Three years ago, Martin Bell successfully persuaded Scarborough Council to forgive his shady past and allow him to get behind the wheel of a taxi.
But while the authority allowed him to drive for Atlas Taxis with a pair of minor convictions behind him, what it didn’t realise was that over a decade earlier, he’d butchered Leeds woman Gemma Simpson.
But until the 45-year-old walked into Northway station and confessed to the grizzly slaying, neither did the police. Now, as PHTM reported, he’s behind bars, having been jailed in December for life.
The Scarborough Evening News reports that in November 2011, Scarborough Council decided the St Leonard’s Crescent man was a “fit and proper” man to taxi the public.
In minutes published from his licensing hearing, despite the council seemingly having some concerns about the public risk he posed, Bell told members that he had “turned his life around” - and councillors agreed.
Bell had been convicted of common assault in 2004, which along with another minor conviction, was disclosed to the council through a legal check.
But what wasn’t made available was an incident in which Bell was sectioned in 1999 for threatening to knife a policeman to death. As he was dealt with outside of the courts, the incident wasn’t disclosed on his report.
And the council obviously didn’t realise that in 2000, while high on drugs and believing he was carrying out God’s work, psychotic Bell repeatedly struck Gemma Simpson with a hammer.
Scarborough Council’s Steve Reynolds said that the council were just as much in the dark about Bell’s violent past as every one else.
“Bell had been clear of convictions since 2004 and taking everything into consideration at the time, including the evidence put forward that he had turned his life around and was a changed person, councillors granted the licence.
“The committee stated that the requirement for a driver to be a ‘fit and proper’ person was a continuing one and that where a driver fell below these standards their licence would be reviewed.
“Following Martin Bell’s arrest earlier this year his licence was suspended with immediate effect pending investigation and after being informed of his conviction his licence was revoked with immediate effect.
“The main aim of licensing taxi drivers is to protect the public and the council takes this extremely seriously.”
Mmmm... Unbelievable - this has to be another Soham!! So the Committee thought he was fit and proper; but why on earth did the 1999 episode where Bell was sectioned for threatening to knife a policeman to death, not show up on the local police report? Possibly because it occurred prior to the Soham clampdown and, as with Ian Huntley, this guy’s report may have got lost in the mists of time somewhere. Surely nowadays if any Committee has any doubts whatsoever, they shouldn’t issue the licence - end of. - Ed.