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Simpson sentenced to life for murder of social worker

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Convicted murderer Norris Simpson has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal 2011 slaying of his landlady, Ida James.

The body of Ms James, 66, was discovered in a pool of blood on the floor of her Berry Hill, Paget home on the morning of September 2, 2011. She had been stabbed 60 times.

Simpson, 54, was found guilty of the killing of the retired social worker following a two-week long trial in January, but has always maintained his innocence.

In a sentencing hearing at Supreme Court One that lasted almost two hours yesterday morning, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons called the killing a “vicious and merciless” attack on an elderly woman who worked for the defendant’s well being.

She said there were no real facts to mitigate the sentence, ordering Simpson to serve at least 23 years before being eligible for parole.

Before sentence was passed, Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field called for Simpson to be jailed for between 24 and 28 years “to reflect society’s revulsion” of the murder.

Highlighting the violence of the attack, the prosecutor told the court: “The murder was brutal, death was not instantaneous. It would have been a painful death and it is clear that there was an intent to kill. The force and frequency was such it caused blood splatter as high as the ceiling.

“The attack occurred in the night time when she was home alone and he would have known that she was home alone.”

Mr Field said Simpson was first questioned by police on the day that Ms James’ body had been discovered. Interviewing the victim’s tenants, officers noticed that Simpson had bloodstains on his shoes and a cut to his hand, and he immediately became a suspect.

At his trial, Simpson claimed he had been watching DVDs at his Pembroke home — which he rented from Ms James — on the night of the murder.

But forensic evidence revealed scrapings of Ms James’ skin under Simpson’s fingernails and on his baseball cap.

The prosecution also argued that the handyman was in a dispute with Ms James over unpaid rent.

Yesterday, Mr Field ran through Simpson’s extensive criminal record dating back to 1978, noting that he had been found guilty of a number of attacks on women, as well as armed robbery.

And he then contrasted the very different lives of the victim and her killer by reading out victim-impact statements from relatives and friends of Ms James, who described her as being a “generous spirit with a loving heart”.

One relative, in their statement, asked that Simpson have “a repentant heart”.

“There’s nothing in the behaviour of Mr Simpson to show he has a repentant heart — he hasn’t shown that at all,” Mr Field said.

“In my submission he is a danger to women. There are few crimes quite as odious than the murder of an older lady by multiple stab wounds in her own home at night. It is sad that we find ourselves in a society in which we are not totally shocked by the news of a murder. We have seen some very high sentences for gang murders and it may be that a murder of this type — the stabbing of an elderly woman — is actually more evil and more morally repugnant than a gang shooting. This goes beyond the ability of the normal person to understand how this could have happened.”

Simpson’s lawyer, Craig Attridge, argued for a sentence of between 20 and 22 years. He said it was not possible for Simpson to feel remorse for a crime he still insists he did not commit.

Before being sentenced, Simpson also gave a lengthy address, insisting that he had come to court “looking for truth and justice”.

Simpson insisted that he was “a convenient suspect” because of his criminal record, and claimed that vital evidence was lost because the crime scene was not protected.

“I was convicted on circumstantial evidence manipulated by the police and prosecution,” he said.

Simpson also paid tribute to his victim, who had given him a home and paid him to carry out odd jobs on her property.

“She was one of the few people who knew my life story,” Simpson said.

“She told me she could see the little boy and wanted to help me. She saw me as a special project.”

Sentencing Simpson, Puisne Judge Charles Etta Simmons said: “You committed a vicious and merciless attack on a defenceless woman who had shown you nothing less than care and concern.

“That makes your brutal attack all the more senseless and malicious. In the history of this court this murder is remarkable for its high degree of savagery. She was left on the kitchen floor to bleed to death.

“The minimum sentence must reflect society’s abhorrence at the crime and in all the circumstances the court sentences you to life imprisonment. The minimum sentence before you can be released for parole is 23 years.”

Norris Simpson
Going to prison: Norris Simpson covers his face as he is led away from Supreme Court after being found guilty of murdering Ida James.
Ida James
Murder victim James devoted her life to helping the needy

Murder victim Ida James “lived her profession” as a social worker, continuing to help the needy even after she had retired.

And a scholarship fund named after Ms James has now been set up as a lasting tribute to a woman described as “a trailblazer” in her field.

In victim impact statements read out in court prior to the sentencing of killer Norris Simpson yesterday, relatives of Ms James — a spinster who had six brothers — described her as a generous and caring woman who devoted her life to the less fortunate.

“”My only sister was very close to me and my family — she was a dedicated but cheerful and loving, and devoted her life to helping others,” said brother Clarence James, a United Bermuda Party Finance Minister.

Mrs James’ nephew, Peter, said: “She began the battle against social ills 40 years ago. Ida has influenced us all. She was obsessed with serving those in need.”

And Olga Scott, who worked with Ms James for more than 30 years, described her friend and colleague as “a compassionate and gentle lady”.

“Her life was dedicated to uplifting the poor — it was her calling,” Mrs Scott said.

After Simpson was jailed for 23 years yesterday, another brother, Claude James, expressed satisfaction with the sentence.

“At first I thought it was on the lenient side but Simpson is in his 50s now and so he’s going to be an old man by the time he comes out,” Mr James said.

“So I think it is a reasonable sentence. Ida didn’t deserve what happened to her. She just always tried to help other people and it’s ironic that Simpson was one of the people she tried to help. Obviously this has been a very difficult time for the family.”

Mrs Scott added that Simpson’s sentencing would bring some comfort to friends and colleagues.

“When we learned what had happened to Ida the social work profession came together because it was a grieving process,” Mrs Scott said.

“I think the sentence will hopefully bring some closure for the family and I know that we can all now think about all the good memories that we have of Ida.”

The Bermuda National Association of Social Workers launched a scholarship fund in memory of Ms James last month.

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Published April 04, 2013 at 9:25 am (Updated April 04, 2013 at 9:24 am)

Simpson sentenced to life for murder of social worker

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