2014 Colchester murders
|Born||5 August 1998|
|Criminal status||Found guilty|
|Motive||Psychosis (claimed, rejected by court)|
|Conviction(s)||Two counts of murder|
|Criminal charge||Two charges of murder|
|Penalty||Life with minimum of 27 years|
|Date||29 March and 17 June 2014|
|Location(s)||Castle Park and The Salarybrooke Trail Colchester, Essex|
|27 May 2015|
On 29 March 2014, 33-year-old James Attfield, who had a brain injury after a previous car accident in 2010, was stabbed to death in Colchester, Essex. Three months later, on 17 June, Nahid Almanea, a 31-year-old Saudi student of the University of Essex, was also stabbed and killed. Teenager James Fairweather was apprehended while planning a third murder in May 2015, and in January 2016 he pleaded responsible for both deaths. In April 2016 he was found guilty of both murders and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 27 years.
James Fairweather was 15 years old when he committed his murders, and 17 at his conviction. He attended Colchester Academy. He was bullied for his prominent years. At school, he was involved in violent incidents, but none to suggest that he would become a murderer. He was in the lowest sets of each class, and classmates recalled him choosing "murderer" when asked to explain his desired career, as well as threatening a Columbine-style massacre in the final assembly; his peers brushed this off as posturing.
Fairweather was convicted of knifepoint robbery of cigars in January 2014, and sentenced to a year's supervision. He was also convicted of criminal damage of a house in 2013.
Attfield, a father-of-five with brain damage after a car accident, was passing through Castle Park when he was attacked by Fairweather. He was found bleeding to death by paramedics, who could not save his life. The violence committed towards him startled the police, and the BBC decided that the details were too "gruesome to describe". In court, Fairweather said that voices had chosen Attfield to be his victim, and the voices began to laugh as he stabbed him.
Almanea was killed in overgrowth on Salary Brook Trail near her home. He stabbed her in the abdomen before forcing the knife into her eyes and ultimately her brain, so that she could not "see evil".
Essex Police questioned 70 locals with a history of knife crime, including Fairweather, who gave an alibi and was not questioned further.
As of January 2015[update], more than 900 potential witnesses had been interviewed. Det Supt Hawkings, Head of Major Crimes for Essex Police called the attack "brazen" for occurring in a public space where passersby were likely. Police said that despite no firm evidence, one line of enquiry was a possible hate crime. During the trial, by which time it was known that Almanea and Attfield were killed by the same person, it was announced that both had been selected randomly. Premature assumptions that it was a hate crime led the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to threaten revenge attacks, using the Twitter hashtag #Colchester.
The fact that Almanea and Attfield were unconnected people, and had been killed at different times of the day, led to a line of investigation that there could have been two separate killers. Fewer people went out in Colchester in public, and overgrowth was cleared to remove hiding places.
Arrest and investigation of Fairweather
Fairweather did not attempt another murder for over a year because the public were wary of the danger: on 27 May 2015 he was spotted loitering early in the morning by a concerned dogwalker. The police were called and interviewed Fairweather, who was wearing rubber-gripped gloves and bearing a knife. He was arrested. In August 2015, he told a psychiatrist some of the "most anti-social and violent thoughts" the professional had heard, saying that voices were telling him to burn babies and maim prostitutes. Searches of Fairweather's possessions included documentaries about serial killers such as the Yorkshire Ripper, but prosecutor Paul Scothern clarified that not all people with such interests are intent on imitating the killers.
Trial and sentencing
At the Old Bailey the following January, his name not disclosed to the public for reasons of age, he denied two charges of murder and possessing an illegal weapon, but admitted to two charges of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Fairweather claimed to have psychosis, which was not found by a court psychiatrist. However, all four psychiatrists who testified agreed that Fairweather suffered from an autistic spectrum disorder. He was found unanimously guilty by the jury on 22 April 2016, and was to be sentenced a week later, with Judge Robin Spencer, QC, saying that the minimum sentence would be 12 years.
After the conviction, Attfield's mother Julie decried Fairweather as a "monster", condemning his cruelty to her son.
On 29 April 2016, Fairweather was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 27 years.
- Cawley, Laurence (22 April 2016). "James Attfield and Nahid Almanea murders: The schoolboy killer". BBC News. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "James Attfield and Nahid Almanea deaths: Boy admits manslaughter". BBC News. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- "Ripper-obsessed James Fairweather detained for double murder". BBC Sport. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- "Ripper-obsessed Colchester teen convicted of double murder". BBC News. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- Smith, Louie (22 April 2016). "How James Fairweather turned from Mr Bean into the Teen Ripper". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
- BBC Staff (31 January 2015). "BBC News – Key witness sought by police in Nahid Almanea murder probe". BBC Online. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- Duggan, Oliver. "Essex PhD student 'murdered for being Muslim', police fear". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Paul, Peachey (20 June 2014). "Saudi student may have been murdered because she was wearing a hijab". The Independent. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
- Josh Halliday. "Woman killed in footpath attack 'may have been targeted for Muslim dress'". the Guardian.
- Kendall, Ben (19 June 2014). "Isis revenge threat over murder of Saudi student Nahid Almanea". The Independent. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Serial killer-obsessed schoolboy jailed for 27 years after murdering two strangers". ITV News. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- "Teenager inspired by serial killers detained for 27 years minimum for double murder". ITV News. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.[permanent dead link]