Manchester’s Vilest: The murder of Kelly Anne Bates

Every parent’s worst nightmare is learning that their child has come to harm, but for Margaret and Tommy Bates, a living hell would be understating the turmoil they have endured.  

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 30 March 2020

Share this story

Not only had their precious daughter, Kelly Anne been murdered by her abusive boyfriend but she was subject to some of the most disturbing and inhumane counts of emotional and physical torture for the three weeks prior to her death.

On examination of her body, coroners described the abuse as some of the worst they had ever seen in their professional careers.

I will warn you before reading this – it could make for distressing reading to say the very least.

It’s Always the Boyfriend

Kelly Anne Bates was born on the 18th May 1978 in Hattersley, a small town in Tameside 10 miles east of Manchester city centre. Parents Margaret and Tommy were thrilled to be gifted with a beautiful child who would later grow into a confident and independent 14-year-old girl.

Kelly was a kind and thoughtful teenager who had a strong relationship with both her mum and dad but the blissful family dynamic would soon fade away when Kelly began dating a boy called ‘Dave Smith’ in 1992.

This relationship would not only drive Kelly away from her family but it would also lead to her into the void.

On meeting, Kelly became instantly smitten with the outgoing Dave and they quickly began a relationship. For two years, Kelly hid many details of the relationship from her parents but they were not worried- Kelly was a happy teenage girl and they assumed Dave was just a boy from school.

However, when she started to sneak out at night, sometimes not returning for days, alarm bells started to ring.

Concerned about Kelly’s whereabouts, Dave began calling Margaret who at first, was comforted by his attentiveness, yet these feelings of admiration would dissipate in an instant when her and husband Tommy, met him for the first time.

Kelly hadn’t kept the relationship a secret because she was shy; she had kept it a secret because Dave was not a child as her parents initially thought. Unbeknownst to Kelly’s parents, their precious 16-yearold was courting a 32-year-old man.

Margaret recalled, on first meeting, 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. If only they had known how controlling and deceiving he really was.

Kelly continued to see Dave on and off for several months but would often return home painted in thick black bruises and deep bite marks. Unable to hide their concerns any longer, Margaret and Tommy begged 17-year-old Kelly to end the relationship.

Her parents lived in fear for their daughter’s life, but their pleading would fall on deaf ears.  It was too late- Kelly was under his spell and on November 30th 1995, she moved into his Furvinal Road home in Gorton; never to be seen alive by her friends and family ever again.

The only correspondence Kelly’s friends and family received to assure them she was still alive and well was through the medium of cards. These birthday and anniversary cards, however, were not in fact written by Kelly but by the sick and twisted boyfriend in a bid to minimise suspicion and to ensure the couple were left alone.

The Murder

On the 16th April 1996, Dave arrived at his local Police Station and calmly told authorities that he had accidentally killed Kelly in the bath following an argument. He claimed that despite his best efforts, he was unable to resuscitate her.

Officers quickly made their way to his property where they found Kelly’s lifeless body naked in the bedroom but it instantly became clear that Dave’s tale was just that; a tale.

On discovering Kelly’s body, there was no uncertainty as to her boyfriend’s crimes. Kelly had succumbed to a death so violent and painful, she was almost unrecognisable.

Smith was immediately arrested, and Kelly’s body taken for examination which revealed 150 separate injuries. The abuse was so severe, the Home Office Pathologist, William Lawler, said Kelly’s injuries were the worst of any murder victim he had examined which was well over 600. Her Injuries ranged from multiple stab wounds to burns and broken bones as well as other acts which are too awful to write.

This wasn’t an impulsive moment of rage; Kelly had been subjected to three weeks of unimaginable, planned torture at the hands of a sadistic, depraved monster. It’s still, to this day, the worst case of systemic torture I’ve ever heard of and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that poor girl went through.

The Trial

On November 12th, 1997 at Manchester Crown Court, Kelly’s family would tragically learn Dave Smith was actually James Patterson Smith, a violent divorcee who was 45 at the time of meeting Kelly. 

Smith had a history of domestic violence; his first marriage ending in 1980 after subjecting his wife to 10 years of beatings. Between 1980-1982, Smith commenced an affair with 20-year-old Tina Watson whom he treated as a ‘punching bag’, even beating her while she was pregnant with his child and attempting to drown her in the bath.

Finally, Smith began a relationship with 15-year-old Wendy Mottershead whom he beat and tried to drown in the kitchen sink. Thankfully, these women managed to escape with their lives, but Kelly, his next victim, would have to endure the full extent of his rage.

Smith tried to convince the jury that Kelly ‘challenged him’ to torture her, explaining how she used to mock his dead mother and had emotionally bullied him.

Smith may have successfully manipulated Kelly and the women before him, but the jury were able to see through the lies. It took them only one hour to convict him of the murder of Kelly Anne Bates and sentenced Smith to a minimum of 20 years in prison.

Jurors were so traumatised by the case, witnessing the distressing evidence and photographs shown during the trial that each and every one of them was offered professional counselling. All of them accepted.

Kelly’s Parents (Credit: John Gladwin)

Of course, no amount of time will ever ease the pain and trauma for Kelly’s family but there is some relief in knowing that their daughter’s death put a stop to a monster whose abuse ruined the lives of multiple young women.

If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic abuse act quickly and contact Women’s Aid. They are a charity that offers support and direct hands-on aid to women and their families that are subjected to domestic abuse. Find out more about Women’s Aid at