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Boy obsessed with serial killers found guilty of Colchester stabbing murders

Published 22/04/2016

A teenager who was obsessed with killers including the Yorkshire Ripper has been found guilty of murdering two strangers in frenzied attacks.

James Fairweather was just 15 years old when he knifed James Attfield and Nahid Almanea to death in two horrific attacks in Colchester, Essex, which terrified the local community.

He was branded "a monster" by Julie Finch, the heartbroken mother of Mr Attfield, who was stabbed 102 times as he lay drunk and helpless in a park in March 2014.

Three months later Fairweather, who idolised the Yorkshire Ripper and counted US serial killer Ted Bundy as his favourite killer, struck again.

He knifed Saudi student Ms Almanea, 31, with a bayonet and stabbed her in both eyes as she walked along a nature trail in the town on June 17 2014.

He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, claiming he believed he was possessed by the devil and heard voices that compelled him to kill.

The jurors took eight hours and 33 minutes to unanimously find Fairweather, now aged 17, guilty of the murders.

It came after they heard an expert say his description of the hallucinations sounded like something plucked from a horror film.

Ms Finch was too upset to speak as she stood on the steps of Guildford Crown Court beside an Essex police officer, who read a statement on her behalf.

The statement said: "On March 29 2014 our lives were changed forever when my kind and brave son Jim was brutally killed.

"He had been through so much already, having fought hard to overcome the effects of brain damage suffered when he was struck by a car. He did not deserve to die.

"James Fairweather is a monster in our eyes - and we will never be able to forgive him."

Friends and staff at the University of Essex where Ms Almanea was studying remembered her as "a bright, talented and conscientious member of our university community".

University registrar Bryn Morris described her as "a considerate and well-respected student" adding that she would be honoured with a special scholarship for overseas students studying science or health-related subjects at postgraduate level.

It will be called the Almanea Scholarship for Science.

Fairweather, who can now be named after a reporting ban was lifted, gave no reaction as the jury of five men and seven women delivered the verdicts.

His mother, who attended every day of the murder trial, wept.

Mr Justice Robin Spencer QC warned Fairweather he faced a lengthy prison sentence, adding that the starting point for two murders for someone under 18 is 12 years.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday April 29.

Fairweather was hunting for his third victim when he was caught by police.

The hunt to find the murderer was "one of the biggest investigations" carried out by Essex Police, according to Assistant Chief Constable Steve Worron.

After the verdict, he said: "Fairweather admitted killing James and Nahid but denied their murder was calculated and pre-planned.

"He then forced their families to endure the pain and grief of a trial rather than admitting that he had murdered them.

"Today's verdict will never heal the pain of losing their loved ones in such horrific circumstances.

"Hopefully they now have some answers and can be reassured that their killer will face a long time behind bars."

Paul Scothern, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This was a shocking case, particularly because of the young age of the defendant at the time and because the brutal attacks he carried out were entirely random."

Mr Scothern said Fairweather had "absolutely no reason" to attack them, adding: "Our evidence was that he was in control at the time, he knew what he was doing, he prepared for the killings by arming himself with a knife and gloves, and he took steps afterwards to conceal what he had done."

Fairweather was "turned on" by serial killers and researched Ian Huntley, Myra Hindley and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who he had a picture of on his phone.

Ted Bundy, who was his favourite serial killer, sexually assaulted, murdered and decapitated his victims.

Fairweather wanted to emulate the serial killers he idolised and fantasised about killing his headteacher and parents, the court heard.

He had played violent computer games Call Of Duty and Grand Theft Auto since he was 13 years old.

And he had a stash of horror films including Wrong Turn: The Carnage Collection, a DVD about Sutcliffe and a book called The World's Worst Crimes.

After he killed, he obsessively looked up press coverage of the murders on the internet.

He spent his days thinking about "killing, raping and watching pornography", the court heard.

The murders sparked a massive police hunt in Colchester, and the teenager did not attack again for another year.

He was arrested on May 26 last year while wearing gloves, armed with a lock knife and on the prowl for his third victim by the Salary Brook nature trail where he had already killed.

Fairweather, who has been diagnosed with autism, admitted the killings.

In police interviews he told detectives he heard voices, adding: "They said we need another sacrifice and I was going to get my third victim but there was no-one about."

His defence lawyers argued he had full-blown psychosis and did not fully understand what he was doing.

But this was dismissed by prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC, who said the youth "understood his conduct at the time" and "was able to form a reasonable judgment".

He said the teenager had made preparations for killing and "took steps to conceal afterwards" by throwing the murder weapon into a fast-flowing river.

The court heard Fairweather lied about hearing voices and having hallucinations to try to get off the murder charges.

Psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph said the teenager's description of hallucinations were "cliched" and "unconvincing".

He added: "It seems more like something you might see in a horror film."

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