Boy, 17, found guilty of Colchester stabbing murders


A teenager who idolised the Yorkshire Ripper has been convicted of murdering two strangers in frenzied attacks.

James Fairweather, who was 15 at the time, stabbed James Attfield, 33, 102 times in a park in Colchester, Essex, in March 2014.

Three months later he knifed Saudi student Nahid Almanea, 31, as she walked along a nature trail in the town.

The 17-year-old, who can now be named after a reporting ban was lifted, admitted manslaughter, claiming he believed he was possessed by the devil and heard voices that compelled him to kill.

He denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility but was convicted by a jury at Guildford Crown Court.

He was hunting a third victim when he was caught by police.

The teenager was "turned on" by serial killers and researched Ian Huntley, Myra Hindley and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, of whom he had a picture on his phone.

His favourite serial killer was American Ted Bundy, who sexually assaulted, murdered and decapitated his victims.

He wanted to emulate the serial killers he idolised and fantasised about killing his headteacher and parents, the court heard.

The young killer had played violent computer games Call Of Duty and Grand Theft Auto since he was 13 years old.

And he had a stash of horror films including Wrong Turn: The Carnage Collection, a DVD about Sutcliffe and a book called The World's Worst Crimes.

After he killed, he obsessively looked up press coverage of the murders on the internet.

He spent his days thinking about "killing, raping and watching pornography", the jury of five men and seven women were told.

The double murder sparked a massive police hunt in Colchester, and the teenager did not attack again for another year.

He was arrested on May 26 last year while wearing gloves, armed with a lock knife and on the prowl for his third victim by the Salary Brook nature trail where he had already killed.

Fairweather, who has been diagnosed with autism, admitted the killings.

In police interviews he told detectives he heard voices, adding: "They said we need another sacrifice and I was going to get my third victim but there was no-one about."

His defence lawyers argued that he had full-blown psychosis and did not fully understand what he was doing.

But this was dismissed by prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC, who said the youth "understood his conduct at the time" and "was able to form a reasonable judgment".

He said Fairweather had made preparations for killing and "took steps to conceal afterwards" by throwing the murder weapon into a fast-flowing river.

The court heard that Fairweather lied about hearing voices and having hallucinations to try to get off the murder charges.

Psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph said the teenager's description of hallucinations were "cliched" and "unconvincing".

He added: "It seems more like something you might see in a horror film."

Fairweather showed no reaction as the jury delivered its unanimous verdicts after deliberating for eight hours and 33 minutes.

Mr Justice Robin Spencer QC warned the teenager he faced a lengthy prison sentence, adding that the starting point for two murders for someone under 18 is 12 years.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday April 29.

The judge said he may hear details at the sentencing "about the impact of the killing on the families of these deceased and there may be some evidence as to the impact on the Colchester area itself ".

He also turned and thanked the jurors for their "diligence" in dealing with such a "harrowing" case before excusing them from jury service for four years.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Worron, of Essex Police, said: "These were horrific crimes where two people lost their lives in tragic circumstances.

"Fairweather admitted killing James and Nahid but denied their murder was calculated and pre-planned.

"He then forced their families to endure the pain and grief of a trial rather than admitting that he had murdered them.

"Today's verdict will never heal the pain of losing their loved ones in such horrific circumstances.

"Hopefully they now have some answers and can be reassured that their killer will face a long time behind bars."

Bryn Morris, registrar at the University of Essex, paid tribute to Ms Almanea, saying: "Nahid was a bright, talented and conscientious member of our university community.

"She was a considerate and well-respected student on our English language programme and is missed by her teachers and fellow students.

"We will continue to honour her memory through the Almanea Scholarship for Science, which is offered to overseas students studying science or health-related subjects at postgraduate level."

Speaking after the trial, Mr Attfield's mother Julie Finch said: "We are grateful for today's verdict and hope now justice has been served we can begin to move on as a family.

"On March 29 2014 our lives were changed forever when my kind and brave son Jim was brutally killed.

"He had been through so much already, having fought hard to overcome the effects of brain damage suffered when he was struck by a car. He didn't deserve to die.

"At the time we had no idea the killer was so young - a fact that makes my son's death feel all the more cruel and unnecessary.

"James Fairweather is a monster in our eyes - and we will never be able to forgive him.

"I would like to thank all the police I have had contact with for all their hard work and sensitivity.

"I would also like to thank the media who have supported us during the investigation, keeping Jim's case in the public eye and helping the police with appeals for information. Journalists have shown us great sensitivity throughout the trial. Everyone has been extremely supportive. My family and I now wish to be left alone so we can continue to grieve in private."

In the month following Nahid Almanea's death, her family issued a statement via a police family liaison officer, Detective Constable Jane Morgan.

The tribute said: "As a family we have been left devastated by the terrible murder of Nahid. Nahid was a remarkable and gentle person who was loved for her kind and caring nature.

"Publicly, Nahid was a quiet and dignified lady who chose to pursue her academic studies in order to work towards her PhD, and whilst in England she made a decision that she would respect her heritage and traditions in the way that she dressed and conducted herself.

"However, when she was with her family, Nahid was a warm and loving person who enjoyed laughter and the company of her parents, siblings and extended family.

"The amount of people that attended Nahid's funeral is a tribute to how much she was cared for and respected."

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said in a statement: "I am pleased that the jury has returned guilty verdicts in this case and that this trial has now concluded.

"Firstly, I would like to once again offer my sympathy to the families of Nahid Almanea and James Attfield. To lose a loved one is traumatic, but to lose a relative in such violent circumstances and then face the ordeal of a trial is truly harrowing.

"I have found this case deeply disturbing, as has the wider Essex community, because of the level of violence perpetrated by a defendant of such a young age on two individuals completely unknown to him.

"This case highlights the need for all of us to be prepared to talk about not only the harm being perpetrated by our young people, but also the likelihood that harm is being caused to them by repeated exposure to extreme violence and pornography, both of which are readily available on the internet and both of which we have heard cited in this case.

"This case is testament to the dedication and hard work of all the police officers and staff involved. Officers from Essex Police, supported by colleagues from neighbouring forces, worked around the clock to investigate these murders, reassure the community and bring this case and the defendant before the courts.

"I hope now the families of Nahid and James can be left to grieve in peace and begin to rebuild their lives."