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Anger at hammer killer sentence

A taxi driver who was jailed for a minimum of 12 years for killing a young woman in a brutal attack and leaving her body buried undiscovered for more than a decade has manipulated the legal system, his victim's father said today.

Martin Bell, 45, was given a life sentence at Leeds Crown Court today for the manslaughter of Gemma Simpson, who disappeared in May 2000.

The court heard how Bell killed the 23-year-old 14 years ago with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot near Harrogate, in North Yorkshire.

Bell admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was told today he must serve a minimum of 12 years in prison before he is considered for release.

Miss Simpson's father, Glenn, said he was "disgusted" by the sentence, saying his family's ordeal of not knowing what happened had been longer than the time Bell will serve.

Outside court, Mr Simpson said: "He (Bell) brutally murdered Gemma - our Gemma - and left her buried in the ground for 14 years.

"We served that 14 years. He has 11 to serve. We believe he has manipulated the system."

Mr Simpson, who was comforted by his daughter Naomi Carrick, said: "All we can say now is we hope he rots."

Earlier this week, the court heard how Bell said God had told him to kill Miss Simpson when she was at his flat in Harrogate.

Prosecutors said Bell launched a "frenzied" attack in which he repeatedly struck Miss Simpson with a hammer and then stabbed her in the back and neck an "enormous" and "uncountable" number of times with a kitchen knife.

Bell filled a bath with water and left Miss Simpson in it for four days with her hands tied behind her back because he was "frightened she would come back to life".

He hired a car but found that he could not fit Miss Simpson's body in the boot, so he sawed off the bottom of his victim's legs.

Bell told police he did this "as fast as I could so I wasn't sick".

He wrapped Miss Simpson's body in a sleeping bag and secured it with chains and a padlock "so she couldn't get out".

He then drove her to Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, where he dug a hole with a shovel and buried her.

Bell, who was 30 at the time of the attack, had known Miss Simpson for around five years.

In July this year, he handed himself in at Scarborough police station.

During his interviews, Bell took police to Brimham Rocks and showed them where he had buried Miss Simpson, and her remains were recovered.

He said he had visited the site four or fives times since Miss Simpson's death.

Bell told police he had considered confessing in the past but his mother was still alive and he was concerned about losing his freedom.

The court heard that Bell had a psychotic illness and heard voices telling him to do things and had "developed complex delusional beliefs".

He had been sectioned in a mental hospital for around nine months in August 1999 and was released around six weeks before he killed Miss Simpson.

Mr Greaney said the doctor who discharged Bell accepted that the delusions had not disappeared at that stage.

Judge Peter Collier QC told him today: "The killing of Gemma Simpson was brutal. Your treatment of her body after death was dreadful.

"But your culpability was considerably diminished by your mental illness."

Judge Collier told the court it was a difficult and unique sentencing exercise as he had to consider the law as it was 14 years ago and, also, the fact that Bell is not currently showing the psychotic illness he was suffering from at the time.

The judge also noted he has not committed any acts of serious violence since he murdered Miss Simpson.

Miss Simpson's father said he did not blame the judge for the sentence.

The family issued a statement through West Yorkshire Police which said: "Gemma was a young woman in the prime of her life who raised a smile and lit up every room she entered.

"Her family will never come to terms with the loss of Gemma. We are victims as well.

"There is no sentence which can be imposed which will reduce the pain and suffering Martin Bell has caused Gemma's family during the past 14 years, whilst all the time he was leading a normal life.

"He left us in limbo for each one of those years. A total of nearly 5,000 days of pain in which we worried constantly for Gemma and her wellbeing.

"That chill in our hearts became an integral, perpetual part of our lives and the knowledge that Bell could watch all of our and the police's efforts to find her while going on with his own affairs for so long quite simply beggars belief.

"While we now know what happened to our daughter, there is a shadow on our lives which will never be lifted and Bell is the cause of that.

"Our beautiful Gemma was a bright shining light in our world. A light which Martin Bell extinguished."

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