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Man found guilty of Hannah murder

25 November 08 14:41 GMT

A man has been jailed for life for the "appalling" murder, rape and kidnap of 17-year-old Hannah Foster.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, 41, who denied all the charges, was convicted more than five years after Hannah was found strangled.

She had been walking a short distance home after a night out in Southampton when she went missing on 14 March 2003. Her body was found two days later.

Her father, Trevor Foster, called Kohli a "cold, calculating and ruthless man".

"Today we are feeling an overwhelming sense of relief at the verdict in this trial," he added.

"We have long realised that Kohli is a cold, calculating and totally ruthless man and has destroyed so many people's life without a second thought."

On the run

Kohli snatched the teenager from a street yards from her home in Southampton after she had spent an evening with friends.

The A-level student called 999 in the hope an operator would hear what was happening, but the call was terminated when she did not speak.

Kohli dumped her body next to a road in Allington Lane, West End, and went back home to his wife and two sons.

Four days later, he fled to India, where he led a life on the run for 16 months before being arrested.

While in custody in India he gave a televised confession which he later retracted.

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

In a victim impact statement read to the court by Hannah's aunt Jill Lewis, Hannah's mother Hilary said she would feel guilt for the rest of her life that she was not there to protect her daughter when she was murdered.

"Kohli ripped out my heart and stamped on it," she said.

"When Trevor and I saw Hannah in the mortuary, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, there must be some mistake.

"The cold, battered and bruised body certainly looked like her, but where was the sparkle in her eyes?"

Speaking earlier to the BBC, Mr Foster said: "I remember talking to her and saying, 'We'll find who did this to you'. And that's what we've been focused on doing since."

Mr and Mrs Foster said it was only now after Kohli was convicted that they could properly start to grieve for their daughter.

"The focus has been on her killer, not on Hannah," Mrs Foster said.

Her husband added: "I don't think there is such a thing as closure.

"It doesn't go away, the grief and the pain, they're going to be there until the day we die."

'Wanton disposal'

Sentencing Kohli to serve a minimum of 24 years at Winchester Crown Court, judge Mr Justice Keith said his crime was aggravated by "Hannah's vulnerability as a young slip of a girl, the terrible and appalling ordeal which Hannah must have gone through before you killed her.

"The wanton way you disposed of her body and the unimaginable grief to which you have subjected her family."

The verdicts came at the end of a long campaign by Hannah's parents, who had travelled to India four times to keep up the pressure on Indian authorities and get Kohli back to face justice.

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

Kohli spent 16 months on the run, even marrying another woman before he was arrested.

Det Supt Alan Betts said: "Kohli did everything he could to avoid justice, and it was only through the determination of Hannah's parents, Hampshire Police, and colleagues in India that he was located and arrested.

"Our thoughts today are with Hannah's family. They, and we, may get some satisfaction that Kohli has been convicted, but it will not bring Hannah back."

Alastair Nesbitt, chief crown prosecutor for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said: "It was important to bring Hannah's killer to justice.

"We did consider whether we would deploy an alleged confession but came to the conclusion we could not overcome the hurdles to make it admissible to a court in England."

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