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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
The killer who finished his homework
By Mark McGregor
BBC News, Manchester

Michael Hamer
Hamer was sentenced to life for the murder
When 11-year-old Joe Geeling failed to return home from school his parents knew something was wrong.

Not only was it unheard of for him to be late, the youngster was in the middle of a course of treatment for his cystic fibrosis and was due in hospital that afternoon.

Alarmed by his absence, Tom and Gwen Geeling reported their son missing and police launched an immediate search.

But he had already been lured to his death by Michael Hamer. A murder detectives described as "100% cold, calculated and pre-meditated".

In fact, within minutes of dumping Joe's slender body in a freezing ditch, Hamer was back in his bedroom finishing off his homework.

Lured by letter

Earlier that day, 1 March 2006, Joe had attended St Gabriel's High School as normal.

The letter written to Joe
It may be that there was a sexual element which triggered this attack
Det Supt Martin Bottomley

No-one knew this would be the day Hamer picked to execute a plot he had been concocting for up to three weeks.

Hamer, then 14, gave Joe a letter purportedly written by the deputy head, instructing him to go to Hamer's home to collect some books.

Confused, Joe showed the letter to a teacher, who, after later spotting the youngster in a corridor with his killer, realised it was in fact written by Hamer.

"The teacher said to Joe in no uncertain terms to go straight home after school," said Det Supt Martin Bottomley. "We now know he didn't."

Joe did not go home. Instead, other pupils reported seeing him follow Hamer along Ainsworth Road in Bury at about 1600 BST and the pair arrived at Hamer's home at about 1615 BST.

A few minutes later, Joe was dead.

Hamer told police he just "flipped" when the pair were in his bedroom, claiming Joe ripped a photograph of personal importance. It is a story rejected by Mr Bottomley.

"It's clear that he had been planning this attack on Joe for some time," the detective told the BBC.

"Not only did we find the one note on Joe's body we found five drafts in total, one of which hinted at a sexual motive."

Hamer viciously battered Joe around the head with a frying pan before stopping his attack to get two kitchen knives from downstairs, which he then used to stab him repeatedly in the face, neck, body and buttock.

A post-mortem examination revealed Joe suffered 10 blows to the head, a fractured eye socket and 16 separate stab wounds. He died from a wound to his neck which severed an artery.

Hamer was wearing a dressing gown when he murdered Joe and finger marks on Joe's thigh, plus a stab wound in his buttock, suggest a sexual motive.

Joe Geeling
He behaved perfectly normally throughout the whole set of circumstances except, of course, when he was ferociously and viciously attacking Joe
Det Supt Martin Bottomley

Mr Bottomley said: "It may be that there was a sexual element which triggered this attack but only the person who did it knows that. I can't look into his mind."

Just minutes after murdering Joe, Hamer was dragging his body through the streets of Bury in a wheelie bin, even stopping to speak with his mother on the phone.

He took him half a mile away to Whitehead Park, where he dumped the body in a gulley and covered him with bed springs, cushions, twigs, leaves and bricks.

By 1730 BST, Hamer was back finishing his homework - as Joe's frantic parents were reporting their son missing.

A search was immediately launched, with police, rescue teams, firefighters, neighbours and the Geeling family all joining the hunt.

Whitehead Park, not far from the Geeling home on Devon Street, was part of that search - although Joe's body was not found until 1045 BST the following day by a police dog.

"A couple of firefighters have found it very, very difficult to come to terms with the fact they must have walked within yards of Joe's body and not found him," said Mr Bottomley.

The detective said Hamer acted in a "perfectly rational way", disposing of the body, attempting to clean his bedroom, taking calls from his mother and then returning home to do his homework.

"It's 100% cold, calculated, pre-meditated," he added.

"He behaved perfectly normally throughout the whole set of circumstances except, of course, when he was ferociously and viciously attacking Joe."

Map of murderer's route

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