The “outgoing and quick-witted” 16-year-old was found with fatal stab wounds on a path in a Cheshire park shortly after 3pm on Saturday 11 February this year. Her killing led to an outpouring of grief across the country, especially from the LGBT+ community.
Two 16-year-olds, a boy from Leigh and a girl from Warrington, have pleaded not guilty to Brianna’s murder and are due to stand trial later this month.
Nine months on from the tragedy, her mother Esther Ghey, 36, has reflected on the devastation of the past few months as she has tried to come to terms with Brianna’s loss.
She told The Independent: “It’s the news that you would never, ever want to hear – it was completely shocking. It was so tragic that I felt like I was going to die myself.”
Hundreds of mourners joined vigils across the UK to remember the teenager in the days following her death. Some of those gathered in Warrington wore rainbow flags draped across their shoulders, laid flowers and wrote tributes on a placard that was placed in the town square.
The Labour MP for Warrington North, Charlotte Nichols, said the local community had been left “reeling”.
Speaking at the vigil, she added: “Trans lives matter and trans young people should have the fundamental rights to dignity and safety that should be universal human rights.”
Tearful family and friends paid their last respects at Brianna’s funeral, which was pink-themed, in keeping with the teenager’s colourful personality.
Prayers were said, asking for “the courage to love one another”, and saying Brianna will “endure no more suffering … you can be whatever you want”. Her mother wore a pink trouser suit, while Brianna’s pink coffin was borne in a carriage drawn by two white horses festooned in pink plumes.
Ms Ghey initially shied away from the intense interest in her daughter’s case but said the outpouring of support had “ended up being a comfort to our family”, adding: “The support from the trans community has been outstanding, and from the general public as well.”
“I’m quite an introvert,” she said. “But I’m trying to push myself to make a change, to be a bit more like Brianna because she was confident and happy being who she was and putting herself out there.”
The 16-year-old’s dream was to become famous on TikTok, and she loved to do make-up tutorials for her over 31,000 followers on the social media platform. “She was very, very outgoing”, said Esther. “A very high energy, funny, quick-witted child.”
“But she did also suffer with really poor mental health – she had anxiety,” her mother added. “Like so many other young people who are struggling with their mental health nowadays.”
In memory of her daughter, Ms Ghey has launched a campaign that pledges to help young people with their mental health.
The Brianna Ghey: Peace in Mind appeal aims to raise money, partly via a GoFundMe fundraiser, for the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), with the mission of bringing mindfulness training into all UK schools.
Ms Ghey said she has been practising mindfulness for eight years.
“It gave me that strength when such a tragedy did happen,” she said, referring to Brianna’s death. “And I want others to experience the benefits that I had.”
Wild and cold water swimming has also been a comfort for Ms Ghey and her partner Wes, who both took part in the Great North Swim in Windermere, the Lake District, in June, raising £22,000 for MiSP.
“It gives you massive benefits to your mental health,” she said. “Especially when you’re going through hard times.”
It has now been close to eight months since Brianna died, and Ms Ghey said she is “just trying to stay focused and positive”.
Bracing herself for the upcoming trial, which is due to start on 27 November at Manchester Crown Court and is estimated to last up to three weeks, she said: “If it was straight away, it would’ve probably been too overbearing to deal with. Having these months to heal has probably benefited our family – we’ve had a chance to heal and prepare.”