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The horrific murder of Kelly Anne Bates

A woman hugging her knees with her head lowered

It was a quiet morning at the Manchester police department on 16th April 1995, when a man appeared in the foyer. He asked to speak with a police officer before adding that he had a confession to make: He had just killed his girlfriend.

Kelly Anne Bates was a teenage girl from Hattersley, Manchester. In school, she was known as a keen athlete and had ambitions of one day becoming a teacher. In 1994, Kelly-Anne enrolled in college in Hyde so that she could improve her GCSE results and get onto a teacher training course. To help fund her way through college, Kelly-Anne was working for a graphics firm in Audenshaw.

On the surface, Kelly-Anne appeared to be like any regular teenage girl, but she was hiding a dark secret. When she was just 14 years old, she met James Patterson Smith, who was 32 years her senior. The two crossed paths when Kelly-Anne was babysitting for one of Smith’s friends. That night, he walked her home ‘to keep her safe’. After this, the older man began to groom Kelly-Anne.

At first, Kelly-Anne was blissfully unaware of Smith’s disturbing past. He had been married twice to the same woman, Janice Anderson. Throughout both marriages, Smith exhibited extreme jealousy and was prone to violence. He had sought out psychiatric help in 1980 for said jealousy, but Smith couldn’t overcome the overpowering emotions and the couple got divorced. Other relationships that Smith had followed a very similar pattern.

Tina Martin, who had dated Smith in 1970 when she was 20 years old, was another victim of his violent outbursts. On one occasion, he held Tina’s head underwater in a bathtub. She described herself as a ‘punchbag’ throughout their relationship, and recalled: ‘At first, it was now and again, but at the end it was every day.’

The grooming process between Kelly-Anne and Smith was so secretive that her parents were completely unaware of Smith’s existence until she turned 16. They became aware that Kelly-Anne had what she described as a boyfriend but they had no idea that he was more than three decades older than their teenage daughter.

Margaret, Kelly-Anne's mother, recalled the first time she finally met Smith during an interview with the Manchester Evening News: ‘As I walked in, he swaggered down the stairs and it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. He was much older than I expected and looked a bit like John Denver. But he was smarmy. He said, “nice to meet you at last” and all I could think of was how I wanted to get rid of him. This wasn’t the man I wanted for my daughter. I vividly recall seeing our bread knife in the kitchen and wanting to pick it up and stab him in the back. I’ve thought about that many times.’

In November 1995, 17-year-old Kelly-Anne moved out of the family home and moved into Smith’s home in Gorton, Greater Manchester. As time progressed, she began seeing less and less of her parents. When she did show up at the family home, she was oftentimes riddled with bruises and bite marks. When queried about the injuries, Kelly-Anne passed them off as accidents. Her parents thought about contacting the police to conduct a welfare check but since Kelly-Anne was 17 years old, they knew that the police would do very little.

Eventually, Kelly-Anne stopped seeing her parents completely. The last time that they saw her was on 30th November 1995. They anticipated that Kelly-Anne would show up at the family home over Christmas, but the festive period came and went and Kelly was a no-show. Around the same time, she quit her job at K2 Graphics in Audenshaw. She still remained in contact with her parents over the phone, but these phone calls were few and far between, and her mother, Margaret, couldn’t help but notice that Kelly-Anne sounded different.

In March, the family received two cards. One was for Kelly-Anne’s father’s birthday while the other was for her parents' anniversary. Curiously, neither card was signed by Kelly-Anne. Margaret suggested that they go around to Smith’s home, but her husband, Tommy, wasn’t so sure. Margaret recollected: ‘I tried to persuade my husband to go round. I was concerned he had written the cards himself to wind me up or he had her tied up or he’d hurt her in some way that she could not write the cards herself.’

On 16th April 1995, Smith entered the police department and calmly told the officers that Kelly-Anne was dead at their home.

Police embarked on the two-bedroom, semi-detached home in a quiet cul-de-sac in Gorton. They were directed to the upstairs bedroom. When they entered, they were taken aback by the brutality of the scene before them. The walls and ceiling were splattered with blood, and lying motionless on the floor was the body of Kelly-Anne Bates.

Kelly-Anne’s autopsy revealed a catalogue of injuries that had been inflicted on her. There were 150 separate injuries all across her body. She had been stabbed, burned, scalded and even partially scalped. Disturbingly, her eyes had been gouged out. Kelly-Anne was also severely malnourished and had been systematically starved in the weeks before her death.

As for Kelly-Anne’s cause of death, she had finally drowned in the bathtub after weeks of torture and abuse.

Police now had the daunting task of informing Kelly-Anne’s parents of her tragic death. Her mother was at home when she heard a knock on the front door. She opened up the door to find two police officers standing on her doorstep. They informed her that her daughter was dead, but before they could provide further information, Margaret said: ‘I know.’ According to Margret, she had a mother’s intuition that her daughter was one day going to be killed by Smith. She commented: ‘I had been waiting for the knock on the door, but nobody believed me.’

Back at the police department, Smith was being interrogated. He admitted to stabbing Kelly-Anne with a pair of scissors and a fork and hitting her with a showerhead. He denied that he had gouged out her eyes or scalded her with boiling water. He told the officers that around two weeks before Kelly-Anne’s death, they had been embroiled in an argument. He said that he poked her in the eyes and that there had been blood. However, he contended that she wasn’t blind and said that they then sat down and watched television together.

When pressed for a motive, Smith chillingly replied: ‘She just wouldn’t leave me alone. She put me through hell winding me up. She was blackmailing me.’ He claimed that Kelly-Anne would often purposefully bump into things. He stated: ‘She has a bad habit of hurting herself to make it look worse on me.’ He then continued, contending to the officers that he had not starved Kelly and that he had not held her head under bathwater until she died.

Smith was ordered to stand trial in November 1997. During opening statements at Manchester Crown Court, Prosecutor Peter Openshaw described the plethora of injuries that were inflicted on Kelly in the weeks leading up to her death.

The jury heard from Dr Richard Bonchek, a specialist eye pathologist. He told the jury that the gouging of the eyes was most likely caused by Patterson’s own hands. He stated: ‘I could only imagine fingers being used or perhaps a blunt object.’

Consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Gillian Metzey, told the jury that Smith lived in a ‘distorted reality’ and that he suffered from a severe paranoid disorder with morbid jealousy.

James Patterson Smith was found guilty of the murder of Kelly-Anne Bates. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 25 years. In handing down the sentence, Judge Mr. Justice Sachs said: ‘You have been convicted in short order and rightly so by the just of murdering this young woman. This has been a terrible crime, a catalogue of depravity by one human being on another. You are a highly dangerous person. You are an abuser of women and I intend, so far as is in my power, that you will abuse no more.’