One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Father Who Killed His Daughter Jailed For 20 Years
A father who strangled his 11-year-old daughter with the cord from her dressing gown after his wife had ordered him out of their home, was jailed for 20 years today.
Simon Thompson, 52, killed his only child Rebecca and then drove his VW Golf into a roundabout at high speed having taken her to London Zoo for the day.
Rebecca's body was found the following day when her mother Mary returned to the family house in Homefield Road, Bushey, near Watford, Herts.
Thompson was in hospital being treated for serious leg and hand injuries, having been cut from the wreckage of the car which had ploughed into trees on the A41 at nearby Elstree, 12 hours earlier. He was so badly injured it was 13 days before he was charged.
In hospital he told the police: "I love my daughter to death."
He and his wife Mary had been living separate lives for the previous five years and she had begun a new relationship with a man called Colin McDonald. Mary, who had bought him out of the house in Bushey, had told Thompson, a former salesman, to leave by July 1 last year. Earlier in June she and Rebecca had been on holiday with Mr McDonald in Tenerife. When Thompson asked Mary, a support worker, if Colin was more than a friend she said he was.
Thompson denied murdering Rebecca on 21 June last year, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility when he appeared at St Albans crown court via a video link from Bedford prison where he had been held in the hospital wing.
Today/Thursday Jane Bickerstaff QC said the prosecution would accept his plea and there would be no need for a trial. She said Thompson had been examined by three psychiatrists who agreed Thompson had been suffering from diminished responsibility.
Thompson, who had been in a wheelchair at earlier hearings, appeared in front of Judge Stephen Gullick, and was seen to be upset as details of the killing were outlined.
Ms Bickerstaff said: "The couple married in 1998 but the marriage had broken down 5 years earlier. Two years before these events Mary Thompson had bought the defendant out of the house. He continued to live there as a lodger paying rent. "
She said that the property had three bedrooms, but Mary slept in one small room while Thompson and his daughter slept in single beds pushed together in another bedroom. He would go to bed very early at 8.30 and get up at 4.30 in the morning. After working as a salesman he stayed at home telling Mary he was involved in foreign exchange work.
Mary began a new relationship with Colin McDonald two years previously and, at the beginning of June last year, she and Rebecca went on holiday to Tenerife with him.
The prosecutor went on: "The defendant was aware of Mary's new relationship. He asked Mary if Colin was more than a friend. She told him she was more than a friend.
"Mary had told him to leave the house by 1 June, but he had not and she had given him a month's extension until 1 July."
On Friday 21 June Simon Thompson rang Rebecca's school and lied saying his daughter was sick. They took a taxi at 9.30 to London zoo, returning to Bushey at seven minutes past six. At 11.30 that night a neighbour saw him on the driveway of their home.
"Some time between 18.07 and 23.30 the defendant had taken Rebecca's dressing gown cord from her dressing gown, that was hanging on the back of the bedroom door, and strangled her to death. It is likely it was done in her sleep. She was horizontal at the time the ligature was applied," she said.
Thompson pulled back his bed sheets and left the house in his car, which was picked up on ANPR heading along the A411 and A41 before crashing at between 90 and 100 miles per hour into a roundabout at Elstree Hill. "The car was driven in such a way that you would not have expected the driver to survive. The speedo was stuck at 90 and the defendant was not wearing a seat belt."
He was taken to St Mary Hospital in London. The police found Mary's number on his phone and tried to contact her. In the morning she realised she had missed calls and telephoned the hospital. She asked a nurse to question Thompson about her daughter. He sent messages back that she was fine and with a work colleague.
Mary, who knew the loner had no colleagues, was concerned and drove to the hospital with Mr McDonald. She spoke to Thompson who said Rebecca was back at the house.
The mother drove there and found Rebecca's body on her back on the bed. She shouted: "She's cold. She's cold. She's dead. Call an ambulance."
Mr McDonald called an ambulance and Rebecca was pronounced dead at 12.20 that lunchtime. The cord had been deeply embedded in Rebecca's neck.
At the hospital Thompson told a police officer: "I know what I have done. I don't expect any sympathy. I love my daughter to death."
Ms Bickerstaff said: "This was the grossest breach not only of a mother's trust, but of a child's trust in her parent." She said Mary Thompson's victim impact statement, which was not read to the court, "clearly expressed what everyone can empathise with - what is must feel like for someone who has been a mother to no longer to be a mother. "
Bernard Richmond QC, defending said Thompson did not want sympathy and "plainly adored his daughter." He said he had isolated himself and was trying to come to terms with what he has done. He went on: "As far as he is concerned he is serving a life sentence. He has to live with that. He took the life of the dearest thing to him. It is a tragedy."
Jailing him, Judge Gullick said: "Rebecca was your daughter, your only child. She was just 11 years old and she was entitled to expect you would care for her and protect her and would not take her life when she was asleep.
"She was tucked up in her bed in a place she regarded as her home. No doubt, in her mind, a very safe place indeed. The breach of trust could not have been more gross."
At the time of Rebecca's death one neighbour said: "Simon doted on his daughter, but he was a bloke who keeps himself to himself and is a bit weird. He worked from home and spent a lot of time just sitting in his car in the driveway.
Rebecca was a Year 6 pupil at Sacred Heart Primary School in Bushey. Her head teacher Rita Cooper said: "Rebecca was a lovely girl who was hard-working and did well in her learning. She was looking forward to secondary school."
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