Justice for family who went to Delhi to find girl's killer

Man given life sentence after being found guilty of Hannah Foster murder

Five-and-a-half years after he kidnapped, raped and murdered 17-year-old Hannah Foster, Maninder Pal Singh Kohli was unanimously convicted yesterday by a jury of eight men and four women.

The teenager's family, who followed Hannah's killer halfway across the world as he fled justice, wept as the guilty verdict was returned at Winchester Crown Court. In marked contrast Kohli, 41, a father of two young boys, showed no emotion except for a brief shake of the head as the hushed court heard that he would serve a minimum life sentence of 24 years.

"You stand there exposed as a heartless and contemptible man who abducted and raped an attractive17-year-old girl with everything to live for and then callously and quite premeditatedly took her life so she would not be able to point the finger of guilt at you," said the judge Mr Justice Keith, condemning the "unimaginable grief" to which he subjected the family.

Many of the jurors were reduced to tears as the young girl's aunt, Jill Lewis, read out a victim impact statement from Hannah's mother Hilary Foster, 52, explaining the paralysis of grief and pain as she was forced to identify her child's body in the mortuary.

"For the rest of my life I will feel the guilt that I wasn't there when she needed me most. She died terrified and alone with an evil stranger. I feel as though Kohli has ripped out my heart and stamped on it," said Mrs Foster.

"Hannah was an easy child to love, eager to please, extraordinarily kind and always polite and respectful... The sense of loss is unbearable. We are heartbroken and will always remain so."

Outside court, Mrs Foster, her husband Trevor, 58, and daughter Sarah, 20, expressed anger that the "evil stranger" who raped and murdered their "darling little girl" like a "lamb to the slaughter" could one day be released. "We cannot accept and never will be able to accept how a complete stranger can abduct, rape and murder your teenage daughter, still a child in the eyes of the law, and yet not end his days in prison," said Mr Foster, adding: "This man callously deprived Hannah of her primary human right – the right to life. This sentence gives him the right to a second chance at life, a second chance he never gave Hannah."

The court heard how the 16-stone sandwich delivery driver snatched the "extraordinarily intelligent, quiet and caring" A-level student yards from her home in Southampton on 14 March 2003. He raped her several times in his Ford Transit van before strangling her because he feared she would identify him. Her body was found dumped in a country lane six miles away. The six-week trial heard that the teenager had made a phone call for help but the 999 call was cut off by an automatic system because she could not speak directly to the operator. In the enhanced tape, Kohli could be heard telling his victim "I want to fuck" while the petrified youngster pointed out where she lived, saying: "That's my, my road ... that was where I live."

Four days later, Kohli fled the country to his family in India, leaving everything he owned as well as his wife and children behind. During the next 16 months he went on the run, using various aliases, and married again.

It was only because of the dogged persistence of Hannah's parents, who travelled to India three times, that he was eventually arrested. But, even then, they had to endure a three-year wait as he fought extradition. Finally, in June last year, the Indian court found he should face trial in the UK.

As he sentenced Kohli to 12 years for rape as well as six years for false imprisonment and kidnap to run concurrently with the 24 years for murder, Mr Justice Keith said: "It took a long time for you to be brought to justice but the law caught up with you in the end."

His reluctance to return would also cost him dear, the judge added. While he was willing to take into account the 486 days he spent on remand since his extradition back to the UK, as well as the six months it would have taken to bring him back to Britain if he had returned voluntarily, he would not give him credit for the rest of the time he spent on remand fighting extradition.

The trial heard "absurd" and "ludicrous" claims from Kohli in the witness box as he "spun a web of lies" saying he himself had been abducted, tied up and forced to have sex with Hannah because he owed a work colleague £16,000. But after he was identified as a suspect after a BBC Crimewatch appeal, detectives found Hannah's DNA in his van and his semen on her body, while tracking of her mobile phone demonstrated she had been in the same area where his vehicle was spotted on CCTV. Cameras also helped prove it was in the location where her body was found.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower