Hammer attacker '˜mortified' over brutal assault

FORMER soldier James Hemming has been jailed for 12 years for launching a brutal hammer attack on a teenage prostitute during sex.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:42 pm
A CCTV image released of James Hemming after the attack
A CCTV image released of James Hemming after the attack

Labourer Hemming bludgeoned the 17-year-old with a claw hammer after paying her £160 for sex at a house in Shearer Road, Fratton.

Multiple injuries left the girl, now 18, brain damaged and looking ‘lifeless’ with her hair matted with blood and her skull exposed.

Hemming, who served five and a half years in the army, claims he does not know why he attacked and has never revealed any motive.

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The 16oz claw hammer found in a nearby drain. James Hemming used the hammer to attack a 17-year-old girl in Shearer Road, Portsmouth

Sentencing yesterday, judge Sarah Munro QC said: ‘There’s nothing in your past to explain this transformation from the norm to what can only be described as a violent monster.’

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Hemming, of Cross Street, Portsea, had swapped messages with the teenage escort arranging to meet.

‘There came a stage when you were having sex,’ judge Munro added.

‘You then described that you felt strange, though you were stone-cold sober and you picked up the 16oz hammer from the window sill and hit her hard on the back of the head with it.

James Hemming's police mugshot

‘When she screamed you hit her a number of times in the back of the head and twice on the front. You said you did that to knock her out and to stop her screaming.’

The court heard the victim’s terrified friend, also in the house at the time of the attack on April 11, was told by Hemming to ‘wait there’.

Prosecutor Kerry Maylin said the woman heard screaming before Hemming calmly told her to wait. He partially shut a door and then returned to attack the teenager.

‘She could just see he was using a hitting motion and (the girl) was lifeless on the floor,’ Ms Maylin said.

The 16oz claw hammer found in a nearby drain. James Hemming used the hammer to attack a 17-year-old girl in Shearer Road, Portsmouth

The friend dragged the teenager out into the street before the victim struggled to get back into the house.

Paramedics rushed to the scene to find the girl, confused, asking for help.

The teenager suffered five blows to the back of her head, two to the front, two skull fractures and multiple defensive injuries to her arms.

‘The injuries were both life threatening and life changing,’ the judge added.

James Hemming's police mugshot

Hemming had run off from the street following the 6.58pm attack before ditching the hammer in a drain.

He got into his car and fled to the Historic Dockyard car park, where CCTV caught him throwing items in a bin and emerging in new clothes.

The victim, who cannot be named, suffered 44 injuries, has been left with scars to her face, suffers hair loss, has to wear wigs, and has lost most of her memory for two years prior to the brutal attack.

She has gone deaf in her left ear, fears going outside, and has been isolated socially.

When police arrested Hemming 18 days later, they found he had been going to work every day.

The victim took two months to recover from her injuries but was left brain damaged.

‘I had to spend my 18th birthday in a hospital ward when I should have been out enjoying time with my friends without a care in the world,’ the victim said in her impact statement. She added: ‘I cannot have that again.’

Hemming has never given away why he attacked the girl, and claims he does not know.

In her statement, read in court, the victim told how she was in disbelief at his ‘audacity’ to change his Facebook profile photo a day after the assault to that of one of him and his partner together.

Initially she did not want to know why he attacked but she scours every reference on the internet and Hemming’s own social media to find out why.

‘I find myself wanting and deserving to know,’ she said.

She added: ‘All I want is to ask James: “why did you do this to me and what made you think you’ve got to nearly kill a child who has her whole life ahead of her and make it a painful misery?”.’

She added: ‘I hope he spends his time in prison knowing exactly what he’s done to me and all those around me.

‘I hope he gets everything he deserves and his life falls apart around him.’

A friend’s statement read in court told how the girl is unable to apply makeup as her arms tremble. The victim is terrified she may still die.

‘She’s convinced she won’t be here next week,’ the friend added in the statement.

The judge said Hemming lived a stable life with a loving family.

But she added: ‘There was one dark secret and that was for about five years you had been seeking contact with escorts via social media and the internet.

‘Sometimes the contact was no more than exchanging of text of telephone calls but on other occasions you did meet up with girls and pay for sex, and you were developing an increasing interest in pornography.’

Hemming’s girlfriend of eight months had discovered messages on his O2 pay-as-you-go phone but he told her he never met anyone.

Two days before the attack Hemming – who was branded a high risk to sex workers – was texting and calling escorts on his mobile phone.

CCTV of him topping up his phone in the O2 shop in Commercial Road helped connect him to a car that he used and together with other images led to his arrest.

Nigel Lickley QC, for Hemming, said: ‘The defendant doesn’t know why he did what he did and cannot offer any explanation.’

He added Hemming showed ‘genuine remorse’ for what happened, adding: ‘He’s mortified by what he did and the consequences. He’s ashamed of what he did.’

Mr Lickley added: ‘He has brought shame upon himself and the decent people who know him.’

Hemming, who has no previous convictions, admitted wounding with intent, on the basis it was not planned.

Charges of attempted murder and having an offensive weapon were dropped.