Killer loses sentence appeal

Gemma Simpson's murderer Martin Bell
Gemma Simpson's murderer Martin Bell

A killer who bludgeoned and stabbed a woman to death, then kept the location of her body a secret for 14 years, has been told by top judges his sentence was richly deserved.

Martin Christopher Bell, a schizophrenic, killed 23-year-old Gemma Simpson in 2000, but her remains were not discovered until last year.

The 46-year-old, of St Leonard’s Crescent, Scarborough, was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court in December, after admitting manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He was ordered to serve at least 12 years behind bars before he can even apply for parole.

Bell challenged his minimum term at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with his lawyers arguing it violated his human rights.

But his appeal was dismissed by three of the country’s most senior judges, who said the 12-year tariff was ‘not excessive’ for his crime.

Bell killed Miss Simpson, from Leeds, in May 2000, just six weeks after being discharged from a hospital where he had been detained for nine months under the Mental Health Act.

He struck her repeatedly with a hammer and stabbed her, telling her ‘God wants me to kill you’.

Bell then dragged her body into the bath and filled it with water, submerging her body.

He also tied her hands behind her back as he ‘believed her to be a witch’ and feared she would come back to life.

After leaving her there for four days, he hired a car to dispose of her and mutilated her body so it would fit into the boot.

Her body, which Bell buried at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was not found until the taxi driver walked into a Scarborough police station to confess in July last year.

During an appeal hearing earlier this month, Paul Greaney QC, for Bell, argued his minimum jail term was far too tough and breached his human rights.

He said that, had Bell been sentenced at the time of the murder, when sentencing guidelines were different, he would have received less than a 12-year tariff - even if he had been convicted of murder.

“If the minimum term had been fixed in accordance with the standards of 2000, it would not have been 12 years, but in the region of six years,” he added.

But Simon Myerson QC, for the Crown, said it would not have been an ‘average, normal or unexceptional murder’ and the minimum term for murder would have been higher.

Lady Justice Macur, sitting with Mr Justice Green and Judge Neil Bidder QC, agreed with Mr Myerson, saying his ‘tariff’ would have been around 16 years if he had been found guilty of murder.

She said the crown court judge’s reasoning was ‘entirely sound’ and that Bell had chosen to thwart any effort to bring him to justice in 2000 by concealing Miss Simpson’s body.

Dismissing his appeal, she added: “There can be no sensible argument that the minimum term imposed by the judge was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle.”