FRIENDS and family of a murdered schoolgirl are campaigning for self-defence classes to be mandatory in schools as they could have saved the 17-year-old’s life.

Ellie Gould’s ex-boyfriend Thomas Griffiths went to her home in May 2019, stabbed her 13 times in the neck and left her hand on the knife handle to make the fatal wounds seem self-inflicted.

He is serving 12-and-a-half years in jail for this horrific crime, though mum Carole has been pushing to have his sentence increased to life, like it is for adults who are guilty of murder (he was 17 when it happened but 18 when sentenced).

Marks on Griffiths’ neck showed that his victim tried to fend off his lethal advances. Over the last year, Ellie’s mum Carole Gould along with friends Tilda Offen, Harriet Adams and Ellie Welling have been pushing for self-defence skills to be taught in every school because that knowledge could have made a difference during Ellie’s terrifying struggle with her violent ex.

The campaign had picked up a head of steam with the help of interviews on BBC Breakfast and the support of North Wiltshire MP James Gray, but then the girls heard that their school would not be making the classes mandatory and momentum stalled with the outbreak of the pandemic.

After seeing the positive reaction to the campaign, they hope to go further by starting a charity which helps vulnerable women, though they need help and guidance as to how to get this off the ground.

The self-defence classes would be a yearly refresher course which teach passive non-aggressive techniques to help the person being targeted safely get out of dangerous situations without causing any harm.

The friends and Ellie’s mum took a class about self-defence, being streetwise, and knowing the signs of a coercive relationship as well as how to safely leave one. They say this would be very useful for students, especially those who are about to leave school and step into the wider world of adulthood.

One bit of advice that stuck in Carole’s mind involved throwing your phone in one direction, if being mugged, and fleeing in the other to give you more time to get away. Tilda mentioned how walking with determination and pretending you’re meeting someone nearby if stopped by a suspicious stranger has helped her.

She added: “There’s a trust issue that comes along with what happened to Ellie. I’m a lot warier of men and if I’m ever out for lunch or walking by myself, I plan a route where I know I will be able to get away if someone comes near me.”

Harriet said: “We want these classes to be mandatory so schools don’t have to decide if they want to do it or not.

“A lot of people argued that these classes are only necessary in urban areas where crime is high, but Wiltshire is one of the safest counties in the country yet it happened here so we should prepare for it.”

Carole said: “Griffiths came across as completely normal and then he just snapped so, sadly, you just never know.

“They’re supposed to be bringing in mandatory coercive control lessons at schools as part of PSHE but it’s been pushed back a year because of Covid, so it would be good to bring the defence classes in alongside them at the same time as a practical module.

“And not just for self-defence, for safety awareness tips like the Ask For Angela rule for women in pubs or the Hollie Guard app that has an alarm you can set off if you’re diverted off a planned route. It’s really important to teach young people these things, especially before they go to uni, it could save lives.

“It makes perfect sense and I think parents would support it. Swimming lessons are a life skill and they’re mandatory so why aren’t these?”