The teenagers branded ‘evil’
THE murder of pensioner Edna Phillips, above, after months of torment shocked south Wales – even more so when it became clear her killers were two 17-year-old girls.
EDNA Phillips had endured months of torment, living an isolated life on the Penywaun council estate near Aberdare.
The 70-year-old had made complaints about loud music and drunkenness coming from the family next door – the Rossis – and reported their teenage daughter to the police.
After this, 17-year-old Maria Rossi began a campaign of hate against the pensioner, dumping rubbish in her garden, throwing stones at her, and smearing faeces on her walls.
The abuse had gotten so bad Edna – who lived alone but for her dog Chum – had asked her local council to rehouse her, and even wrote to her MP after Maria burgled her house.
But in July 1992 Edna Phillips was discovered brutally murdered at her home. She had been strangled, stabbed, slashed multiple times in the face, and broken eggs were left strewn over the body.
It was eventually revealed the culprits of this act of extreme violence were Maria Rossi, and another 17-year-old, her friend Christina Molloy.
They looked for all the world like a typical pair of teenage girls.
Rossi had dreams of becoming a fashion model and leaving the south Wales valleys where she grew up.
The family had moved next door to Edna Phillips when she was a toddler.
When the case eventually came to court, it was revealed that Edna even used to take Rossi on walks when she was a toddler. But over the years the Rossis came to despise Edna after she made complaints about drunken parties and loud music coming from their house.
Edna even reported that Rossi had burgled her house on one occasion in 1992.
In desperation, she wrote to her local MP Ann Clwyd, whose intervention did lead to some action by South Wales Police in Merthyr Tydfil.
On June 30, Inspector Keri Humphreys, deputy divisional commander, wrote to Ms Clwyd to advise her of what action police had taken.
“All matters raised within the letter have now been satisfactorily addressed,” she wrote.
A visit from victim support had been arranged and Inspector Humphreys said: “I further understand that she feels more secure with the recent installation of a burglar alarm”.
When the case eventually went to Cardiff Crown Court it emerged that on 16 July 1992, Maria Rossi and Christina Molloy were under the influence of cider and drugs.
The pair saw Edna Phillips, who was partiallysighted, calling for her dog Chum to come in.
They frogmarched her into the house, where they used a dog chain to strangle the 70-year-old.
Edna’s face was slashed in a criss-cross pattern at least 35 times with a Stanley knife and she was stabbed multiple times with a pair of scissors.
Her body was stamped on, breaking five ribs and her nose, and the two killers tried to scalp her.
According to an Associated Press report at the time, Rossi and Molloy stole the £57.15 pension money Edna had collected that day.
The next morning, Rossi was reported to have been heard singing “we have killed Edna Phillips” to the tune of “The Wizard of Oz”.
When the girls were eventually charged with the crime, a 300-strong crowd of local people stormed the homes of both families.
The well-established Rossis and the Molloys, who had recently moved to the estate, were driven from the area and placed at new secret addresses for their own protection.
South Wales Police
posted officers on the street to deal with the unrest and protect the homes of family members from attacks.
Rossi and Molloy appeared for sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court on 8 March 1993, after pleading guilty to murder.
Representing the prosecution, John Rees QC told the court that the teenagers “literally butchered” Edna Phillips on that warm evening in July.
Sentencing, Judge Scott Baker branded the pair “evil products of the modern age”.
“No-one can be other than sickened at hearing the circumstances in which you mutilated and killed a defenceless old lady who had caused no harm to anyone,” Judge Baker said.
“If, as youngsters, some discipline had been imposed upon you at home, at school, or through the courts, you might not now be standing in the dock.”
Judge Baker sentenced both to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 15 years.
The sentencing of the two young women came just three weeks after the start of the murder trial of 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables for the murder of twoyear-old James Bulger.
The timing contributed to a moral panic concerning young killers in the UK which became a dominant subject of discussion in the national newspapers.
About 10 years later, the case began making headlines again following an Appeal Court ruling that the sentences of child murderers should be periodically reviewed.
Senior judges decided that the UK’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, imprisoning children must only be “a measure of last resort”.
Many were concerned that Rossi and Molloy may be released earlier than first thought.
In May 2017, it emerged that Molloy, who is believed to have changed her name following her release from prison, had been found dead at a property in Cambridgeshire.
The death was not treated as suspicious.
Christina Molloy and Maria Rossi