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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 18:52 GMT
Cigarette butt helps jail killer
Louise Sellars
Louise used to go for drives with Ashurst
The parents of murdered teenager Louise Sellars have praised the DNA technology which helped jail their daughter's killer.

Darren Ashurst, 26, was given a life sentence after being linked to the student's death by a cigarette butt found at the scene in 1995.

The jury of nine men and three women at Manchester Crown Court heard there was a one in 83 million chance that saliva on the butt found by Louise's battered body was not Ashurst's.

Potential child killers, if you are thinking about it you will be caught because the technology is cleverer than you

Louise's father Gary Sellars

The lorry driver had been arrested on suspicion of murdering the teenager from Appley Bridge, Wigan, Greater Manchester, after her body was found.

But breakthroughs in DNA testing only enabled police to collect enough evidence from the butt to charge Ashurst last year.

Evidence

The jury took nearly nine hours to return a majority verdict to convict Ashurst on Wednesday.

They had heard detectives suggest Ashurst may have murdered Louise in a fit of rage after she rejected his sexual advances.

The popular teenager fought for her life but died after she was beaten, stamped on and had a blue nylon rope wrapped tightly around her neck.
Darren Ashurst
Ashurst: Claimed he had been trying to pick up a prostitute

Her body was discovered in a remote copse behind Billinge Hospital.

Louise and Ashurst, who was then 21, had been close and had often gone for drives in his distinctive white Ford Escort RS Turbo, the court heard.

He was arrested for her murder after police noticed discrepancies in his account of his movements on the night Louise vanished.

The rope used to strangle her was identical to one he had borrowed from a girlfriend and tyre tracks at the scene were similar to the treads on his car.

A watch found at the scene was also similar to one he used to own.

There was still not enough evidence to charge him and he was released after claiming he had been trying to pick up a prostitute and was worried his family would find out.

But detectives investigating the case did not give up and they kept hold of the cigarette butt and retested it following breakthroughs in testing in 1999.

Life 'snuffed out'

Louise's adopted father Gary said it was thanks to the advances in DNA profiling that his daughter's killer was now behind bars.

"Potential child killers, if you are thinking about it you will be caught because the technology is cleverer than you," he said.

Sentencing Ashurst to life Mrs Justice Rafferty said the trial's pathologist had never seen such injuries inflicted in his professional career.

"Darren Ashurst you snuffed out the life of a girl who had everything for which to live," she said.

Outside court Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Seabridge, who led the investigation, said police had never given up on bringing Ashurst to justice.

He said the Sellars family had suffered for years because Ashurst lived so close to them.

"He lived within half a mile of Louise's family, he had girlfriends in that area he worked in that area, it can't have done anything to help Louise's family with their suffering."

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