I wish it hadn’t happened and Ellen was here celebrating her A-Level results with her friends and planning her future.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ellen’s family and boyfriend for the dignified way they have conducted themselves in what has been the most awful of times; we can never bring Ellen back but I hope they can gain some comfort in the fact that justice has been done.”

Ellen’s dad Mike Higginbottom said in a statement: “There can never be anything even remotely approaching justice for what was done to Ellen, but what can be done has been done and both Kay and I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been involved in bringing about today’s achievement.

Police near to the scene of the crime

“We were tremendously lucky to have shared eighteen years with her and everyone else who knew her will identify with that feeling. She made the world a better place with pretty much everything she said and everything she did.

“We all would have liked more though, and we would especially have liked for her to have had more. For her to have seen the results of all her hard work, for her to have seen her friends fly the nest as they went all to uni, for her to have explored the world that she was just growing into.

“To have all that taken away from her in such a pointless and idiotic fashion fills us with an anger and resentment that does not represent who we want to be. But we wrestle it under control and learn to be better at being people. Because that’s what adults do.

“So if there’s anyone else out there thinking of doing anything even half this stupid, just take one piece of advice. Grow up.”

Following the sentencing hearing, David Graham from the CPS said: “Mark Buckley has been sentenced to life imprisonment today for the brutal murder of Ellen Higginbottom. This was a terrible crime which shocked the local community and has had a devastating impact on Ellen's family and friends.

"Mark Buckley went out that day equipped with a knife to carry out a violent assault. It was the prosecution case that it was a sexually-motivated and premeditated murder, and that he spent a number of hours that morning looking for a lone female to attack. We believe he selected his victim at random, and Ellen Higginbottom was simply walking through the park at the time he chose to attack, with tragic consequences.

"I hope today's sentence brings some sense of justice for Ellen's family and her many friends. Our thoughts and sympathies are very much with them at this very difficult time. We would like in particular like to acknowledge the strength and resilience shown throughout by Ellen’s parents, Michael and Kay, and Ellen’s partner Ryan."

Ellen Higginbottom
A police officer near to the scene where Ellen's body was discovered
Flowers at Orrell Water Park for Ellen
DS Howard Millington who led the investigation
Police near to the scene of the crime