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Campaigning mother of murdered teen Sophie Lancaster dies suddenly in hospital

Tributes are being paid to the mother of Sophie Lancaster, who was kicked to death as she tried to protect her boyfriend, after she died suddenly in hospital.

Sylvia Lancaster campaigned tirelessly following her daughter’s murder in Bacup in 2007, devoting her life to a foundation in Sophie’s name.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation campaigned to promote tolerance and stamp out prejudice hatred and intolerance.

In a statement on the charity’s website, they said: “This is the hardest statement to write. It is with great shock and disbelief that we announce that Sylvia Lancaster has passed away. She died early this morning in Blackburn hospital.

“She had suffered from ill health for the last couple of years, but her death was sudden and unexpected. Sylvia had such a powerful life force; we cannot imagine a world without her in it.”

Lancashire Police said it was “shocked and saddened” at Sylvia’s passing.

Sophie was just 20-years-old when was attacked and killed in a park along with her boyfriend because they were dressed as Goths.

The tribute continued: “Following Sophie’s brutal murder, Sylvia put her energy into championing people from alternative subcultures and creating educational programmes to tackle prejudice and intolerance.

“She worked tirelessly to combat the inaccurate and lazy stereotyping that all too often leads to violent prejudice and promoted a culture of celebrating difference; something that leads to safer communities for us all.

“Sylvia was formidable. She challenged authority and fought for what she believed in. Her legacy is that Sophie will never be forgotten, and her daughter’s name will always represent her mission – to Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere.

“She will be sadly missed.

“There will be much to say over the course of the next few months. Initially all our thoughts are focused on supporting Adam and his family in the coming days and weeks.

“Hold those you love a little bit closer today.

“We are finishing for the last time using Sylvia’s sign off. Love and Light, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation Team.”

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, known for her role as Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street, was a patron of the charity, and paid tribute to Sylvia calling her a “force for good”.

She tweeted: “It was a privilege to know and work alongside Sylvia over many years.

“She was a force for good, for inclusion, for celebration of difference. Sophie’s incredible legacy lives on in the work of the foundation. Love and thoughts to Adam & the family.”

Ryan Herbert was 16 when he was jailed for life for murdering the 20-year-old as she cradled partner Robert Maltby’s head in her lap.

They were targeted by a gang of teenagers in park in Bacup, Lancashire, in 2007, simply because they dressed differently.

In March 2022 the Parole Board decided Herbert can be released on licence, 15 years after he took part in the “vicious” attack.

At the time Sylvia said she was “disappointed” with the decision and says the Justice System has failed her daughter.

“They haven’t done justice for our Sophie”, she said. “All you want at the end of the day is justice.

“You don’t want anything out of the ordinary, you just want justice.”

She continued: “I do feel let down.”

Brendon Harris (left) and Ryan Herbert (right) were found guilty of Sophie’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Brendon Harris, Ryan Herbert and four other teenage boys “savagely and mercilessly attacked” Robert Maltby in Stubbylee Park during the early hours of August 11, 2007.

Gap-year student Miss Lancaster 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 lost consciousness.

Miss Lancaster never regained consciousness and died in hospital 14 days later.

Both men were sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 16 years three months for Herbert and 18 years for Harris.

However, in 2020, Herbert had his tariff cut to 14-and-a-half years when a High Court judge concluded he had made “exceptional progress” in jail.

In May 2021, with the help of Sylvia, Coronation Street based a story on the killing, with two of the characters Nina Lucas and Seb Franklin subjected to similar abuse.

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