'I've been hearing voices': James Fairweather, Essex's teenage killer

James Fairweather
James Fairweather | Jo Frost On Britain's Killer Kids

Available on Crime+Investigation PLAY, Jo Frost On Britain's Killer Kids (S1, E2) examines the James Fairweather case and how the teenager was drive to stab strangers to death.

Colchester is a market town located in the county of Essex, United Kingdom. In 2014, this small community was rocked by two extremely heinous murders, and the resulting investigation to catch the killer was one of the largest carried out in the history of Essex Police. (ITV News, 22 April 2016 – ‘Teen Killer Pictured Handcuffed and in Gloves After his Arrest’) The town was held on edge as the spectre of a serial killer loomed over.

It was around 5:45am on 29th March 2014, when a local man came across a gruesome scene in Castle Park. He found another man unconscious in the middle of the path, surrounded by a puddle of blood with serious injuries to the upper body that had been caused by a sharp instrument.

PC Benjamin Savoury was one of the first officers on the scene: “I saw something lying on the ground. I sprinted towards the object on the floor, which was clearly a body covered in blood. The body was lying face up, at this point I donned my blue gloves.

"I quickly checked on the state of the body which had a large amount of wounds and a huge amount of blood underneath him. There were lacerations to his head, hands, and face and a huge amount of blood congealed around his left eye. I couldn’t see the eye at all,” he recollected. (Mirror, 12 April 2016 – ‘Schoolboy Accused of Double Murder visited Web Page Entitled ‘“I Was a Hunter and They Were the Victims”’)

The deceased man was identified as 33-year-old James Attfield, a local father of five known to his friends as ‘Jim’. He had been stabbed a total of 102 times, suffering injuries to his head, face, and torso. (The Herald, 29 April 2016 – ‘Sadistic Teenager Locked up for 27 Years for Killing Two Strangers’) Years before, Jim had been in a car accident and had suffered a brain injury that weakened the left side of his body and affected his reasoning and speech. (The Gazette, 25 April 2016 – ‘James Attfield Was Rebuilding His Life When He Died’)

A 1.5-mile area between Wakefield Close and Riverside Place was cordoned off by detectives as they began to search for evidence. Both detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate were assigned to work on the case. (Daily Gazette – ‘Killer James Fairweather to receive two life sentences after murdering James Attfield and Nahid Almanea in Colchester’) Several days later, a 38-year-old man was arrested in connection with the murder. However, the following day he was released without charge.

A £5,000 reward was put forward for anybody who provided detectives with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person, or persons, responsible. (Halstead Gazette, 2 June 2014 – ‘Jim Attfield Murder: Reconstruction to be Shown on BBC’s Crimewatch Tonight’) The case was also featured on BBC’s Crimewatch, which included CCTV images of people in Castle Park from the night Jim was murdered - people that detectives were wanting to identify. There was a still image of somebody walking by the lake at around 1:30am, wearing a hoody and carrying a carrier bag. (ITV, 20 May 2014 – ‘Police Renew Appeals over James Attfield Murder’)

Three months after Jim’s murder, on 17th June, a woman was found dead at the Salary Brook Trails, just off Avon Way. She was identified as 31-year-old Nahid Almanea, and had been slashed and stabbed 16 times, including once through both eyes. (BBC News, 22 April 2016 – ‘James Attfield and Nahid Almanea murders: The schoolboy killer’) Nahid had come to the United Kingdom from Saudi Arabia just six months earlier to study in the English Language Program at the International Academy. (The Guardian, 19 June 2014 – ‘Saudi university student stabbed 16 times in fatal attack’)

At first, detectives didn’t believe that there was a connection between the two murders and one of the first lines of enquiry was to look into whether Nahid was the victim of a hate crime. When she was attacked, she was wearing a dark navy abaya robe and a multi-coloured hijab. Detective Superintendent Tracy Hawkings said: “We are conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion." (ITV, 18 June 2014 – ‘Police Probe Possible Islamic Dress Link to Attack’)

Just the following day, however, detectives announced that they were looking for possible links between the two murders.

On 27th May 2015, a 16-year-old boy was arrested on The Salary Brook Trail near where Nahid was killed. It was around 11am when a woman called the police to report a suspicious teenager hiding in the bushes as she walked her dog. “He was no more than 15 feet away and staring straight at me. It’s a face that will never leave me, a manic look,” she said. (Mirror, 22 April 2016 – ‘I Could Have Been Ripper’s Next Victim’)

Police arrived on the scene and when the teenage boy was searched, he was carrying a lock-knife and wearing surgical gloves. (Gazette News, 6 October 2021 – ‘TV show Killer Britain to look at case of Colchester killer James Fairweather’) He was identified as James Fairweather and was charged with the murders of Jim and Nahid. At the time of the murders, Fairweather was studying for his GCSEs at Colchester Academy but had left and struggled to find a job.

That evening, Fairweather confessed to both murders. "I've been hearing voices which are telling me to murder people and I've murdered two people,” he said. He stated that he had found Jim asleep on the ground and “stabbed him in the head. One shot missed on the side. I hit him in the eye. There was a big pool of blood. I thought he was dead. He gurgled."

He recollected that he had snuck up behind Nahid. “I went behind her and hit her, she stumbled. It was a long knife and obviously went all the way through. I hit her in the eye and killed her instantly. It went through the brain,” he said. (Huffington Post, 12 April 2016 – ‘Boy Who Admits Killing Two in Street Attacks “Was Looking For Third Victim”’) He additionally admitted that when he was arrested, he had been searching for a third victim.

In January 2016, Fairweather denied two counts of murder and possessing an offensive weapon but admitted to two alternative counts of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. However, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to accept the plea and announced they were pursuing murder charges. Therefore, Fairweather was facing a double murder trial, slated for April of the same year.

During the trial, it was revealed that Fairweather was obsessed with serial killers and had researched those who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. During his confession, he told detectives that he heard voices in his head, instructing him to “make a sacrifice.” (Independent, 22 April 2016 – ‘Serial Killer Obsessed Teenage James Fairweather Guilty of Murdering Two Strangers in Park’) According to Dr. Joseph, who was called as a prosecution witness, Fairweather’s claims of hallucinations were fabricated in an attempt to deceive those who were assessing him. (https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/r-v-fairweather-sentencing-remarks-1.pdf)

While summing up the trial, Mr Justice Robin Spencer QC revealed some new information that was not presented as evidence. He described how Fairweather had told doctors that he wanted to kill 15 more people but was caught. Fairweather also said that Nahid had brought her murder on herself by walking alone when a killer was on the loose. He revealed that Fairweather told police that if he were bailed, he would kill again.

The jury deliberated for eight and a half hours before finding James Fairweather guilty of both murders. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Afterwards, he gave a thumbs up to his parents and mouthed: “I don’t give a shit.” (BBC, 29 April 2016 – ‘Ripper-obsessed James Fairweather detained for double murder’)