Police have been digging up a Harrogate beauty spot in a bid to find the body of a Leeds woman who went missing from her home more than a decade ago.
The investigation at Brimham Rocks was carried out as a man appeared in court this morning to admit the killing of Gemma Simpson in Harrogate in 2000.
Detective chief inspector Adrian Taylor, from West Yorkshire Police Protective Services (Crime), said: “As part of the investigation into the murder of Gemma Simpson who went missing from Leeds in May 2000, officers from West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire are examining a potential scene at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate.
“Gemma’s family have been told about this development and are being kept fully informed as the investigation progresses.”
A court heard this morning that Martin Bell has made “full and frank admissions” over her death.
Gemma was 23 when she vanished in May 2000 after telling a friend she was catching from her home in Harehills to Leeds city centre.
Bell appeared at Leeds Crown Court today via a video link from Hull Prison after being charged with her murder last Friday.
Bell’s solicitor Ian Cook told the court: “There has been a full and frank admission to unlawful killing during the interviews.
The lawyer added: “The issue is likely to be diminished responsibility and, or, provocation.”
Mr Cook, told the court enquiries were still on going in a bid to find Gemma’s body. He told the court the killing took place in Harrogate.
Bell, 43, of St Leonard’s Crescent, Scarborough, sat quietly throughout the ten minute hearing.
He wore a grey sweater and spoke only to confirm his name and that he could hear what was being said in the courtroom.
Bell is charged with murdering Gemma between May 4 2000 and June 3 2000 at flat 6, 137 Knaresborough Road, Harrogate.
No pleas were entered to the charge and no application was made for bail.
Mr Cook said psychiatric reports were still being awaited.
The case was adjourned for a week when Bell will have to appear before the court for a preliminary hearing, when a date for a plea hearing and possible trial will be set.
The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier, QC, told Bell he will be remanded in custody until the next hearing.
Bell appeared before York Magistrates’ Court at the weekend after he was detained in Scarborough.
Jan Lamping, senior district crown prosecutor from CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “The Crown Prosecution Service has been working closely with West Yorkshire Police in connection with this case.
“Having carefully considered all of the evidence presented to us, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge this defendant with the murder of Gemma Simpson and that it is in the public interest to do so.”
Gemma’s family have said they can think of no obvious reason for her disappearance.
Her face has also featured on milk cartons and on the side of a fleet of 40-foot long lorries in a bid to appeal for information about her disappearance.
Speaking last year about Gemma’s disappearance, her sister, Naomi Carrack, of Otley, said: “The ache in our hearts hasn’t got any less in the last 13 years.
“When somebody dies, you can grieve - you can go to their graveside, you can talk to them.
“We have nothing.
“Gemma didn’t just vanish - someone knows what happened to her.
“Without any resolution the pain for us just continues.”