Black­mail gone ter­ri­bly wrong

Sunday Express - - XPRESS PEOPLE -

Aroofer who mur­dered a trans­sex­ual pros­ti­tute on 28 Fe­bru­ary 1997 for her se­cret list of celebrity clients was jailed for at least 17 years. James Hop­kins, 42, es­caped jus­tice for al­most 12 years un­til he was matched to a bloody palm print at the flat of 23 year-old Robyn Browne.

A mo­tive has never been es­tab­lished for the stabbing but Hop­kins told his part­ner he went to the flat to get the names of fa­mous cus­tomers as part of a black­mail plot.

The names of the clients have never been re­vealed to avoid ‘em­bar­rass­ing’ them.

But one is a house­hold name.

Hop­kins was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment and or­dered to serve a min­i­mum of 17 years af­ter be­ing unan­i­mously con­victed of mur­der at the old Bai­ley in 2007.

Judge Martin Stephens QC told him: “You went there with a view to steal­ing the de­ceased’s prop­erty and re­move pages from a filo­fax which prob­a­bly con­tained con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion.

“You were do­ing that for money and you ad­mit­ted re­ceiv­ing £500. You were also look­ing to steal drugs.

“Be­fore you could get what you wanted you had to deal with the oc­cu­pant, Robyn Browne.

“I am sat­is­fied that you dis­posed of her with cruel bru­tal­ity. You stabbed the vul­ner­a­ble and un­for­tu­nate per­son nine times. There was on your part an in­ten­tion to kill.

“Af­ter your ar­rest, you tried to ma­nip­u­late your fam­ily in at­tempts to evade jus­tice. The jury saw through the web of lies that you tried to cre­ate.

“The sen­tence by law is one of life im­pris­on­ment. You will only ever be re­leased on li­cence if and when the pa­role board con­sid­ers it safe for you to be re­leased.”

Hop­kins left the court with a slight smirk. His part­ner Donna Ab­bott was not in court for the sen­tenc­ing.

The old Bai­ley heard Miss Browne, born James Er­rol Browne, was tak­ing fe­male hor­mones and await­ing her gen­der re­as­sign­ment op­er­a­tion at the time of her death.

She ad­ver­tised for clients in phone kiosks and news­pa­pers and worked from a hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion flat at 6b Gos­field Street, Maryle­bone, west Lon­don.

Neigh­bours re­ported a steady stream of men go­ing into the flat in­clud­ing well dressed ‘City gents.’

“There is some ev­i­dence that the vic­tim may well have had some well-known clients,” said pros­e­cu­tor Ni­cholas Hil­liard.

“We have not called them to court be­cause there was no need to em­bar­rass them.”

The se­cret list of clients con­tained the name of a well-known en­ter­tainer.

Miss Browne did not of­fer full sex be­cause of her HIV-pos­i­tive sta­tus but en­ter­tained clients wear­ing women’s un­der­wear, make-up and a shoul­der-length black wig.

Her flat­mate Natasha Brent­wood left her get­ting ready for work on the evening of 28 Fe­bru­ary 1997, and re­turned less than two hours later at 8pm.

When she could not get an an­swer at the door she climbed through the first floor win­dow to find Miss Browne ly­ing face down on her bed with nine stab wounds to her chest and neck.The walls and bed­clothes were cov­ered in blood and the fa­tal wound through the neck had been in­flicted as the vic­tim lay face down on the bed.

one stab wound had gone straight through her body and an­other had pen­e­trated her breast bone.

The flat had been ran­sacked and her Filo­fax was miss­ing the pages A to N in the ad­dress sec­tion.

A bloody palm print was found on the bed­room door and hand marks were also traced on copies of the Sun news­pa­per and Loot left by the killer.

Po­lice were un­able to match the prints to any sus­pect and the trail went cold.

In 1997, po­lice would have had to man­u­ally check the prints with ev­ery record to find a match.

It was only with the in­tro­duc­tion of an au­to­matic com­puter sys­tem that Hop­kins was iden­ti­fied in a new search in July 2007.

His fin­ger­prints were on file be­cause of his pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions for tak­ing a ve­hi­cle with­out con­sent in 1988 and theft in 1993.

Hop­kins was born in Glas­gow, Scot­land, and moved to Leeds in 1982 af­ter leav­ing school.

He mar­ried but sep­a­rated in 1995 be­fore trav­el­ling to Lon­don in Jan­uary 1997 to find work as a roof slater.

At the time of the mur­der Hop­kins was stay­ing in a dor­mi­tory at the Queen Ho­tel in Brix­ton and smok­ing crack.

He later moved to New Farn­ley, Leeds, to start a new life with Donna Ab­bott, the mother of his young son.

Hop­kins set up home with her in 2004 and worked as a roof slater with her ex­part­ner Paul Ham­mill.

When he was ar­rested Hop­kins at first de­nied even know­ing Miss Browne.

But Hop­kins wrote a let­ter to his part­ner from pri­son say­ing: “Sorry for all the s*** this has caused you and your fam­ily, but it is some­thing that hap­pened ten years ago.”

He added: “If I see you or some­one who knows me well I will tell them the whole story, the truth about 28 Fe­bru­ary, 2007.

“It is a lot more straight­for­ward than it looks and if the ev­i­dence is re­ally bad against me then the truth will have to come out which might send me down for a long time.”

Hop­kins also wrote to his young son Jack: “Sorry you have got in­volved in this mess. My past has come back to haunt me.

