COURT - Man admits brutal killing in Harrogate

COLLECT PICTURE....Missing girl Gemma Simpson. 2 May 2001. Story David Bruce.
COLLECT PICTURE....Missing girl Gemma Simpson. 2 May 2001. Story David Bruce.

A man has admitted brutally killing a young woman in Harrogate more than a decade ago, cutting up her body before burying her in a shallow grave at Brimham Rocks.

Twenty-three-year-old Gemma Simpson, from Leeds, vanished in May 2000, sparking a major missing person investigation.

It’s now emerged that she was killed on the day she disappeared, struck with a hammer, stabbed and drowned by psychotic friend Martin Bell, who sawed up her body before burying it in a shallow grave.

“He thought that God wanted him to kill her,” said prosecutors at Leeds Crown Court today (Monday, December 15.)

Bell, now 45, was only caught when he walked into a police station in Scarborough this summer to confess his crimes.

He had invited Gemma back to his flat on Knaresborough Road to smoke cannabis on the day she disappeared, prosecutors said, but had “snapped” when she mentioned his children.

He hit her around the head with a hammer, said barristers, stabbing her an “uncountable” number of times before tying her up and submerging her body in the bath for four days.

He also admitted in police interview, prosecutors said, that he had sawed off her legs to fit her body in his boot, wrapping it up in a sleeping bag which he secured with chains and a padlock in case she escaped.

“He sawed off the bottom of Gemma’s legs ‘as fast as he could so that he wouldn’t be sick,’” said Simon Myerson QC, prosecuting.

“He wrapped her and her severed legs in a sleeping bag in the chains, so that she couldn’t get out, and padlocked her.”

He went on to bury her body in a shallow grave at Brimham Rocks, the court heard, covering up the killing at the Knaresborough Road flat by painting the walls and floor with lilac paint.

There were gasps from Gemma’s distraught family as he pleaded not guilty to her murder at Leeds Crown Court today, admitting manslaughter instead on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He was suffering psychotic episodes at the time of her killing, psychiatrists found, believing people were after him and wanting to drown him.

And, it’s emerged, he had been discharged from the Briary Unit at Harrogate District Hospital just six weeks before Gemma’s death.

“It was his firm belief that a group of men actively wanted to kill him, that the supernatural world of witches was real,” Paul Greaney, QC, mitigating.

“He was discharged just six weeks before he killed Gemma Simpson. At that stage, the doctors accepted that the delusions had not disappeared altogether.”

Mr Greaney asked the court to consider Bell’s admission as well as his mental state.

“The defendant, on July 8 this year, took the decision to a police station to confess to his crimes,” he said. “Had it not been for this decision, he would probably have gone to his grave without ever having been punished for this crime.”

Judge Peter Collier, QC, recorder of Leeds, adjourned the case until Friday for sentencing.