from Jean Calder
My daughter was three when Kelly Anne Bates died and five when her killer came to trial. Kelly Anne’s death was the first I had ever written about, certainly the first account of a homicide that I ever had published. I have never forgotten her, nor ever wanted to – though the circumstances of her death were truly terrible. I have not spoken of her to my daughter, but in a way, she has always been present as a part of our lives. Her dreadful death was one of the reasons that I set up For Our Daughters.
Kelly Anne Bates died at the age of 17, on 16th April 1996 in Manchester. She was murdered by James Smith, a a 49-year-old misogynist with a history of extreme violence towards women. Kelly Anne was just 14 when Smith first targeted her – and 16 when she moved in with him.
Kelly Anne was tortured over a period of four weeks before her death, kept prisoner and starved, tied by her hair to a radiator and a chair. A post-mortem examination of her emaciated body revealed she had suffered injuries on 150 separate sites, including a fractured arm and crush injuries to both hands. She had been beaten, stabbed in the face and body with scissors and forks, scalded, branded with a hot iron on her thigh and partially scalped. Her ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips and genitalia had been mutilated and she had wounds caused by a spade and pruning shears. Smith gouged her eyes out, as the pathologist said “not less than five days and not more than three weeks before her death”. He also stabbed her in the eye sockets in the three days before her death. Finally, he beat her about the head with a shower head and drowned her in a bath.She had lost around 20 kg in weight and had not received water for several days before her death.
Peter Openshaw QC, the prosecutor said: “It was as if he deliberately disfigured her, causing her the utmost pain, distress and degradation … The injuries were not the result of one sudden eruption of violence, they must have been caused over a long period [and] were so extensive and so terrible that the defendant must have deliberately and systematically tortured the girl.” The cause of death was drowning, Openshaw said, adding: “Her death must have been a merciful end to her torment”.
William Lawler, the pathologist who examined Kelly Anne’s body, described her injuries as “the worst he had seen on a murder victim”. Peter Openshaw told the jury at Manchester Crown Court that her physical pain would have been intense, causing “anguish and torment to the point of mental breakdown and collapse.”
According to her mother Margaret, Kelly Anne loved children. She said “She was bright and bubbly” adding “She didn’t walk. She bounced.” Kelly Anne studied at a college in Hyde, Greater Manchester and had worked for a graphics firm. She was strong, was interested in sport and had played hockey, but by the time of her death weighed only seven and a half stone.
The court heard evidence from Smith’s ex-wife and girlfriends who told of his repeated violence and obsessive jealousy. He had come close to drowning two of them and Kelly Anne was not the first under age girl he had targeted. People noticed signs of violence on Kelly Anne well before her death.
Despite his age and history of extreme violence, the fact that Kelly Anne was legally still a child under the terms of the Children Act and for most of this period under the age of consent, nobody protected her, though her parents tried desperately to do so. Police and Social Services took no effective action. After her death, there were no appalled statements from politicians, no calls for a public inquiry.
Now, 18 years later, Britain is dealing with an epidemic of violent sexual abuse of teenage girls – and finally is beginning to believe them. But I have little doubt that before Kelly Anne died, she would simply have been seen – as so many abused girls were at that time – as just another ‘teenage slag’, a silly girl ‘consenting’ to abusive sex with an older man.
Kelly Anne was comprehensively failed – during her life by individuals and agencies who should have protected her and helped her family – and after her death by politicians who should have been outraged at the manner of her dying.
For Our Daughters is determined that she will not be forgotten.
A while ago, I spoke about her at a public meeting. I described For Our Daughters’ commemorative work as “a kind of resurrection”. When I went home, I began to write a poem about Kelly Anne which I called “The Resurrection of Kelly Anne Bates”.
That poem is printed below. Please read it and forgive its inadequacy. I am no poet.
The Resurrection of Kelly Ann Bates
Fire and water did for me
Base metal laid me low,
You tempered me in plastic
And sculpted me in stone
But I have turned away from you
I have raised my head
I have heard the women singing
And know that I’m not dead
I hear the rasp of a beetle’s jaw
My sinews bind to the dust
I feel the sap in my ancient heart
As I burst from the earth to the air
My body grows like a wild oak tree
My legs like the mountain ash
My arms are filled with turtle doves
The sparrows sing to me
Great rivers stream from my wide mouth
my wings are full of air
My teeth are bright as the flaying knife
There’s music in my ear
The sea comes up to greet me
As I dance with my great feet
I hear faint sounds as your hammer pounds
But I have conquered fear
I set my heel upon your skull
I pound your iron to ash
I leave you a ride on the potter’s wheel
and a stone to break your back
I leave you a duck in your local pond
A bridle for your tongue,
I leave you the beat of myriad feet
For I do not dance alone
I abandon you in concrete.
I am pointed to the skies
I am aphrodite rising
There is lightning in my eyes.