What happened to Sophie Lancaster? True story behind Coronation Street hate crime involving Nina and Seb

Sophie Lancaster was brutally murdered in a violent and unprovoked attack that her boyfriend Robert Maltby survived
Sophie Lancaster (left) was murdered, aged 20, for how she looked. The story will now be reflected by Coronation Street actress Mollie Gallagher (right) as her character Nina is attacked (Picture: ITV)Sophie Lancaster (left) was murdered, aged 20, for how she looked. The story will now be reflected by Coronation Street actress Mollie Gallagher (right) as her character Nina is attacked (Picture: ITV)
Sophie Lancaster (left) was murdered, aged 20, for how she looked. The story will now be reflected by Coronation Street actress Mollie Gallagher (right) as her character Nina is attacked (Picture: ITV)

Coronation Street’s latest storyline reflects a true hate crime incident, as the soap’s Seb Franklin and Nina Lucas are brutally attacked.

Viewers watched on 5 May as young couple Nina and Seb are set upon by a gang of youths.

What may leave Corrie fans more shocked is that the attack is a chillingly close reflection of the attack on Lancashire student, Sarah Lancaster and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, in 2007.

While Maltby recovered from his injuries, Lancaster sadly died. .

So what happened to Sophie Lancaster - and how is the hate crime reflected in the Coronation Street storyline?

What happened to Sophie Lancaster?

Sophie Lancaster was a 20-year-old student who was attacked by a group of teenagers in 2007 while walking through a park in Bacup, Lancashire.

Sophie was with her boyfriend Robert, then 21, when they were attacked by five youths - three aged 15, one 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. Only two of the 15-year-olds where named, Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris.

Sophie tried to help Robert after the gang began beating him, shouting at them to leave him alone. Robert had been knocked unconscious after a "savage and merciless attack".

However, Herbert and Harris turned on her, subjecting her to a "sustained and vicious attack", concluded High Court judge Mr Justice Davis.

The perpetrators kicked and stamped on Sophie’s head, until she lost consciousness. Robert was also left unconscious. The pair didn’t know their attackers.

Both Robert and Sophie were left fighting for their lives. Robert eventually regained consciousness and made a full recovery but Sophie sadly passed away in hospital 13 days after sustaining her injuries.

Herbert pleaded guilty to murder at Preston Crown Court in March 2008, and received a life sentence. He also admitted assault causing grievous bodily harm with intent and was given a minimum of 16 years and three months.

In February 2020, Herbert’s tariff was cut to 14-and-a-half years as a High Court judge determined he had made "exceptional progress" in jail.

Harris pleaded not guilty but was found guilty of murder and admitted attacking Robert, for which he received a minimum of 18 years.

Detective Superintendent Mick Gradwell of Lancashire Police said it was one of the most violent murders he had come across in his career, adding: "They have just done it without thinking, but they seemed to have enjoyed it, and carried on remorselessly kicking at two very defenceless people who were unable to protect themselves because of the level of violence inflicted upon them."

The charges against the other three suspects were dropped.

The police cited Sophie and Robert’s ‘goth’ appearance as a potential motive.

Sophie’s mum, Sylvia Lancaster, set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation to raise awareness of hate crime and discrimination against miniority cultures and subcultures.

What is Hate crime?

According to the Metropolitan Police website, hate crime is criminal behaviour whereby the perpetrator is motivated by prejudice against a person because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

The Met states: “Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but it is equally important that these are reported and recorded by the police.

“Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related.

“It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”

Types of hate crime include physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred. This includes threatening or harassing someone online, due to who they are or what you perceive of them.

Was Seb and Nina’s attack in Coronation Street based on Sophie’s murder?

Producers of Coronation Street worked with Sophie Lancaster’s mother, Sylvia Lancaster, on the hate crime storyline involving character’s Seb (Harry Visinoni) and Nina (Mollie Gallagher).

Ms Lancaster appeared on ITV’s This Morning, to discuss the coverage of Sophie’s murder on the soap and has also given a statement to ITV.

She told ITV: “We just want people to be aware of hate crime. Actually I'm quite lucky that I do get to talk about it, and that people do listen because at the end of the day she's not gone yet is she? She's still here.

"Obviously it is emotional and I don't think I'll be watching that part of it."

On 5 May, Coronation Street viewers watched as Nina and Seb were brutally assaulted in an unprovoked attack by a group of youths on a canal bank.

Commenting on the storyline, Visinoni who plays Seb, said: “It's so important and it's just been about telling it as truthfully as possible.

"They both get attacked because of the way Nina is, the fact she is a goth, it all comes from this place and a lack of understanding and these characters, Corey and the whole gang, they don't understand it and it leads to this horrific, horrific incident. It's horrible."

Gallagher added: "It was heartbreaking to hear, she [Sylvia] told us the whole story and listening to it helped.

"To be promoting the message that hate crime isn't ok, to be making a change to the world, it's changing people - how amazing is that?

"If this story can encourage others to come forward then that's incredible."

When is Coronation Street on television?

Coronation Street airs on ITV every Monday at 7.30pm and 8.30pm, Wednesday at 7.30pm and 8.30pm, and Friday at 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

You can also catch up on all episodes of Coronation Street, on the ITV hub.

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