‘He manipulated the system’: Disgust at sentence on Gemma’s murderer

Glenn Simpson, the father of Gemma Simpson, talking outside Leeds Crown Court
Glenn Simpson, the father of Gemma Simpson, talking outside Leeds Crown Court
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A TAXI driver who was jailed for a minimum of 12 years for killing a young Leeds woman in a brutal attack and leaving her body buried undiscovered for more than a decade has manipulated the legal system, his victim’s father said today.

Martin Bell, 45, was given a life sentence at Leeds Crown Court today for the manslaughter of Gemma Simpson, who disappeared in May 2000.

Martin Bell, 45, who admitted killing Gemma Simpson in a "frenzied" attack with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot

Martin Bell, 45, who admitted killing Gemma Simpson in a "frenzied" attack with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot

The court heard how Bell killed the 23-year-old 14 years ago with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot near Harrogate.

Bell admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was told today he must serve a minimum of 12 years in prison before he is considered for release.

Miss Simpson’s father, Glenn, said he was “disgusted” by the sentence, saying his family’s ordeal of not knowing what happened had been longer than the time Bell will serve.

Outside court, Mr Simpson said: “He (Bell) brutally murdered Gemma - our Gemma - and left her buried in the ground for 14 years.

Gemma Simpson

Gemma Simpson

“We served that 14 years. He has 11 to serve. We believe he has manipulated the system.”

Mr Simpson, who was comforted by his daughter Naomi Carrick, said: “All we can say now is we hope he rots.”

Earlier this week, the court heard how Bell said God had told him to kill Miss Simpson when she was at his flat in Harrogate.

Prosecutors said Bell launched a “frenzied” attack in which he repeatedly struck Miss Simpson with a hammer and then stabbed her in the back and neck an “enormous” and “uncountable” number of times with a kitchen knife.

Police of police at the scene where Gemma Simpson's body was found

Police of police at the scene where Gemma Simpson's body was found

Bell filled a bath with water and left Miss Simpson in it for four days with her hands tied behind her back because he was “frightened she would come back to life”.

He hired a car but found that he could not fit Miss Simpson’s body in the boot, so he sawed off the bottom of his victim’s legs.

Bell told police he did this “as fast as I could so I wasn’t sick”.

He wrapped Miss Simpson’s body in a sleeping bag and secured it with chains and a padlock “so she couldn’t get out”.

He then drove her to Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, where he dug a hole with a shovel and buried her.

Bell, who was 30 at the time of the attack, had known Miss Simpson for around five years.

In July this year, he handed himself in at Scarborough police station.

During his interviews, Bell took police to Brimham Rocks and showed them where he had buried Miss Simpson, and her remains were recovered.

He said he had visited the site four or fives times since Miss Simpson’s death.

Bell told police he had considered confessing in the past but his mother was still alive and he was concerned about losing his freedom.

The court heard that Bell had a psychotic illness and heard voices telling him to do things and had “developed complex delusional beliefs”.

He had been sectioned in a mental hospital for around nine months in August 1999 and was released around six weeks before he killed Miss Simpson.

Mr Greaney said the doctor who discharged Bell accepted that the delusions had not disappeared at that stage.

Judge Peter Collier QC told him today: “The killing of Gemma Simpson was brutal. Your treatment of her body after death was dreadful.

“But your culpability was considerably diminished by your mental illness.”

Judge Collier told the court it was a difficult and unique sentencing exercise as he had to consider the law as it was 14 years ago and, also, the fact that Bell is not currently showing the psychotic illness he was suffering from at the time.

The judge also noted he has not committed any acts of serious violence since he murdered Miss Simpson.

Miss Simpson’s father said he did not blame the judge for the sentence.

The family issued a statement through West Yorkshire Police which said: “Gemma was a young woman in the prime of her life who raised a smile and lit up every room she entered.

“Her family will never come to terms with the loss of Gemma. We are victims as well.

“There is no sentence which can be imposed which will reduce the pain and suffering Martin Bell has caused Gemma’s family during the past 14 years, whilst all the time he was leading a normal life.

“He left us in limbo for each one of those years. A total of nearly 5,000 days of pain in which we worried constantly for Gemma and her wellbeing.

“That chill in our hearts became an integral, perpetual part of our lives and the knowledge that Bell could watch all of our and the police’s efforts to find her while going on with his own affairs for so long quite simply beggars belief.

“While we now know what happened to our daughter, there is a shadow on our lives which will never be lifted and Bell is the cause of that.

“Our beautiful Gemma was a bright shining light in our world. A light which Martin Bell extinguished.”

• GEMMA SIMPSON was 23 years old when she went missing in Leeds.

The last sighting of her was by a friend who saw her getting on a bus in Harehills at about 12.30pm on Friday, May 5, 2000.

She told her friend she was going to visit someone in Huddersfield but it is now known that was not the case.

Martin Bell, who was 30 years old at the time, had been phoned by Gemma and arranged to meet her at Leeds railway station before they both went back to his flat in Knaresborough Road, Harrogate.

He had first met Gemma through a mutual friend in 1990 and they spent a lot of time together over the next two to three years, even living together for periods.

Bell then discovered that Gemma was gay and their relationship cooled until about 1999 when they made contact again. By March 2000, they were in contact two or three times a week.

Gemma was reported missing to the police on July 20, 2000 and a missing persons investigation commenced. This involved wide-ranging enquiries, including numerous searches of properties, and the case attracted extensive media publicity both locally and nationally.

As enquiries continued, Bell was identified as one of about ten people of interest to the investigation. He was interviewed about Gemma’s disappearance but claimed not to have seen her. His flat was searched by police in September 2002 but nothing was found.

On July 8, 2014, Bell went to Scarborough Police Station and told staff that he had killed Gemma and knew where her body was.

He was arrested and taken to Leeds where he was interviewed by detectives and fully admitted killing Gemma at his flat in Harrogate.

He told officers he had hit her on the head with a hammer, stabbed her in the head and back and put her in a bath of water. A forensic examination of the flat following his admissions found traces of Gemma’s blood on a door frame despite the amount of time that had passed.

He had partially dismembered her body cutting off the lower parts of both her legs and wrapped the body in a sleeping bag which he secured with chains and padlocks.

He then hired a car and drove Gemma’s body to the Brimham Rocks area and buried her in a shallow grave.

Following Bell’s admissions, detectives from West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, supported by North Yorkshire Police, began a search of the area where Gemma was believed to be buried.

Bell was taken to the scene to point out the area where he had buried her. It was overgrown with dense bracken that needed to be stripped away before detailed investigations could begin.

The next few weeks saw extensive work by specialist police search teams, backed by expert assistance from forensic archaeologists and an anthropologist.

On Friday, August 8, 2014, human remains were discovered which were subsequently identified as being Gemma’s.

A post mortem examination showed her death was due to multiple injuries.

Detective Chief Inspector Adrian Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “Gemma’s family are completely devastated at their loss, particularly knowing, as they do now, that she died violently at Bell’s hands.

“While his conviction today has finally answered the question of what happened to Gemma, we fully recognise that no sentence will ever be able to compensate her family for the pain they have suffered as a result of his actions.”