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‘Murder is like potato chips… you can’t stop at just one’

Hid a dark secret: Barrass’s home in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield PICTURES: SWNS/PA

AN INCESTUOUS couple who murdered their two teenage sons and plotted to kill their other four children have both been jailed for at least 35 years.

Sarah Barrass, 35, and her half-brother Brandon Machin, 39, hatched a plan to poison the boys as they feared authorities might find out they were in a relationship and take the children into care, a court heard.

On May 23, Barrass forced four of their children to swallow a concoction of prescription pills, including ADHD medication, expecting them to die during the night. She posted ‘light-hearted’ Facebook posts that they had caught a sickness bug.

Told children their dad was dead: Sarah Barrass hid incestuous relationship

When the children were still alive the next morning, she called Machin at his nearby home in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield and he came round. He strangled Blake with his bare hands, while Barrass tied a dressing gown cord around Tristan’s neck and pulled it tight for three minutes.

They then placed bin bags over their heads ‘to make sure’ they were dead.

Afterwards, they tried to drown another child in a bath before Barrass took the surviving children into a bedroom and called police. When officers arrived they found Blake, 14, and Tristan, 13, dead in their bunk beds. Their mother tried to blame Machin for the killings.

Lover: Half-brother Brandon Machin

Yesterday, a judge at Sheffield crown court ruled that Barrass and Machin should both be jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years. They had both previously admitted murder, conspiracy to murder and attempted murder.

‘You considered your love for them and fear of being parted from them entitled you to take their lives,’ said Mr Justice Goss. A ban on identifying the couple as half-brother and sister — and Machin as the children’s father — was lifted by the judge yesterday.

The court heard the pair were in a ‘consensual sexual relationship’ — and that all six children were ‘planned’.

To everyone else, it appeared that Barrass and her children lived relatively ordinary lives.

‘The picture of the household prior to the events in 2019 was, to the outside world, a household of a loving single mum with six children, heavily supported by her brother,’ said Kama Melly QC, prosecuting.

‘In fact, unbeknown to everyone but the defendants, Brandon Machin was in a sexual relationship with his half-sister, Sarah Barrass, and he was the father of all six children.

‘The children believed — and even told officers at the scene — that their father was dead, having died in the Second World War.’

The court heard how before the killings Barrass had requested help with the children from her local authority.

She had also posted a quote from Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome on Facebook, saying: ‘Murder is like potato chips: you can’t stop with just one.’

She texted a friend: ‘I’ve thought of every possible solution to this mess — mass murder, putting them all in care, checking in to the local nut house.’

The text ended: ‘I love my kids too much to kill them. I can’t put them into care for the same reason.’

Ms Melly said Barrass was repeatedly overheard telling her children: ‘I gave you life, I can take it away.’ And Barrass and Machin ‘decided the children were better off dead than in care’.

The court heard how the youngsters have been left ‘emotionally broken’ by their ordeal and have said they want their parents to go to prison for ‘300 years’. One even feared they might themselves become a killer.

Ms Melly said: ‘When [the older two children] were told Sarah and Brandon had pleaded guilty, (one of them) said they were worried they would become a murderer when they were older because that’s what their mum and Brandon did. They said they didn’t want to be like that.

‘Both (the older children) don’t know why this happened. They repeatedly ask “why” and “how”. We don’t have the answers. Both [the older children] keep saying they just want a nice family home. Both want their brothers back.’

The two youngest children, who are under three, never ask for their mother or Machin, even when they are upset, Ms Melly said. The older two are ‘really struggling, knowing they will not see their big brothers again and not seeing their [other siblings] every day’.

‘They have lost everything.’