On April 16, 1996, James Patterson Smith informed the authorities that his teenage girlfriend, Kelly Anne Bates, had tragically drowned in an accidental incident. However, the horrifying injuries discovered on her body indicated torture and a far more brutal murder than anyone could have anticipated.
One day, Margaret Bates returned to her home in Hattersley, England, only to find her 16-year-old daughter, Kelly Anne, in the kitchen. Unbeknownst to Margaret, Kelly Anne had invited her boyfriend home for the first time. Shortly after, the sound of footsteps on the stairs revealed the arrival of James Patterson Smith.
Margaret was taken aback to discover that Smith was in his mid-forties. No mother would approve of her daughter dating someone significantly older. However, Margaret’s concerns extended beyond the age difference; Smith’s behavior was deeply offensive.
“He was not the kind of man I envisioned for my daughter,” Margaret later recounted during an interview. “I distinctly remember seeing our bread knife in the kitchen and feeling the urge to grab it and strike him from behind.” Regrettably, Margaret would later lament her decision not to act on her impulse, as her daughter’s relationship with James Patterson Smith would ultimately culminate in a brutal ordeal of torture and murder, so horrifying that the jurors in his trial required counseling.
The couple had first met in 1993, when Kelly Anne Bates was merely 14 years old, and had concealed their relationship from her mother until that fateful encounter in the kitchen.
In November 1995, shortly after the kitchen incident, Kelly Anne moved in with the unemployed Smith in Gorton. Despite their reservations, her parents consented on the condition that she maintain regular contact. However, over the following months, their once sociable daughter became withdrawn, and her parents noticed abrasions on her arms during unexpected visits.
James Patterson Smith had a long history of mistreating the women he lived with. His first marriage ended amid allegations of physical abuse, and other women who had dated Smith shared similar accounts. There was even an incident where he attempted to drown his 15-year-old girlfriend.
Margaret and Tommy Bates are speaking about their daughter Kelly-Anne’s brutal murder for the first time
Smith’s mistreatment of Kelly Anne Bates mirrored his treatment of other women, frequently subjecting her to physical violence. However, after a few months, the abuse escalated to an unimaginable degree.
The true extent of the abuse was not unveiled until April 16, 1996, when Smith walked into the Gorton Police Station and confessed to accidentally drowning Kelly Anne Bates during an argument while she was in the bathtub (the exact manner in which he presented this as an accident to the police remains unclear).
During the autopsy, the pathologist discovered over 150 injuries that had been inflicted over a period of at least one month. In the weeks leading up to her death, Smith subjected Bates to a series of horrific acts, including tying her hair to a radiator, burning her with a hot iron, suffocating her, and repeatedly stabbing her in the legs, torso, and mouth. He disfigured her by slashing her head, face, and genitalia using various tools, including snipping shears. Shockingly, her eyes had been gouged out at least five days before he ultimately drowned her in the bathtub.
Throughout the trial, the prosecutors described the immense suffering endured by Bates to the jury. “The physical agony she endured must have been unbearable,” asserted one prosecutor, “leading to mental deterioration and collapse.”
Other women who had suffered at the hands of Smith testified during the trial, painting a vivid picture of a misogynistic man consumed by envy and using chaos as a means of control.
Smith, however, presented himself as a victim. He claimed that Bates’s insults had driven him to commit the murder. “She tormented me and put me through hell,” he argued. He even went as far as suggesting that she bore some responsibility for her injuries in an attempt to discredit himself.
Nevertheless, the jury saw through his defense and swiftly found James Patterson Smith, aged 49, guilty of the murder of Kelly Anne Bates. On November 19, 1997, he was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years (some reports suggest twenty-five) in prison, where he remains incarcerated to this day.
As for Margaret Bates, she often reflects on her first encounter with Smith in the kitchen. “I would never normally entertain such a heinous thought,” she said, referring to her initial desire to kill him on the spot. “Now I can’t help but wonder if it was some kind of sixth sense.”