Hannah may have scratched murderer, court told

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The Independent Online

Murdered teenager Hannah Foster may have struggled and scratched at the hands of her attacker as they strangled her to death, a Home Office pathologist told a court today.

Dr Huw White told Winchester Crown Court that when he examined the body of the 17-year-old, her tights were inside out, her knickers were twisted and her bra was only partially clasped with one cup folded in.

He added that she had suffered scratches, probably caused by brambles to the front and back of her body, her hands and top of her legs.

Her tights did not have holes at the same places, suggesting that the injuries had been caused with the items of clothing removed, he said.

Some of the "bramble-type" scratches appeared to have been caused while she was alive while others were caused after death.

He added that she was found wearing a pair of boots but the soles of her feet were dirty and the scratches to her legs stopped at the level of the boots.

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, the court has heard.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, 40, a sandwich delivery van driver, is accused of her murder, rape, kidnap and false imprisonment, but denies all charges.

Dr White said Hannah suffered "pin-point haemorrhages" to her face and eyes which he explained were "classic symptoms of a neck being compressed".

He said that she also suffered bruising to the neck and to her windpipe and there was a 6cm scratch to her neck caused by a fingernail.

Dr White said: "This indicated pressure had been maintained for sufficiently long enough for these changes to appear in the face and neck and to cause the injuries to her neck.

"I suspect the process took longer than 15 to 30 seconds because she has a significant number of injuries to her neck.

"The marks were caused by the movement of hands on Hannah's neck and the implication is that she has been struggling while this process is going on.

"The fingernail scratch could have been the assailant or Hannah herself scratching the hands of her assailant."

Hannah was of slim build, 5ft 7in tall and weighed about eight stone, Dr White said.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol in her system, he said, and the cause of death was "manual strangulation".