Transvestite serial sex offender given life for strangling student

Chris Gray
Friday 14 December 2001 01:00 GMT

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Louise Thomas

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A transvestite with a 30-year history of sexual offences and a fetish for women's underwear was jailed for life yesterday for murdering a 17-year-old dance student.

Michael Ivor Chidgey, aged 46, attacked Heather Tell in a Staffordshire park last year, stripping her and strangling her with a shoelace. Her body was found in bushes near the A5 in Tamworth.

Chidgey had 10 indecent exposure convictions dating back to the early 1970s, had been jailed for attempted rape and had made a series of indecent phone calls in the days leading up to Ms Tell's death.

Sentencing him to life imprisonment, Mr Justice Poole said he murdered a young woman whose life was full of promise entirely for his own gratification, showing no pity or remorse. The judge told Chidgey: "You have inflicted an untold pain on her family and friends. I know now that you present a serious and continuing danger to women wherever you might be. You will go to prison for life."

Ms Tell, a student at Sutton Coldfield College of Performing Arts, was due to meet a friend for a night out when Chidgey attacked her in Kettlebrook Linear Park, Tamworth. Her body was found the next day but torrential rain had washed away all clues about her attacker and it was only partial DNA profiles of material found on her body that identified Chidgey as the killer.

The chances of the DNA belonging to anyone else were one in 70 million, but Chidgey mounted a bizarre defence, saying his DNA could have been on Ms Tell's body because of his habit of fondling women's underwear in shops. He claimed she could have bought a bra after he had touched it in a high street store.

After the jury at Stafford Crown Court returned an 11-1 majority verdict, Ms Tell's mother, Karen, said she was shocked by Chidgey's previous convictions, which included one for indecent exposure in 1973 in the same park where he killed Ms Tell.

She said she would write to Sarah Payne's mother offering her support for the campaign to stop known criminals reoffending after release from jail. "If he had got harsher sentences for his previous convictions, maybe Heather would still be here today," she said.

Detective Superintendent Peter Hall, who led the murder investigation, said although Chidgey had previous convictions, the most recent was 17 years ago. "This was before the sex offenders' register came into existence," he said.

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