In the Media

Boy, 15, who battered mother to death detained for at least five years

PUBLISHED December 15, 2011

James Gethen had significant psychiatric problems when he attacked Ann Gethen, 39, with a baseball bat at their home

A 15-year-old boy battered his mother to death with a baseball bat and told his sister "I hope she's dead", a court heard on Thursday.

James Gethen, now 16, was given an indeterminate detention order by a judge at Leeds crown court, who heard he had significant psychiatric problems at the time he killed his mother Ann, 39.

Gethen was told he must serve at least five years before he is considered for release.

Mr Justice Openshaw heard that Gethen attacked his mother at their home in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. He was told the teenager hit her several times with the bat as she sat on a settee on 15 August last year.

After the "dreadful" attack, Gethen told his 16-year-old sister Paula: "I don't care what I've done. I'm not bothered. I hope she's dead." He later told a neighbour: "I hit my mum round the head with a baseball bat. I could see her brains and everything."

Gethen pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at a previous hearing.

The judge heard the defendant had a history of "episodes of unprovoked, compulsive violence" and a string of psychiatric problems including the childhood equivalent of an emerging personality disorder. He was told of one incident in which Gethen tried to strangle a fellow pupil in a PE class with a shoelace, after which he said: "I decided I wanted to kill him."

The court was also told Gethen had an extreme reaction to the death of his father Eric, who was aged 71, on Boxing Day 2009.Gethen "tried to enter the grave" and "wished at the time to be buried with his father", the judge was told.

The court also heard of Gethen's complex family life and how he lived in a fire-damaged, boarded-up house in which he was forced to share a bed with his teenage sister.

Despite these problems, the court heard he was not suitable to be detained in a mental hospital. The judge said Gethen would instead be detained at a local authority secure unit.

The judge said: "There's a very high risk that he may cause serious harm to someone else. Neither I nor the doctors can say when, if ever, that danger may pass."

After the case, Detective Superintendent James Abdy said it was a "tragic" incident. He said the family "not only had to endure the loss of a loved one but also come to terms with the fact that Ann's life was cut short at the hands of her own son, James". © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds