A boy who tried to plot his own murder may sound like something from a film, but in 2003 one teenager did exactly that. By spinning a web of lies and inventing a host of false characters, this 14-year-old managed to convince a friend he'd met online to kill him in exchange for some bizarre rewards…

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When a 14-year-old boy was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital with two stab wounds in June 2003, Manchester police believed it to be an attempted mugging that had gone wrong. The victim’s 16-year-old friend, who was present at the scene, had told them so. Little did they know that they were about to discover one of the strangest crime plots the country had ever seen.

Suspicions first arose when the police examined CCTV footage from Altrincham town centre, where the attack took place. Officers found that the boys had disappeared down an alleyway in Goose Green, and had remained there alone for 25 minutes.

The victim, legally referred to as ‘John’, spent a week in critical condition, his kidney pierced and his liver lacerated. His gall bladder also had to be removed. The star grammar school pupil soon began telling the police that his friend, ‘Mark’, was actually the one who stabbed him, but he had no idea why.

Altrincham, PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. PA Photo by Martin Rickett /PA Wire

Altrincham (Photo: PA Photos)

But after investigators examined the boys’ message logs from the online chatroom where they’d met, it soon became very clear that this case was not what it appeared to be at all…

Mark had been chatting frequently with seven different people, including John, a 16-year-old girl and a 39-year-old female spy known as Janet – but had no idea that in reality they were all fictional characters played by John.

Suffering from a psychological disorder, John had retreated into a fantasy world, and had become infatuated with Mark, later telling Manchester Crown Court that he felt an ’emotional intimacy’ towards him that he’d never felt before.

Things got really sinister when John – playing the character of Janet – told Mark that John was dying from a brain tumour, and ordered him to carry out a mercy killing. If Mark followed the instructions to the letter, then he’d be inducted into the secret service as a spy and a sexual encounter with Janet.

These conversations had been going on for so long that John had developed a very strong, dangerous influence over Mark. Completely brainwashed, Mark actually agreed to murder John at his own request.

Having plotted his own killing, John met Mark at the Trafford Centre, where they bought a six-inch kitchen knife. The next day, on the 29 June, Mark stabbed John twice in the alleyway in Altrincham town centre, but failed to kill him.

Trafford Centre, where the weapon was purchased

Trafford Centre, where the weapon was purchased (Photo: PA Photos)

John then became the first person in British history to be convicted of inciting his own murder. In 2004 he pleaded guilty to incitement to murder and perverting the course of justice in Manchester Crown Court. He was given a three-year supervision order, and was banned from unsupervised internet access. He was also forbidden from contacting Mark ever again.

Mark pleaded guilty to attempted murder and received a two-year supervision order for the crime.

‘Offences of this kind under normal circumstances would result in an extremely lengthy custodial sentence,’ declared Judge David Maddison, ‘but these could not be described as any normal circumstances.’

Clearly perplexed by the bizarre crime, he added that ‘Skilled writers of fiction would struggle to conjure up a plot such as this.’