A Bushey father who strangled his daughter to death with a dressing gown chord told police he “loved her to death” after the crime.
Simon Thompson garrotted 11-year-old Rebecca as she slept in her bed after the pair had enjoyed a day out at London Zoo on June 21, St Albans Crown Court heard.
Prior to the killing, the 52-year-old, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, had been told by his ex-wife he had to move out of the family home in Homefield Road.
Thompson had shared a room with his daughter since the marriage had broken down and considered killing her an “act of mercy” in light of their impending separation.
After killing his daughter, Thompson drove his VW Golf at “excessive speed” before crashing at the Elstree Hill roundabout on the A41.
Thompson was badly injured and hospitalised, leaving Rebecca’s “desperate mother”, Mary, to discover her daughter’s body the following day.
The dad was initially charged with murder, which he denied, and was due to face trial this week.
However he changed his plea and admitted manslaughter when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court via video link from HMP Bedford today.
Sentencing Thompson to 20 years in jail, Judge Stephen Gullick said: “Rebecca was your only 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 not take her life while she was asleep.
“She was tucked up in bed, in a place she regarded as her home and no doubt in her mind a very safe placed indeed.”
Judge Gullick described Thompson’s actions as a “breach of trust that could not have been more gross”.
The court heard that Thompson married his wife in 1998 but the pair had been separated for five years by the time of Rebecca’s death.
Mrs Thompson had bought her husband’s share of the family home shortly after the marriage ended.
In court Mr Thompson was described as an “isolated man”, whose only real personal contact was with his daughter.
The court heard that prior to the attack Mrs Thompson had begun a new relationship and introduced her new partner to Rebecca while they were on holiday in Tenerife.
She had then asked her husband to move out of the house by July.
Prosecutor, Jane Bickerstaff, said: “The defendant was facing the imminent prospect that he would not be living with his own daughter, let alone in the same room.”
On Friday, June 21, Thompson called Rebecca’s school, Sacred Heart, in Merry Hill Road, to report that she was unwell and would not be in class.
At about 9.30am Thompson and Rebecca took at taxi to London Zoo where they spent the day and arrived back home just after 6pm.
The court was told that it was between their return home and 11.30pm that Thompson strangled his daughter with the chord of her bathrobe while she slept.
Examination of the body indicated that there were no defensive injuries and no signs of a struggle.
After the killing, Thompson left the house in darkness, with neighbours reporting they just saw the porch light come on as he got into his car.
Thompson then sped off and reached speeds of 90 and 100 mph before coming off the road at the roundabout. The crash left him severely injured with two broken legs.
The roundabout where Thompson crashed.
When Mrs Thompson heard of the crash the following morning, she tried to find the whereabouts of her daughter.
Thompson initially told his wife that Rebecca was “fine” and was with one of his work colleagues.
He later told his wife that their daughter “was back at the house”.
Mrs Thompson was with her new partner when she found the strangled body of her daughter at about midday.
The court heard how Mrs Thompson was heard to scream “She’s cold, she’s cold, she’s dead. Call an ambulance”, after making the grisly discovery.
Police outside the Thompsons' house.
Paramedics and the police were called and Rebecca was pronounced dead at 12.20pm.
In an interview with officers after Rebecca’s body was found, Thompson said: “Well after I did what I did I went out driving and I was distressed and I can’t remember anything after that.”
Thompson told officers that he “didn’t expect sympathy”, adding “I love my daughter to death”.
Three psychiatric reports were submitted to the court and it was revealed that Thompson suffered from depression.
However, prosecutor Ms Bickerstaff said that this condition and his Asperger’s Syndrome “did not predispose him to violence”.
Ms Bickerstaff added: “The crown submits that a sleeping child in an adults care us amongst the most vulnerable victims”
Speaking for Thompson’s defence, Bernard Richmond said what happened was not “born out of anger” or aggression, but that the defendant saw it as “an act of mercy”.
Thompson could be seen visibly upset and crying on video in court.
Mr Richmond added that the crime “will continue to haunt” Thompson.