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Emergency services on 'Mad Friday' alert

Emergency services are bracing themselves for one of the busiest nights of the year as thousands of revellers are out across the region on what's become known as 'Mad Friday'.

Bars and clubs can expect to do a roaring trade - last year sales were up more than 100% on a typical Friday night.

But police and medical staff know they will be equally busy - and they're urging people to stay safe and drink responsibly. Michael Billington reports,


CPS: "Gemma’s family have endured unimaginable torment"

Shaun Sigamoney, Senior Crown Prosecutor, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said:

Martin Bell committed a dreadful crime. After killing Gemma, he compounded this by burying her body at Brimham Rocks, where it lay undiscovered for 14 years.

Gemma’s family have endured unimaginable torment in the years that followed. Martin Bell has now pleaded guilty to Gemma’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and has been sentenced to life, with a minimum term of 12 years.

Our thoughts remain with them and I hope the fact that her killer has now admitted what he has done and will now be serving a prison sentence for his appalling crime, is of some comfort to them.

– Shaun Sigamoney, CPS

Family: Chill in our hearts became perpetual during Gemma's disappearance

Gemma Simpson's family issued a statement through West Yorkshire Police which said:

Gemma was a young woman in the prime of her life who raised a smile and lit up every room she entered.

Her family will never come to terms with the loss of Gemma. We are victims as well.

There is no sentence which can be imposed which will reduce the pain and suffering Martin Bell has caused Gemma's family during the past 14 years, whilst all the time he was leading a normal life.

He left us in limbo for each one of those years. A total of nearly 5,000 days of pain in which we worried constantly for Gemma and her wellbeing. That chill in our hearts became an integral, perpetual part of our lives and the knowledge that Bell could watch all of our and the police's efforts to find her while going on with his own affairs for so long quite simply beggars belief.

While we now know what happened to our daughter, there is a shadow on our lives which will never be lifted and Bell is the cause of that.

Our beautiful Gemma was a bright shining light in our world. A light which Martin Bell extinguished.

– Gemma Simpson's family

Gemma Simpson's father 'disgusted' by killer's sentence

Speaking outside court, Miss Simpson's father, Glenn, said he was "disgusted" by the sentence but did not blame the judge.

Gemma Simpson disappeared in 2000

He said he believed Bell has manipulated the legal system and said he hoped he would "rot".

Judge Collier earlier told the court it was a difficult and unique sentencing exercise as he had to consider the law as it was 14 years ago and, also, the fact that Bell is not currently showing the psychotic illness he was suffering from at the time.

Martin Bell was sentenced today for Gemma's killing Credit: West Yorkshire Police

The judge also noted he has not committed any acts of serious violence since he murdered Miss Simpson.

Mr Simpson said: "He (Bell) brutally murdered Gemma - our Gemma - and left her buried in the ground for 14 years.

"We served that 14 years. He has 11 to serve. We believe he has manipulated the system."

Mr Simpson, who was comforted by his daughter Naomi Carrick, said: "All we can say now is we hope he rots."


Gemma Simpson's killer sentenced to 12 years in prison

A taxi driver who admitted killing a woman in a "frenzied" attack with a hammer and a knife before sawing her legs off and burying her at a beauty spot has been told he must serve a minimum of 12 years in prison.

Gemma Simpson disappeared in 2000

Martin Bell 45, said God had told him to kill 23-year-old Gemma Simpson when she was at his flat in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, 14 years ago in May 2000.

Bell pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court earlier this week.

Today, Judge Peter Collier QC gave him a life sentence and ordered him to serve a minimum of 12 years.

Martin Bell Credit: West Yorkshire Police

Judge Collier said: "The killing of Gemma Simpson was brutal. Your treatment of her body after death was dreadful.

"But your culpability was considerably diminished by your mental illness."

In July this year, Bell rang a former girlfriend and told her he had killed someone 14 years ago. He then handed himself in at Scarborough police station.

Police digging at the scene where Gemma was buried

During his interviews, Bell took police to Brimham Rocks and showed them where he had buried Miss Simpson, and her remains were recovered.

He said he had visited the site four or fives times since Miss Simpson's death.

Bell told police he had considered confessing in the past but his mother was still alive and he was concerned about losing his freedom.

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