On 16 April, 1996, 17-year-old Kelly Anne Bates was drowned in a bath tub, after suffering four weeks of constant torture at the hands of her 48-year-old “partner,” James Patterson Smith, who had started grooming the Manchester schoolgirl when she was just 14-years-old.
Bates had met Smith while she was babysitting for one of his friends. Playing the perfect gentleman, he walked her home that night to “keep her safe.”1 The grooming process was so secretive that Bates’ parents didn’t even meet Smith until two years later, when they were finally introduced to the much-older man. They had spoken to him on the phone but were completely oblivious to his age. They became concerned immediately after the first introduction. How could they not? Bates was just a teenage girl and Smith was a divorcee in his late 40s. “When I first met him, the hairs went up on the back of my neck,” recalled her mother, Margaret.2
While growing up, Bates was a strong girl that loved playing sports. She dreamed of becoming a teacher and she attended college while working for a graphics firm. She had future plans and she had ambitions. However, after meeting Smith, she completely changed. She stopped showering and would spend hours just curled up on the sofa in complete silence. “She came home and one side of her face was black. She said some girls had attacked her. I couldn’t bear the worry, but I knew if I dragged her away from him, I could lose her,” said Margaret.
Then one day, Bates came home and told her parents that she had a new job and that she wouldn’t be able to see them as much. She left the family home for good on the 30th of November, 1995, and moved into Smith’s two-bedroom semi-detached house in Furnival Road, Gorton. Bates continued to speak to her parents on the phone but they never saw her alive again.
As soon as she moved in with him, Bates was methodically ostracised from her family and friends. When the phone calls back home became sporadic and the birthday and Christmas cards were signed by Smith and not Bates, her family became increasingly concerned for her well-being and contacted their doctor and the police. However, Bates was never checked up on by either due to the fact that she was now a legal adult. Her parents were apprehensive about going to the house and checking up on her as they were afraid that their interference could backfire and push their daughter even further away. This is a decision they regret every single day.
In the weeks before her death, Bates had suffered unimaginable torture.
On the 16th of April, 1996, Smith walked to a local police station and said that Bates was dead. When police rushed to the scene, they found her naked and lifeless body on the bathroom floor. Smith claimed they had been “going at it” in the bath when she swallowed water and accidentally died.3 However, it was as clear as day that this was no accident.
An investigation showed that Bates’ blood was in every single room of the house; her autopsy concluded that there were over 150 separate injuries on her body. They were not the result of one sudden eruption of violence, either. Bates had been systematically tortured over a prolonged period.
In the four weeks leading to her grim death, Bates had been burnt with cigarettes and branded on the thigh with a hot iron. Boiling hot water had been poured over her feet and her buttocks. She had multiple stab wounds caused by knives, forks, and scissors. Stab wounds were even found on the inside of her mouth. A ligature mark on her neck indicated she had been strangled and she had been tied by her hair to a radiator. At some point during the four weeks, her hands and kneecaps had been crushed, rendering her unable to walk and therefore escape. She had been partially scalped. Her ears, nose, mouth, lips, and genitalia had been mutilated. Both of her eyes had been gauged out and her empty eye sockets had been stabbed. It was determined that Bates could have been blinded up to three weeks before finally perishing.
She had also been starved and hadn’t been given water for several days before she died. Before she drowned, she had been beaten over the head with the shower head. Her death “must have been merciful,” the jury would be told.
Bates’ father, Tommy, had the grim task of identifying his daughter’s body. “People called him an animal, but an animal wouldn’t do that to another animal. He is a very evil man. I think about how much pain she must have been in, how she must have thought we didn’t love her because we didn’t save her,” said her mother.
As it would soon be discovered, Smith had a history of violence towards women. In 1982, he had groomed 15-year-old Wendy Mottershead. During the trial, she told the court that he once held her head under water in the kitchen sink. “It frightened me, but you get to the point where you’re too frightened to do or say anything. You just took it.” Another woman, Tina Martin, who met Smith when she was 20, told the court that he used her as a human punchbag. She told the stunned court room how he kicked and punched her, even when she was pregnant with his child. “Once I was having a bath and he got me by the throat and tried to push me under the water.”4
During the trial, Smith claimed that Bates “would put me through hell winding me up.” In an attempt to excuse his violent actions, he told the jury that Bates taunted him about his dead mother. When asked why he had inflicted so much torture on the teenager, he literally said she had asked him to. He suggested that she challenged him to hurt her and he was just complying to his wishes… He had earlier said in a statement that Bates had “a bad habit of hurting herself to make it look worse on me.”
The evidence presented at trial was so disturbing that every member of the jury accepted professional counselling afterwards.
The jury of seven men and five women took just one hour to find James Patterson Smith guilty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. The judge recommended that Smith serve a minimum of 20 years. He turned to Smith and said: “You are an abuser of women and I intent, so far as it is in my power, that you will abuse no more.”
- The Daily Mirror, 22 February,2015 – “Mum Finally Reveals Agony”
- The Sun, 21 February, 2015 – “Tortured to Death
- The Daily Mirror, 12 November, 1997 – “Tortured to Death”
- The Guardian, 20 November, 1997 – “Man Who Tortured Girl to Death Jailed for Life”