Kelly Anne Bates was just 17 years old when she was deliberately and systematically tortured for four weeks before her inevitable murder. Kelly’s case left Pathologist William Lawler haunted. Lawler, who documented over 150 separate injuries inflicted on Kelly’s body, claimed that this case was the worst display of methodical torture he had ever witnessed.
Kelly was a mere 14 years old when she first met 32-year-old Dave Smith. Dave quickly enamored her, and the two began dating shortly after that.
Kelly’s parents believed that she was in a relationship with someone from her school. She mentioned Dave but would intentionally omit the more important details of their companionship, including his age. Shortly into their relationship, Kelly started to display some normal but troublesome teenage behaviors, such as sneaking out at night and not returning for days at a time.
One day, Dave made a phone call to Kelly’s mother, Margaret. He claimed to be concerned with her whereabouts and latest behaviors when she had not been in contact with him over a short period of time. At first, Margaret was relieved to know she had an ally in Dave, thinking he was invested in Kelly’s safety and wellbeing. This feeling would immediately dissipate when Margaret got her first chance to meet Dave.
Two years after Dave and Kelly had gotten together, Kelly brought Dave home to meet her parents. Kelly was 16 years old at the time, the legal age of consent. Upon first meeting Dave, Margaret recalled, “that the hairs on her body instantly stood up. Even from the first moment, she sensed a dark evil behind his wicked eyes but decided to give her mature, sensible daughter the freedom to make her own decisions.”
Margaret subsequently went on to try and find out anything she could about Dave. She asked those she knew whether they had ever heard of a “Dave Smith,” but she came up empty-handed time and time again. Unbeknownst to Margaret, she was asking about someone who didn’t exist. As it later turned out, James Patterson Smith was living under the guise of “Dave Smith.” James Patterson Smith was also 48 years old – a year old than Kelly’s own father.
To not push their daughter away, Margaret tried to allow Kelly the independence to navigate her own life. Kelly was spending more and more time away from home, often opting to stay overnight with Dave. When she wasn’t with him, Dave incessantly called her house to check on her whereabouts. Sadly, Kelly had interpreted this attention from Dave as overwhelming love and care.
Kelly began coming home less and less. On days she did return, her parents would see an empty shell of their young daughter. She was dirty, greasy, and unkempt. She often had bruises around her neck and bite marks on her arms. Her parents recalled one occasion where the entire side of her face was blackened from severe bruising. When her parents questioned Kelly about the bruising, she was quick to excuse these physical assaults as her own clumsiness or a random freak accident. Despite her being of legal adult age in Britain, Kelly’s parents begged her to leave Dave. Ultimately, Kelly ignored their pleas, and on November 30th, 1995, she would make the life-altering decision to move in full-time with Dave. She would never be seen alive by her parents again.
While living with Dave, Kelly never returned home to visit her parents. Instead, she sent cards on their birthdays and anniversaries but would not sign them. She talked to her parents over the phone on occasion, and when asked about visits, she claimed that was she was working overtime and couldn’t make it home.
Sadly, Kelly knew she had to lie to protect Dave so that her parents would accept him. Because of this, she believed she could not reach out to them and tell them the truth about her relationship.
On April 16th, 1996, Dave walked into a police station and calmly claimed that he had accidentally killed young Kelly Anne Bates in the bathtub following an argument. He claimed that she had inhaled bathwater, and his attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.
When authorities arrived at Dave’s home, they walked into a gruesome scene that varied significantly from Dave’s initial report. Kelly had succumbed to a death so violent, torturous, and painful that she was totally unrecognizable.
During the final month of Kelly’s life, she was bound to the house. She had dropped 44 pounds from starvation, and autopsy reports show that she had not received water for several days leading up to her death. Kelly’s blood was found smeared on the floors and walls in every room of their home. Remnants of her hair were found still tied to radiators and chairs; other times, it was evident that she had a ligature situated around her neck.
Dave took his time torturing young Kelly. He had burned almost her entire body by using hot irons and scalding water. He had broken her arm, crushed both of her kneecaps, and smashed her hands – leaving her wholly debilitated and totally reliant on him.
The abuse did not end there. Kelly also endured multiple stab wounds caused by knives, forks, and scissors. The punctures were not only found on her body but also inside of her mouth and later in her empty eye sockets. She suffered mutilation to her ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips, genitalia, and a partial scalping. The pathologist had determined that her eyes had been forcibly removed by hand in the act of pure evil, “not less than five days and no more than three weeks before her death.”
The official cause of death was determined as drowning, but not before she was brutally struck on the head with a showerhead. Peter Openshaw, the prosecutor in the case, commented that “her death must have been a merciful end to her torment.”
Kelly was just 17 years old at the time of her death.
Dave Smith, or James Patterson Smith, was a divorcee whose wife had left him due to his violence. He had an affair with 20-year-old Tina Watson, who he “used as a punch-bag,” subjecting her to severe beatings while pregnant with their child. Watson eventually escaped the James and reported that he had once tried to drown her in a bathtub. After Tina left, James had another relationship with 15-year-old Wendy Mottershead, who said James had held her head underwater in the kitchen sink in an attempt to drown her.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of his torture, James maintained the story that Kelly’s death was an accident, and all injuries she had accrued were self-inflicted. During the trial, he continued to declare his innocence, claiming that Kelly “would put me through hell winding me up” and that she would often hurt herself to make things look worse than they truly were.
The jury at Manchester Crown Court only took one hour to find 49-year-old James guilty. He was consequently sentenced to life imprisonment. During the sentencing, the Judge, Mr. Justice Sachs, stated, “this has been a terrible case; a catalog 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 proceedings, the court’s jury was provided with professional counseling to help them cope with the distress of seeing the photographs of Kelly’s mutilated body and hearing the details of the sickening violence of her case. All members of the jury accepted this counseling.
“I think about how much pain she must have been in, how she must have thought we didn’t love her because we didn’t save her.” Tommy Bates, Kelly’s Father
Special thanks to our new contributor, Mariya Hamilton, for all the hard work she put into researching and writing this fascinating true crime story for us.