Hannah accused 'kidnapped and forced to have sex'

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The Independent Online

The man accused of murdering 17-year-old Hannah Foster today told a jury he was kidnapped, bound and blindfolded then forced to have sex with her.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli claimed he was bundled into a car by three men on the night that the teenager disappeared.

He said he was taken to a van, where he was forced to have sexual intercourse with a woman, who he now believed to be Hannah.

He told the jury at Winchester Crown Court he believed he had been kidnapped out of "revenge" because he owed £16,000 to a work colleague.

The 41-year-old father of two told the court that he repeatedly borrowed sums of money from his colleague James Dennis, with whose wife he claimed he was having an affair.

But when Mr Dennis asked for the money to be returned, including a statutory demand from a solicitor, Kohli said he threatened to reveal the secret affair.

Kohli told the trial that on March 13, 2003, the day before Hannah disappeared, Mr Dennis's brother Jonathan threatened him, demanding that he pay his brother back.

The next day Kohli said he went to work as normal before going out for a meal with his wife and children in the evening.

Kohli, who said in court that he was a gambling addict, said that after returning his family to their home, he went to the Mitre pub in Portswood, Southampton.

He had already drunk a pint of beer and up to four bottles of pilsner before driving to the pub.

He then had another pint and gambled about £25 on the fruit machines before returning home to pick up another £20 to have another drink and carry on gambling on the machines.

He said he won some money before leaving the pub at closing time.

It was as he was returning to his work van, parked nearby, that he claimed he was grabbed by two men who told him to get in the back of a dark-coloured car.

One man knelt on his back and tied his hands while another sat on his legs and a third man drove the car.

He said: "The man who had his knee on my back tied my hands, they then blindfolded me.

"I was pleading saying 'I'm asthmatic and I can't breathe, I'm suffocating'.

"I just asked them what they want from me and they said 'It's best you keep listening to us'.

"I will never, ever forget the events of that night, I am still scared and frightened."

Kohli said the men asked him if he owed money to anyone and he told them that he owed money to Mr Dennis but he would have the money the following week when the sale of his flat was completed.

He said: "They said they wanted 25 grand by the 18th 'otherwise we will shoot you'."

He said that after a short period of driving he was taken out of car and told to sit in the passenger seat of a van, where another man shouted at him.

He said: "A different voice shouted at me 'You keep f****** my cousin's wife and taking money from them and blackmailing them.

"'We will teach you a lesson you will never forget in your life."'

Kohli said he then became aware that there was a "girl" in the van.

He said: "They said: 'You like having sex with a girl' then I told them I was a married man with two kids, do not do that.

"Then someone punched me in the face and I could feel some metal in their hand, like a can or keys.

"Then I heard a girl's voice. She said: 'He's got a nosebleed'. I felt like I had a runny nose but because my hands were tied I couldn't do anything.

"I felt someone press my nose with a cloth and wipe it."

Loud sobbing could be heard in court from the public gallery as Kohli then went on to describe the moment he had sexual intercourse with the girl against his will.

He said: "I felt someone open my trousers, pull down my trouser and I can feel someone's hand on my penis, I do not know who.

"After a couple of seconds I was erect because someone was touching it.

"Then I feel someone sat on my thighs, on my lap, they told me to sit forward a little."

He said he ejaculated "after a few minutes as the girl kept on going up and down".

He added that he did not know who the girl was but he now suspected it was Hannah Foster because his DNA was found in semen discovered by police on her dead body.

He said he believed she had also been forced to have sex with him.

"At the time I didn't know who it was, I was helpless, I didn't know anything at the time, because of the DNA it must have been her.

"To be honest I was thinking they were taking revenge (on Kohli), maybe (she was a) working girl. I am thinking that girl was the same as me, forced to be there.

"But from everything I now know, she must have been in the same position as me. I now know she had been forced to have sex with me," he said.

Kohli said he did not know what happened to the girl next but said he was taken back to his van parked near the Mitre pub.

He said one of the men had suggested to one of the others: "Why don't you kill him?"

Kohli said he was then warned: "If you go to the police, the girl will report you for forcing to have sex with her."

He said he was untied and left close to the Mitre pub and the men told him "not to look back" when they removed the blindfold.

He said he went home and slept for a couple of hours before his wife woke him at 4am in time for him to go to work.

Kohli, who worked as a sandwich delivery driver, said he had not taken his normal van home that night because Mr Dennis had asked to borrow it to move some furniture.

The trial has heard that Kohli's regular van had different signage to the other vehicles used by Hazelwood Foods, making it easily recognisable.

The court has also been told that his regular van was spotted by CCTV cameras at the same time and general location as signals sent to Hannah's mobile phone during the night she disappeared.

Kohli said that as he went to work the next morning, he saw a car similar to the one that he claimed he had been kidnapped in parked in the depot's car park.

He said he handed in the keys to the van he had borrowed for the previous evening and picked up the keys to his normal van.

When he got into the van, it was warm and not cold as it would normally be after being left in a car park overnight.

He said he saw Mr Dennis as he arrived at work but did not speak to him.

Mr Dennis and his wife Carole deny that she had an affair with the defendant.

Kohli denies the murder, rape and false imprisonment of Hannah Foster.

The body of the bright A-level student was found in a bramble-filled ditch at the side of Allington Lane, West End, Southampton, on March 16 2003, two days after she disappeared near to her home.