Man found guilty of Hannah's murder

Martin Halfpenny,Ben Mitchell,Pa
Tuesday 25 November 2008 13:38

A 41-year-old man was found guilty today of the murder, rape, false imprisonment and kidnap of brilliant A-level student Hannah Foster.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli snatched the 17-year-old from a street just yards from her home in Southampton after she had spent a night out with friends.

The terrified teenager, who wanted to be a doctor, called 999 hoping an operator would hear what was happening but the call was terminated when she did not speak.

Sixteen-stone Kohli took her to a secluded spot where he raped slightly-built Hannah in his sandwich delivery van several times before strangling her when he feared she might identify him.

He dumped her body beside a road in West End, Hampshire, and went back home to his wife and two sons. Four days later, he fled to India as the police net closed in on him.

After years of campaigning by Hannah's parents Hilary and Trevor Foster, Kohli was finally extradited back to Britain last year to stand trial.

The jury at Winchester Crown Court convicted Kohli on its second day of deliberations.

The verdicts bring to an end a five year long campaign for justice by Mr and Mrs Foster, whose daughter was murdered in March 2003.

Kohli shook his head only slightly but showed no other emotion as the four unanimous verdicts were delivered.

Hearing the guilty verdict on the first count of murder, Hannah's sister Sarah and her mother sobbed and hugged each other while Hannah's father helped comfort them.

The jury took five-and-a-half hours to reach its decision and the judge, Mr Justice Keith, adjourned the case for 10 minutes so everyone in court could regain their composure.

Kohli, dressed in a grey suit and blue shirt and flanked by three security guards, was taken from the court.

The verdicts, after nearly six years, were a final victory in a rollercoaster ride for Hannah's parents, who had travelled to India four times over the years to keep up the pressure on Indian authorities and get Kohli back to face justice.

Their first trip in July 2004 managed to find Kohli after a national appeal for help across India, but the sandwich delivery driver fought his extradition for a further three years.

Today, sitting in the public gallery, they finally saw justice delivered.

The family had attended court most days, only leaving when the evidence of their daughter's last hours was too distressing.

They also heard Kohli make astonishing claims that he was abducted by a work colleague James Dennis and unnamed others and forced to have sex with Hannah while tied up because he owed money to Mr Dennis. The claims were called "absurd" by the prosecution.

During the six-week trial, the jury heard a distressing recording of the 999 call Hannah made in the moments after she was abducted.

She had just waved goodbye to her friend Helen Wilkinson at a bus stop in the Portswood area of Southampton when the call was made at 11pm.

The enhanced conversation could be clearly heard as Kohli told Hannah in a heavily-accented voice "I want to f***" before telling her to keep her head down as his van travelled out of Southampton on the night of 14 March 2003.

On the tape, a clearly very frightened Hannah is heard to say as she saw Grosvenor Road, where she lived: "That's my, my road ... that was where I live."

The judge in the trial would not allow the prosecution to tell the jury that it thought Kohli used the words that he wanted to have sex with her for fear of influencing the jury, but the prosecution and a voice expert maintained that is what he said.

Hannah's fully-clothed body was found on 16 March in brambles off Allington Lane, West End, after it was spotted by a 14-year-old boy from his mother's car.

Two days later Kohli boarded a flight from Heathrow to India, where he would spend 16 months on the run, even marrying another woman before he was arrested.

It was not until much later in March that a BBC Crimewatch appeal led his work colleague at Hazelwood Foods, Mr Dennis, to spot similarities between bigamist Kohli and the person police were searching for.

He called police and the jigsaw rapidly fell into place.

Hannah's mobile phone was tracked moving along the M27 and M275 in Hampshire at the same time Kohli's Transit van was spotted on cameras.

CCTV footage from a garage placed his van three times in the vicinity of Allington Lane in the early hours of March 15 as he disposed of the body.

DNA belonging to Kohli was found on Hannah with a billion to one match probability and Hannah's DNA and blood was found in Kohli's van when it was seized.

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