'Attempt to kidnap girl thwarted after fight': Woman tells murder trial of ordeal

A WOMAN who survived an attack and kidnap attempt when she was 15 years old told Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court yesterday how she managed to escape.

Teresa Ann Thornhill, now aged 21, told the jury the attack happened as she returned to her home in Radford, Nottingham, on 24 April 1988 after visting a local park with three friends.

The man alleged to have attacked her is Robert Black, 47, who denies 10 charges relating to the kidnapping and to the kidnapping and murder of three girls - Susan Maxwell, 11, Caroline Hogg, 5, and Sarah Harper, 10 - in the 1980s.

Miss Thornhill, who is 4ft 11in tall, recalled that on the day of the attack she had been wearing a pink skirt and blouse, green sandals and white ankle socks.

At about 3.30pm, she had taken a bus ride from the park and made her way home. She remembered seeing a blue van near to some traffic lights and as she walked towards her house she saw the vehicle again, parked at the roadside.

As she drew closer, the driver got out and shouted across the road to her and asked her if she could fix engines.

Miss Thornhill said: 'I thought nothing of it. I just walked on. He had opened the bonnet and I looked round. I walked faster then he came along and gave me a bear-hug from behind.'

Miss Thornhill, looking straight towards the jury, then stood up in the witness box and folded her arms around her, depicting what had happened. She said: 'I could not move because he was strong and I was so small. He put his hand over my mouth. I think I tried to scream for my mum. I had to kick my feet. I was ready for passing out because his hands were so big and I couldn't hardly breathe.'

She went on: 'I tried to get out and I grabbed his testicles and bit his forearm. He carried me across the street to the van. I had to kick my feet to get free. He had sunglasses on his face and I knocked them off . . . He got me to the van, to the door at the driver's side. He tried to shove me inside the van. I was struggling with one arm and leg in and one out.'

Miss Thornhill then said that she heard a friend, Andrew Beeston, shouting, 'Let go of her, you bastard.' The man let go of her, she fell to the ground and he drove off.

Asked to describe her assailant, Miss Thornhill said he had been about 30 to 40 years of age, was balding, had a beer belly and was chubby faced. He had been wearing a short- sleeved T-shirt which was oil- stained. He smelt of oil and sweat.

Under cross-examination by Ronald Thwaites QC, Miss Thornhill agreed that her statement in court, in particular about wearing white ankle socks and her description of her attacker, was at odds with what she had earlier said in police statements. She also agreed that she had negotiated a deal with the Daily Mirror to tell her story at the conclusion of the trial.

The case continues today.