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Social networking killer gets life

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 March 2010

Convicted sex offender Peter Chapman is jailed for life after admitting the kidnap, rape and murder of a teenage girl he arranged to meet on social networking site Facebook.

Ashleigh Hall

Peter Chapman, who is 33, was told by Judge Peter Fox QC that he must serve a minimum of 35 years in prison before he can be considered for release.

Earlier, Chapman had suddenly changed his plea to guilty as he was due to face trial for the murder of Ashleigh Hall.

The body of the 17-year-old student was found dumped in a field near Sedgefield in County Durham in October last year. She had been strangled.

As the hearing began in Teesside crown court, Ashleigh's mother Andrea Hall broke into tears in the public gallery and was comforted by two friends.

Chapman also pleaded guilty to failing to notify police about a change of address, as required by the sex offenders register.

Since he has now pleaded guilty, Chapman's long history of sex offences can be revealed.

He first became subject of a sexual assault investigation back in 1992, when he was 15 - and was accused of rape four years later, although the allegations were dropped.

In December 1996, aged 19, he was accused of attacking two teenage prostitutes. The court was told he used a stolen car with false plates to pick up a 17-year-old girl, before raping her at knifepoint. He did the same to another prostitute days later. He was jailed for seven years for the offences.

A year after his release he was arrested for the rape and kidnap of a prostitute in Ellesmere Port, although the case was discontinued. Police at the time described him as "a devious and dangerous individual".

The prosecution said he had managed to lure Ashleigh Hall into meeting him by posing as a teenage boy on the the Facebook social networking site, calling himself Peter Cartwright.

Chapman was only linked to her killing when police picked him up for a simple traffic offence - and he told them he could help with the death of a young girl.

He then took officers to the spot where he had left her body.

Andrea Hall, Ashleigh's mother, said: "I think it just started off that they were just friends - like just normal teenager talk.

"And then I understand it got a lot heavier. And then she must have just felt comfortable with him - 'cause Ashleigh wouldn't go with just anybody. And she wasn't that type of girl that just went off with boys anyway.

She went on: "Ashleigh... was grown up for her age but she was still sensible. She didn't go out with boys. I always knew where she was... I did know where she was all the time.

Of her relationship with her daughter, she said: "We had a very good relationship. There was just me and her for 11 years, and then I had Olivia and she was like a second mum to her.

"She wasn't just my daughter, she was my best friend."

A statement from Facebook said: "We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ashleigh Hall.                  

"While it is not clear how these two met; what is clear is that Peter Chapman was a twisted, determined individual with an evil agenda who used every online and offline opportunity to meet people.

"This case serves as a painful reminder that all Internet users must use extreme caution when contacted over the Internet by people they do not know.  We echo the advice of the Police, who urge people not to meet anyone they have been contacted by online unless they know for certain who they are, as there are unscrupulous people in the world with malevolent agendas.

"Nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of the people who use our site. On Facebook there are a variety of measures people can use to protect themselves from unwanted contact and we strongly encourage their use."

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