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Teenage killer locked up for 27 years for stabbing two strangers to death

James Fairweather
James Fairweather

A teenage "monster" has been detained for a minimum of 27 years behind bars for stabbing two strangers to death as he tried to be like his idols - the Yorkshire Ripper and Ted Bundy.

James Fairweather was 15 years old when he terrorised a local community by carrying out horrific random attacks on James Attfield, and Nahid Almanea three months later.

Despite claiming he was possessed by the devil, he was found guilty of the murders and was sentenced at the Old Bailey by Mr Justice Spencer, who said the killings were "brutal and sadistic".

He said the attack on Mr Attfield was "brutal, relentless and cowardly" adding: "You are well aware of the publicity this first murder attracted. I have no doubt you relished the sense of power and control that it gave you."

Inspired by notorious serial killers, he stabbed 33-year-old Mr Attfield 102 times as he lay drunk and helpless in a park in Colchester, Essex, in March 2014.

Fairweather carried out the attack just three days after he had been handed a referral order for a knifepoint robbery on a shopkeeper.

Amid the resulting "pervasive climate of fear", he then went on to seek out a second vulnerable victim - 5ft tall Essex University student Miss Almanea.

The petite 31-year-old was attacked with a bayonet and stabbed in both eyes as she walked alone along the Salary Brook nature trail in broad daylight.

Fairweather had "deliberately" knocked her sunglasses off to maim her eyes as Peter Sutcliffe had done to one of his victims.

The judge said: "I have no doubt the way James Attfield screamed in pain when he was stabbed through the eye had remained with you and excited you."

For 14 months the people of Colchester were in a state of "fear and anxiety" until Fairweather was caught, he added.

He was prowling the same area for a third victim when police finally stopped his killing spree in its tracks in May last year.

At the time of his arrest, he was wearing gloves and armed with a lock knife.

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

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

Fairweather, who has autism, had been playing 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 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.

But the 17-year-old was convicted of murder after an expert told his trial that his description of the hallucinations sounded like something plucked from a horror film.

He appeared at the Old Bailey for sentencing, wearing a long black leather coat, and supported by his parents who sat in the well of the court.

Following his conviction, Mr Attfield's mother, Julie Finch, had said: "James Fairweather is a monster in our eyes - and we will never be able to forgive him."

In a victim impact statement she told how she could not work as a result of her son's brutal death and was forced to sell her house.

As the case drew to a close, 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".

The father of four had suffered brain damage in a car crash in 2010 and was living in semi-sheltered accommodation.

Miss Almanea's relatives were represented by Saudi embassy officials.

Her brother, Raed Almanea, who was also at Essex University, described in a statement his feelings of personal blame at not being able to save her. They were both studying in the UK at the time.

On 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.

District Commander Chief Inspector Richard Phillibrown said the community as a whole had been affected by the killings and police had spent £2.6 million 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.

Had he been an adult, Fairweather could have faced a whole life sentence for the two murders carried out with a "substantial degree of premeditation" with "sadistic" features. If not, the starting point would have been a minimum of 30 years, the judge said.

Fairweather mouthed towards his parents "I don't give a s***" as he was sent down.

Mr Attfield's family left the court in tears.