Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Putting a name to Colette Aram's killer

Det Supt Kevin Flint of Nottinghamshire police
Det Supt Kevin Flint said Hutchinson was "shocked" to be arrested

"It was on the 26th of March 2009. It was the call we had been waiting for."

Det Supt Kevin Flint of Nottinghamshire Police has very clear memories of the day he was told they had a DNA match for Colette Aram's killer.

"We had had many highs and lows during the last five years," he reveals. "So to get that call to say they had a partial familial link was the boost we had been waiting for, for many, many years."

Mr Flint had been working on a review of the murder of Colette for five years but the case had been a shadow on the force since her body was found in a field near her Keyworth home the day after she disappeared in October 1983.

The death of the 16-year-old had put the force under huge pressure to find her killer, pressure which was only increased by the lack of clues.

Initial setback

The investigating team was also mocked in a letter from the murderer.

Part of it read: "I know I strangled her. I drove around and ended up at Keyworth. I left the key there to fool you and walked back across the fields. You will never get me."

But for 24 years a vital clue, in the form of DNA left when the killer cleaned himself with paper towels at a local pub, lay waiting to be decoded.

And it finally led, on another day Mr Flint will not forget, to Paul Hutchinson.

"He was most definitely shocked to see the police knocking on his door.

Police search area where Colette was found
The crime scene yielded few clues at the time of the murder

"He was quiet and reserved - but most definitely shocked that 25 years on, police had tracked him down."

At the time of the murder he lived only seven streets away from Colette. He had also been interviewed in the original inquiry and even raised two families in the area - neither of which ever suspected his secret.

But even with technology on their side, it had not been a straightforward task for officers to find their man.

Despite the breakthrough in 2007 of securing a DNA profile from original evidence, initial results with the national database drew a blank.

In the quarter of a century since the murder, the killer had not been in a situation where he had been required to give a sample.

But officers knew the profile could still be used to close in on the culprit.

"We embarked on what is called a familial DNA search, where we search the database to see if there is the possibility of one relative of the offender being on the database," Mr Flint said.

"We got a match. And from that search, we were led to Paul Hutchinson."

'Never give up'

Even after putting a name and face to the man who killed Colette, detectives found many loose ends difficult to resolve.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions still, because this man has not spoken to us.

"To carry out such an offence and then go to a public house and eat a cob and have a drink of orange and lemonade - I just don't understand the mentality.

"Hopefully in the future we will find out exactly why he did what he did - and about his actions before and after."

He added: "I think the message this conviction sends out is that we will never give up. The nature of these offences made us even more determined."

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