Episode 12 – Kelly Anne Bates – Tortured to Death

On 16 April 1996, a man named James Patterson Smith walked into a police station and calmly reported that he had accidentally killed his girlfriend during an argument. As soon as the investigators saw the body of 17 year old Kelly Bates, they knew James was lying. Someone doesn’t get over 150 injuries by simply drowning in the bath. 

Kelly Anne Bates was born on 18th May 1978, in Hattersley, Greater Manchester, England, to her parents, Margaret and Tommy Bates.   

Growing up, Kelly was described as sporty, social, and a bit of a tomboy. She gave as good as she got with her two brothers, Andrew and Paul. By her 14th birthday, Kelly was a confident, independent and mature young woman who dreamed about becoming a teacher. Besides studying, Kelly worked for a graphics firm and often babysat for families in her area. It was after one particular babysitting job, that Kelly suddenly began to change.  

 Margaret and Tommy noticed that their bubbly and outgoing daughter became quiet and would just lie on the settee doing nothing for several hours. Margaret and Tommy believed that this behaviour had something to do with a boy, as Kelly did mention a person named Dave every now and then.  

Unbeknown to her parents, Kelly had met Dave while she was babysitting for friends in 1993, and the two got along great. Before long, Dave became Kelly’s first ever boyfriend. But for one reason or another, Kelly didn’t really want to speak about her relationship with her parents, and she even began to sneak out at night to see Dave.  

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However, as Kelly was staying away from home for several days at a time, Margaret and Tommy were well aware that something was going on. Seemingly trying to ease Kelly’s parents’ concerns, Dave eventually began calling his girlfriend’s home and talked with Margaret on more than one occasion.  

At first, Kelly’s parents were relieved to have an ally in Dave, and he really did seem to care about their daughter’s safety and wellbeing. However, that feeling would immediately vanish when Kelly’s parents finally met Dave face to face. One day, Kelly brought Dave to her family home while her parents were out. As they later returned, Kelly gathered Margaret and Tommy in the kitchen to tell them something exciting. The 16 year old Kelly revealed that she had been with Dave for two years, and her boyfriend was a bit older than her. He was actually 32 years old.  

Before Kelly’s parents had time to understand what they had just heard, Dave walked down the stairs to greet them. Immediately, Margaret’s hairs stood up on the back of her neck. As she later recalled: 

 “he was much older than I expected and looked a bit like John Denver, but he was smarmy. He said, Nice to meet you at last, and all I could think of was how I wanted to get rid of him”. 

 Margaret’s gut feeling about Dave was so strong, that she just couldn’t let it go. After meeting her daughter’s boyfriend for the first time, Margaret began to ask around for more details about this Dave person, but she came up empty handed. It was like this man didn’t even exist, which was kind of true. 

 As a matter of fact, Dave’s name wasn’t even Dave, but James. James Patterson Smith. And just like Kelly’s parents had suspected, James wasn’t 32 years old. In reality, James Smith was a 48 year old unemployed divorcee living in the Gorton area of Manchester. He was old enough to be Kelly’s father. Actually, James and Tommy had just one year between them.  

 While age is just a number when it comes to love, James wasn’t the kind of man that Kelly’s parents wanted for their daughter. And this wasn’t about love anyway. Since Kelly was 14 years old, James had been systematically grooming the teenager. He knew just how to be charming and used love to make Kelly feel dependent and obligated to him. After all, he’d had practice in this before. Kelly wasn’t the first young woman James had put through the same process. At the end of an abusive marriage. In 1980, James formed a relationship with 20 year old Tina Watson. Throughout their two year relationship, James used Tina as a punch bag, even beating her while she was pregnant with their child. As Tina later recalled: 

 “At first it was now and again just a little tap, but in the end, it was every day. He would smack me in the face or hit me over the head with an ashtray. He would kick me in the legs or between the legs” 

 Eventually, Tina was fortunate enough to escape the relationship alive, as James had once tried to push her underwater while she was bathing. After Tina, James started seeing 15 year old Wendy and began repeating the same pattern again.  

During one of his many attacks, James tried to drown Wendy in the kitchen sink. While she survived the assault, it was clear that it would just be a matter of time before James Smith would finally kill somebody.  

 Although Margaret Bates had no knowledge of James’s past, she had immediately sensed a dark evil behind his wicked eyes. But by then, there was no way of stopping him. Kelly began to spend more and more time away from home. When Kelly did come home to her parents’ house, Margaret and Tommy often noticed her as being dirty, greasy and unkept, with bruises and bite marks covering her body.  

