August 2019

Jailed killer who sexually abused and mutilated girl, 15, one step closer to release

A sadistic sex-fiend who sexually abused, mutilated and murdered a 15-year-old schoolgirl almost 25 years ago has won a court victory in his battle for freedom.

Edwin Hopkins was sentenced to life for the brutal murder of Naomi Smith in 1995.

The teenager was last seen leaving her home in Nuneaton, West Midlands, to post a letter for her mum.

Her body was found by her dad and a school friend in a nearby play area later that evening.

Hopkins had violently sexually assaulted her, before slitting her throat

The evil pervert was convicted of her murder in January 1997 and has been held as  a Category A  prisoner— the highest security risk — throughout his sentence.

Hopkins, who was aged 20 when he killed Naomi, has never accepted he is guilty.

Now Judge Mark Gosnel has ruled Hopkins can have a full oral hearing relating to his bid to be moved to an open prison — which would move him a step closer to being released.

Judge Gosnell highlighted the killer’s “exemplary” behaviour behind bars and said he had not been given a fair hearing.

Hopkins was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars before he would be considered for parole.

Despite this tariff expiring in 2013 authorities have repeatedly refused to downgrade his Category A rating.

Hopkins claims this is because he is still protesting his innocence and he is in an unfair Catch-22 situation.

July 2010

Nuneaton schoolgirl killer fails in bid to reduce sentence

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Artists impression of Edwin Hopkins, 22nd January 1997, Birmingham Crown Court

SADISTIC sex-fiend Edwin Hopkins, who was jailed for the mutilation and murder of Nuneaton schoolgirl Naomi Smith, has failed in his bid to have his sentence reduced.

Hopkins was jailed for life in 1997, at the age of 20, after killing the 15-year-old schoolgirl in a frenzied attack just yards from her home in Ansley Common.

He was told he must serve a minimum of 18 years before he could be considered for parole.

After serving 13 years in prison, Hopkins this week launched a bid at the High Court to reduce his minimum term.

But the court rejected the appeal and upheld the decision of the sentencing judge at Birmingham Crown Court in 1997.

The minimum term will remain at 18 years. Only then will the matter will go before the Parole Board for them to consider whether he is safe to be freed.

The murder of Naomi Smith

Background

Naomi Louise Smith was born in Coventry, the daughter of Brian and Catherine Smith. She lived in Bretts Hall Estate, in the village of Ansley Common located on the outskirts of Nuneaton and attended Hartshill school. Her parents described her as a normal teenage girl who was quite shy and lacked confidence. She was described locally as a quiet girl who liked music and gymnastics.

During the day of the 14th September 1995, Naomi had been with her best friend Emma Jones at the rehearsals of a local marching band in which Emma played the xylophone. After the rehearsals Naomi had been dropped off outside her home and was seen to walk inside.

Naomi left her home at approximately 9.45pm during the same evening to post a letter to a catalogue company for her mother Catherine. The post box was located about 200 yards from her home on the main road through Ansley Common. She was wearing jeans, a dark blue polo neck jumper with an old white Aran-style sweater. She was also wearing a bomber-style jacket with the words Chicago Fire Department on the front and BACKDRAFT written on the back.

At around 11.15pm when she failed to return home, Naomi’s father Brian Smith who worked as a local taxi driver went out in his car to look for her. Mr. Smith drove to the house of Naomi’s best friend, Emma Jones, to see if she was there, but when she wasn’t found Emma joined the search. Shortly before midnight as they drove into the car park of the local recreation ground, Naomi’s body was discovered underneath the children’s slide of the playground. A post mortem examination carried out later revealed that she had been sexually assaulted, her throat had been cut and her body had been mutilated

Initial Investigation

The investigation was headed by Detective Superintendent Tony Bayliss of the Warwickshire Police Force. An incident room was set up at Bedworth Police Station

Throughout Friday 15 September, Police search teams of approximately 30 officers scoured the area around the recreation ground to search for clues. The initial search was hampered by poor weather and continued over the next few days. Despite a thorough search of the area, Police were unable to find a knife or weapon that might have been used in the murder.

Up to 50 officers were assigned to the case to take witness statements and carry out door to door enquiries. During the course of the investigation, Bayliss made several appeals directly to the public through news media allowing news cameras access to the incident room and to follow teams of detectives during the investigation.

On Saturday 16 September, Police held a press conference to appeal for information. Three or four youths had been seen in the area opposite the Smith’s home between 10pm – 11pm on the evening that Naomi was murdered. Police appealed for the youths to come forward and the appeals were accompanied by offers of a reward of £10’000 for any information that might lead to a conviction. At the same time, Naomi’s parents, Brian and Catherine Smith, her half brother David Smith and her best friend Emma Jones made personal appeals for information and for witnesses to come forward.

On the 17th September, with her parents permission, the Police took the unusual step of detailing Naomi’s injuries. The information was a direct appeal to someone who might have been trying to shield the murderer. 

Detective Superintendent Tony Bayliss said:

“I believe that it is right and proper to reveal the extent of Naomi’s injuries, so that those who may have mixed loyalties about whether to come forward with information do so.”

Naomi’s lower body had been mutilated and the killer had left a bite mark on Naomi’s breast. Saliva was found which might prove crucial to building a DNA profile. During a press conference held on Monday 18 September, Det. Supt. Tony Bayliss disclosed that scientists were attempting to build a DNA profile of the killer and did not rule out mass DNA screening if it were necessary to identify a suspect

Witnesses

Early in the investigation, Police focussed on witness statements from people who had been in the area at the time Naomi went missing. One witness, a motorist, reported seeing Naomi standing close to the post box as if she was waiting for someone.