“Did I do it? Well let’s just say I know a lot about it and how it hap­pened. Whether peo­ple be­lieve me de­pends on a few things.”

When his part­ner and Paul Ham­mill vis­ited him at Worm­wood Scrubs on 6 July 2007, he claimed the vic­tim had been stabbed accidentally.

Miss Ab­bott said: “My first ques­tion was ‘Did you do it?’ James told me he did do it. He said he went in, it turned into a strug­gle and there was a fight.”

Hop­kins later tried to change his story af­ter Miss Ab­bott gave a state­ment to po­lice, claim­ing the real killer was a Ja­maican drug dealer called Appee.

He wrote in an­other let­ter smug­gled out of jail: “You will have to say you were to­tally con­fused when you gave the state­ment... The main thing to say is I wasn’t alone.

“The main thing to say is you were ter­ri­fied of the po­lice be­cause they kept threat­en­ing you,” he wrote.

He added: “Your state­ment could be worse for me than the palm print.

“Make sure no silly c*** sees this be­cause this let­ter will send me down.”

Giv­ing ev­i­dence at the old Bai­ley, he even claimed that he tried to stop Appee stabbing Miss Browne.

Hop­kins, of [40] Bawn Drive, Leeds, de­nied mur­der.

— court­new­

YAries (Mar. 20--Apr. 19)

ou shall be bub­bling with en­ergy. How­ever, on the neg­a­tive side, this could also lead to ego clashes. How­ever, you will try to chan­nel your en­ergy pos­i­tively. Any­way with Jupiter be­ing ret­ro­grade now, its pos­i­tive in­flu­ence will not be at its fullest. So, be­ware! The phase will be favourable for busi­ness­men look­ing to ex­pand op­er­a­tions. Short-term travel around mid-week may bear en­cour­ag­ing re­sults. On the fi­nan­cial front, the plan­e­tary con­fig­u­ra­tions sug­gest you shall be in a com­fort­able po­si­tion.

You may be tempted to pur­chase things of crea­ture com­fort. But you would be bet­ter off sav­ing it for fu­ture emer­gen­cies. The stars in­di­cate a job change or ris­ing work dis­sat­is­fac­tion for most Signs this week.

What­ever, it may be, it shall pay to re­main care­ful and mea­sured, be­fore you take a ma­jor de­ci­sion like a job change. on the other hand, there’s no point in stick­ing to a job that doesn’t do any­thing for you any more.

Taurus (Apr. 20--May 19):

Venus has en­tered your sign on the 17th and will be trav­el­ing “with you” through Apr. 29th. Her pres­ence gives you an air of poise and peo­ple will sim­ply like how you look. You may be­come in­ter­ested in your per­sonal ap­pear­ance and make im­prove­ments in how you are seen. Your in­ter­est in­creases in things of beauty.

Gemini (May 20 -- June 20)

There is an old say­ing: “Don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing you think.” Take this one to heart this week. Your feel­ings and thoughts may be only pro­jec­tions of what you want to think. You might iden­tify a piece of in­for­ma­tion as a truth, when in­deed, it is merely your opin­ion

Can­cer (June 21--Jul y 21)

It is likely that you are mak­ing a shift in life di­rec­tion. That could be ca­reer or it might have more to do with fol­low­ing your nose into a new adventure. on the whole, wa­ter peo­ple don’t make shifts eas­ily, so it is likely you have been con­sid­er­ing this for a long time. It is pos­si­ble that one of your par­ents is ready for a new adventure, too.

Leo (July 22 --Aug. 21)

Ar­eas that must be brought to con­clu­sion at this time are those in­volv­ing money that you share with oth­ers. That could be al­imony, debt, in­vest­ments, in­sur­ance or in­her­i­tance. The new be­gin­ning has to do with travel, higher ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lish­ing, the in­ter­net, or ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing the law.

Virgo (Aug 22--Sep. 22)

Your at­ti­tude about you and your re­la­tion­ship is not al­to­gether ac­cu­rate right now. You may be in­volved in ro­man­tic bliss, which is won­der­ful. This may be a good week to work through some of the is­sues in the re­la­tion­ship so you can heal each other. Spir­i­tual pur­suits are given a “go” sig­nal.

Libra (Sep. 23--Oct. 22)

Your at­ti­tude about you and your re­la­tion­ship is not al­to­gether ac­cu­rate right now. You may be in­volved in ro­man­tic bliss, which is won­der­ful. This may be a good week to work through some of the is­sues in the re­la­tion­ship so you can heal each other. Spir­i­tual pur­suits are given a “go” sig­nal.

Scorpio (Oct. 23--Nov. 21)

Events of re­cent weeks have brought one re­la­tion­ship to a cri­sis point. You will have to make a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment if you want to hold onto it. The truth is that your fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion and your will just may not be strong enough to main­tain things on your own. Maybe this sit­u­a­tion is bet­ter left be­hind.


(Nov. 22 --Dec. 20)

You are work­ing very hard to give birth to a child or a cre­ative en­ter­prise. The tim­ing feels cru­cial. only long term per­sis­tence will yield re­sults, so it is best to as­sess whether you have the will and the sup­port to ac­com­plish your goal. (Gam­blers be­ware: Pay off your debts or things will go poorly for you.)

Capricorn ( Dec 21 -- Jan 19)

You may be griev­ing a re­cent loss. Your de­sire is to go into your cave and sit in your stew un­til ready to emerge. un­for­tu­nately the world of fam­ily and ca­reer keep mov­ing for­ward and are drag­ging you along.

James Hop­kins

Robyn browne

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