Described as "highly intelligent", Adam Thomas was a former pupil of Exeter School who left with nine GCSEs and three A levels and started a degree course in business studies at Portsmouth University. There his fellow students viewed him as a 'chav', due to his regular binge drinking and occasional outbursts of violence. After two years at Portsmouth he abandoned his studies, and went back to live with his parents at their home at Trinfield Road in Exmouth, where he found work as a civil servant in Exeter. His drinking continued, so much so that his mother confiscated his bank card in an attempt to deprive him of the means of acquiring any further alcohol.
However on the evening of the 13th February 2007 Adam Thomas simply retrieved his card from his mother's purse and went out to get drunk.
After drinking five or six pints of lager he made his way to the Fahrenheit Club in Exmouth where he drew nearly £200 from a cash machine, and then bought himself a bottle of beer and paid £60 for two bottles of champagne for a group of girls he had never met before whilst informing the barman; "If you are going to pull, you have to pull in style."
It was at the Fahrenheit Club that he met a thirty-five year-old care worker named Sharon Stokes, who invited him back to her attic flat where she lived on her own above a funeral parlour at Rolle Street in Exmouth. There they apparently sat and drank cider whilst listening to country and western music for the next two hours. Apparently Thomas was "not interested in her" and they did not have sex, but at 5.05 am he rang his mother and asked her to collect him and told her "Mum, I've killed someone". As it turned out, Thomas was quite serious, as he told the first policeman to arrive at the scene; "I fucking stamped on her head, I fucking loved it. I killed someone. Big fucking deal."
It seems that during the early hours of the morning on the 14th February Thomas had fallen into an argument with Sharon Stokes, at which point he informed her, "I am a monster. I am the Grim Reaper.
", knocked her to the floor, kicked her and stamped on her head. As he later told the police "I actually quite enjoyed the experience; I remember thinking she was doing amazingly well not to be dead already." He then picked up a brick
that Miss Stokes used as a doorstop, and bludgeoned her repeatedly over the head with it. It was later determined by a Home Office pathologist
named Guyan Fernando
that she had suffered no less than forty-six separate injuries, mainly to her head. Adam Thomas did not appear to have been in the slightest bit contrite regarding his actions saying, "At last they will take me out of society. Shame it took a fat ugly bitch to do it."
His trial opened at Exeter Crown Court on the 12th November 2007
with Judge Graham Cottle presiding, when Adam Thomas pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. His plea was rejected by the prosecution, represented by Martin Meeke, who argued that whilst it was accepted that Thomas was indeed suffering from a psychopathic personality disorder, he was intelligent enough to know right from wrong.
The defence counsel Jerome Lynch outlined his client's history and explained that Thomas had tried to kill himself in his car in the New Forest in October 2006, after which he returned home to tell his mother that he wanted to be dead and that "I am wired wrongly, I am not like other people". On the 26th January this year Thomas then crashed his car into the doors of Barclays Bank in Exmouth because "he wanted to get himself taken out of society". Thomas was undergoing psychiatric assessment at the time of the murder, although medical staff had only got so far as prescribing him antidepressants before events overtook everyone.
James Sandford, a psychiatrist who examined the accused, noted that he had experienced violent fantasies since his mid-teens and "wanted to hurt certain groups in society"; his mother concurred and said that "He thought about death a lot and thought about killing people". Asked what his patient thought about the death of Sharon Stokes, Sandford told the court that "He came across as completely indifferent to it, almost welcoming that he would be removed from society, as good for him and good for society. He would spend his time drinking tea and reading newspapers."
On the 20th November the jury deliberated for three hours and then returned a verdict of guilty. Judge Graham Cottle remarked that Adam Thomas had "shown no remorse or regret" whilst noting this was due to his "condition" and sentenced him to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he served at least fifteen years before being considered for parole, although as he pointed out, "Whether you will ever be safe to release is a matter for serious conjecture."
According to The Guardian, "Mental health campaigners" were critical of "the system" for not doing more for Thomas before he finally battered Sharon Stokes to death. What mental health campaigners believed could have been in the circumstances was not detailed, thereby demonstrating the dilemma faced by the authorities regarding what to do with potentially dangerous psychopaths who have yet to commit a serious crime. The charity Sane called for an inquiry and the Devon Partnership NHS Trust said it would "review the facts to see if any lessons can be learned".
- 'Grim Reaper' taunt over attack, BBC News, 12 November 2007
- Public schoolboy told Valentine 'I am the Grim Reaper', then battered her to death, Daily Mail, 12th November 2007
- Richard Smith, Murdered by the 'Grim Reaper', Sunday Mirror, 13/11/2007
- 'Grim Reaper' is jailed for life, BBC News, 20 November 2007
- Steven Morris, He begged for help. Then he committed a brutal murder.
The Guardian, November 24, 2007
- Jacob Leverett, Former Student Convicted of Murder, University of Portsmouth Students' Union, 28th Nov 2007