One time, the entire side of Kelly’s face was blackened. But when her parents questioned what had happened, she claimed a gang of girls had attacked her or that she had just been clumsy. Kelly’s injuries were the first warning signs, but not in their worst nightmares could Margaret and Tommy have guessed the horrors that awaited just around the corner.  

 Hoping to get their daughter back and save her from more sorrow, Kelly’s parents begged her to leave James, but as she was legally an adult, Margaret and Tommy couldn’t stop her from seeing her boyfriend.  

Furthermore, they didn’t want to take away Kelly’s independence, although, she ended up losing it anyway in her relationship with James. 

 At the age of 17, Kelly left the family home on 30th November 1995 and moved in with James at his two bedroom semi-detached house in Fernival Road, Gorton.  

While she continued to speak with her parents on the phone most weeks, Kelly almost never saw her mother and father again. She did send cards on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, but they were never signed and the handwriting wasn’t like hers.  

 If Margaret ever asked about visits, Kelly would just say that she was too busy working overtime and couldn’t make it home. It was clear that the 17 year old was completely under James control. He was now in charge of what Kelly did and when and who she was allowed to see and talk to. Worried that James was abusing her daughter, Margaret wanted to go to the police. But she also knew Kelly was too old for the authorities to do anything. Nevertheless, Margaret registered her concerns about a possible domestic violence case with Kelly’s doctor and asked the police to look out for callouts to James’s address. But no matter how much Margaret and Tommy tried to do, nothing could save their daughter now.  

 Kelly and James had been living together for just a few months when he walked into the Gorton police station on the 16 April 1996 and claimed that he had accidentally killed his young girlfriend by drowning her in the bathtub after an argument. Margaret and Tommy’s worst fears had become a reality, and from here on, the nightmare was just beginning.  

 When the authorities arrived at James’s home and located Kelly’s naked body in a bedroom, it was clear that this was not an accidental death. The teenager had gone through something so horrifying, so violent and cruel, that she was completely unrecognizable. For the last four weeks of her life, Kelly had been held a prisoner, sometimes tied by her hair or neck to a radiator or furniture. She hadn’t been given water for several days, and she had been starved of food, resulting in her losing 44lb in weight. But it was the endless injuries all over Kelly’s body that horrified even the medical examiner. William Lawler said that during his career and after almost 600 victims of homicide, he had never seen such extensive torture.  

 James had heated up tools and used boiling water to burn Kelly’s skin. He had broken her arm and stabbed her with knives, forks and scissors. Kelly’s ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips and genitals were mutilated. She was partially scalped, her kneecaps were crushed and her hands were smashed. This made it impossible for Kelly to even try to escape. At this point, James had already basically broken Kelly’s entire body.  

 But that wasn’t enough for him. No less than five days and no more than three weeks before her death, according to the autopsy report, James had gouged out Kelly’s eyes and the empty sockets had also been stabbed. It is unimaginable how much pain this 17 year old girl must have been in for weeks at the hands of the man that she had trusted and loved.  

 For days. Kelly had been blind, unable to tell what was going to happen to her next. Then one day, James had taken Kelly to the bathroom and hit her with a shower head before drowning her. And as unbelievable as this sounds, after causing over 150 injuries to his girlfriend’s body and then murdering her, James dared to blame Kelly for everything.  

 Despite the overwhelming evidence, James claimed during his trial that all the injuries Kelly had occurred were self-inflicted and her drowning was simply an accident. According to James, Kelly had, “a bad habit of hurting herself to make it look worse on him” 

 In addition, when James was asked about Kelly’s eyes and other wounds she had clearly not inflicted on herself, he claimed Kelly challenged him to harm her. This evil man tried to convince people in court, that a 17 year old girl had dared him to gouge her eyes out.  

 Consultant psychologist Gillian Mazie was heard during the trial and she stated James had a, “severe paranoid disorder and morbid jealousy and lived in a distorted reality” after his history of attacking past girlfriends was also revealed.  

 In the end, it took the jury just 1 hour to find 49 year old James Smith guilty of Kellyanne Bates’ murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years.  

 The judge, Mr. Justice Sucks, stated: 

 “This has been a terrible case, a catalogue of depravity by one human being upon another. You are a highly dangerous person. You are an abuser of women. And I intend so far as it is in my power that you will abuse no more”.  

 After the trial, the jury were offered professional counselling due to the distress caused by seeing the photographs of Kelly’s body and the sickening violence of the case for the rest of her life.  

 Until she passed away in 2020, Margaret Bates lived with a feeling like she could have done more. Nobody else was responsible for the horrors that Kelly went through than James Smith!  

Episode Credits: 

Host – Rhiannon Doe 

Voiceover – Kwesi 

Website layout & design – Fran Howard