A young girl who lived on the road opposite the post box, stated that she had seen Naomi post the letter and then continue walking past the post box for a short distance. After walking for a few steps, she paused and then turned back toward the direction of the post box. After passing the post box, the young witness said that she saw Naomi pause at the entrance to an alley way, known locally as the jitty, before walking down the jitty and out of sight. The jitty was a footpath that leads behind the houses of Bretts Hall Estate towards the recreation ground where she was later discovered. Friends said that it was possible for her to reach her home this way but it was unlikely that she would have chosen to go this way after dark.

A cyclist who had been cycling along the main road reported seeing a man running out from the jitty. The man was described as being aged twenty to twenty five, of athletic build and with short blond hair that looked bleached and spiky on top

Arrests and Raids

Early on the morning of the 21st September 1995, five men were arrested on suspicion of murder in co-ordinated early morning raids. The men were taken to Nuneaton police station for questioning. Two of the men were later released on bail, with 36 hour extensions sought to continue questioning the three remaining men. All of the men were later released without charge.

More than 20 addresses were raided by police with evidence taken to be sent for laboratory testing.

Mass DNA Screening

A month after the murder in October 1995, Detective Superintendent Trevor Bayliss announced that a DNA profile of the killer had been obtained. In conjunction with forensic psychologist Paul Britton, an offender profile of around 800 local men, aged between 15-28 had been produced for DNA mass screening.

Although it wasn’t the first time DNA evidence had been used to solve a murder, it was the first time that the Forensic Science Service had carried out a mass DNA screening. The number of DNA samples taken was closer to 135. At the time of the murder, the service had only recently set up the world’s first DNA database in April 1995. The forensic work was carried out by forensic scientist Hazel Johnson and a team of forensic scientists based in Wetherby

Further Arrests

On the 16th November 1995, four additional arrests were made. As a result of these arrests, one of the men, 19 year old Edwin Hopkins was charged with the murder of Naomi Smith on the evening of the 18th November 1995. Hopkins was held in custody and appeared at Nuneaton Magistrates Court on the 20th November 1995. Hopkins appeared only to confirm his name, address and date of birth. His application for bail was refused and he was remanded into custody.

Hopkins was unemployed and lived with his parents close to the recreation ground where Naomi Smith was found

Trial of Edwin Hopkins

The trial of Edwin Douglas Hopkins began on 22 January 1997 at Birmingham Crown Court.

At his trial, Hopkins was represented by Mr James Hunt QC. Hopkins maintained that on the evening of the murder he had been at his sisters house in Ansley Common playing Trivial Pursuit. He had gone out to the off license on his bicycle at approximately 9.30pm to buy beer and crisps. On the way to the off license, which was in the same area as the post box, Hopkins reported that he hadn’t seen seen anyone or seen anything suspicious.

Hopkins’ sister Julie gave evidence for the prosecution. Despite initially confirming Edwin’s story to police and providing him with an alibi, she later revealed that Edwin had taken longer to return from the off license than would have been needed. When he returned 45 minutes later he had changed into different clothes. Hopkins’ explanation was that he had tried to buy milk and that he had been stopped for having no lights on his bicycle. Julie Hopkins also gave evidence regarding her brother’s apparent obsession with knives which he collected, including large hunting knives.

Mr Colman Treacy QC for the prosecution told the jury that DNA evidence found on Naomi Smith’s body matched that of Edwin Hopkins DNA in the order of 36 million to 1. Hopkins had supplied a DNA sample during the mass screening.

Dr. Andrew Walker a forensic odontologist appearing as a witness for the prosecution was asked to compare bite marks found on Naomi’s breast with impressions taken of Hopkins’ teeth. When Hopkins was a child he had fallen from a bicycle and knocked out one of his front teeth and his remaining teeth had moved to close the gap, therefore his teeth had an unusual profile. Dr. Walker told the jury that the cast of Hopkins teeth matched the bite mark exactly.

Verdict and Sentencing

The 11 person jury took three and three-quarter hours to deliberate it’s verdict. Edwin Hopkins was found guilty of the murder of Naomi Smith and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was convicted by a 10-1 majority verdict. In sentencing to life imprisonment the judge made the recommendation that the minimum tariff was set to 20 years,

In summing up the verdict, the judge, Mr Justice Tucker said:

“You have been convicted of murdering a young innocent schoolgirl. It was a savage murder, a sadistic murder and you are a very dangerous young man.”

On the 6th February 1997, the Lord Chief JusticeLord Bingham made the recommendation to the Home Secretary that the minimum term should be set to 17–18 years. On the 20th May 1999, the Home Secretary who was Jack Straw at the time set Hopkins minimum term to 18 years, meaning that Hopkins would be eligible for parole in 2013.

Appeal

Edwin Hopkins has always maintained his innocence regarding the murder. In February 2004, some doubt was cast over Hopkins’ conviction when a local man named Andrew Dexter was convicted of the torture and murder of his girlfriend Sharon Franklin. It emerged that Dexter had been questioned at the time of Naomi Smith’s murder but released without charge. Despite this, police confirmed that the case would not be reopened and that Hopkins had been convicted on solid evidence.

In 2010, solicitors representing Edwin Hopkins made an application under section 276 and paragraph 3 of Schedule 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to have his minimum term reviewed. The Hon. Mr. Justice King who reviewed the tariff, stated in his report dated 15 July 2010 that “the minimum term in this case is to be specified as 18 years”, keeping the original tariff set by the Home Secretary