James Fairweather sentenced to minimum of 27 years in jail for murders of James Attfield and Nahid Almanea
The Colchester teenager convicted of murdering James Attfield and Nahid Almanea in Colchester in 2014 must serve a minimum of 27 years in jail.
James Fairweather, 17, was sentenced today at the Old Bailey in London.
Mr Justice Robin Spencer QC ruled Fairweather, of Thorpe Walk, cannot be eligible for release until he has served at least 27 years of his double life sentence for the killings.
Fairweather was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict following a two week trial at Guildford Crown Court, which ended last Friday.
He had admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility for the fatal stabbings of Mr Attfield on March 29 and Ms Almanea on June 17 2014, but had denied murder – with his defence claiming he was compelled to carry out the attacks by voices in his head.
The starting point minimum sentence for an under-18 convicted of murder is 12 years, but the court heard this had been aggravated by the two killings, the brutal nature of the stabbings and the public anxiety the murders caused.
Statements were read from Julie Finch, Mr Attfield’s mother, as well as Ms Almanea’s brother Raed who was living with her at the time of her death while the pair studied at the University of Essex.
Mrs Finch had said she could not work as a result and was forced to sell her house.
She said the family would now have to get used to life without him and remember him as the “fun-loving practical joker that he was”.
Mr Almanea described in a statement his feelings of personal blame at not being able to save her.
Of the day of her murder, he said: “I was full of optimism but came back in the evening full of grief and sorrow.”
He said his sister was robbed of the right to get married and be a mother to her own children.
Philip Bennetts QC, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey courtroom there had been a “significant degree of planning and premeditation” and reminded the judge that both victims had been vulnerable and stabbed in the eye.
During his trial, the jury heard from four psychiatrists who all agreed Fairweather – who was 15 at the time of the murders – suffered from a mental health disorder, though their conclusions varied from psychosis to an emerging personality disorder.
Simon Spence QC, mitigating, said although the jury rejected diminished responsibility there was an agreement there was some “abnormality of mental function” of autism combined with something else.
Chief Inspector Richard Phillibrown, district commander of Colchester policing at the time, said the community as a whole had been affected by the killings and police had spent £2.6million on the investigation and public reassurance.
Some 3,000 personal attack alarms were issued to people who felt vulnerable and a large number of extra officers were drafted in to the area.
Mr Justice Spencer QC passed no separate penalty on a charge of possession of a bladed article, relating to a knife Fairweather had on him when he was arrested on May 26 last year after being spotted acting suspiciously by a dog walker on the Salary Brook Trail in Greenstead close to where Ms Almanea was killed.
He told police he was looking for another victim, and was wearing gloves and had a lock knife.
Fairweather appeared for sentencing wearing a black leather coat.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Worron, head of the Essex & Kent Serious Crime Directorate who led the investigations, said: “No sentence will ever bring James and Nahid back and it will not stop their families from grieving every day.”
Commenting on Twitter, Essex Police’s Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “Long sentence means town safer and families of victims can grieve safe in knowledge that justice has been done.”
Transcript of part of the 999 call made at 10.50am on May 26 2015 which led to James Fairweather’s arrest:
Operator: Essex Police Control Room
Caller: Hi, I wonder if you can help me. I’m actually on the Salary Brook erm the Longridge end of the trail where that murder was last year and there’s a very suspicious guy down there who’s just standing there, and it’s like obviously a dog trail and he’s just on his own and it’s quite a secluded area. Erm I don’t think there’s anyone around to have a look and he’s got like a, I don’t know could be wrong but he’s got…
Caller: …a jacket that looks very similar to what was all over the paper and everything and it’s on the same trail as what happened err almost a year ago.
Operator: What’s suspicious about him?
Caller: Well to be honest with you he’s on a bridge huh and yeah not a footpath…
Unknown female: (Indecipherable speech)
Caller: ..yeah he was stood behind some of the trees and there’s it’s obviously it’s only like a dog (inaudible) place. And I first went down on my own with my dog and I saw him sort of hiding..
Caller: ..and it made me freeze…
Operator: Did you…
Caller: …thinking he’ll come out.
Operator: ..is he in a bush did you say sort of hiding?
Caller: No he’s practically he’s hiding, he’s practically, he’s on a bridge just practically yeah he’s sec, in a secluded area he’s not in the main bit and then I’ve come out with one of the other ladies that’s got a big dog and we’ve walked down there and he’s a little bit further into the bushes a little bit and….
Caller: ..and it’s just like not the sort of person, person…
Operator: So Salary on the …
Caller: ..you expect to see someone.
Operator: …bridge in bushes?
Caller: Yeah it’s yeah it’s just and he’s got thick dark glasses I don’t if that makes, I don’t know it’s just something’s not right.
Caller: Clearly not right.
Operator: Where did you say this was?
Caller: Well it’s on the, it’s on the Salary Brook Trail.
Operator: Salary Brook…
Operator: .. Trail?
Unknown Female: Okay (indecipherable speech)..
Caller: Yeah it’s the Longridge end of the Salary Brook Trail erm yeah so it’s the little bridge that goes across into the Bowmans Ford.
Unknown female: (Inaudible)
Caller: It’s just there’s, there’s no you’d never see somebody down there that’s all.
Operator: Salary Brook Trail. I’m just looking for that location now. Is there, is any sort of buildings nearby that I can use as a reference point to put on my system?