FEATURES

Written In Blood: Episode 4 - The Facebook Killer
By James Whittington, Sunday 24th September 2017

In this episode, Simon Toyne travels to Darlington to explore the horrific case of 'The Facebook Killer’ and talk to author Angela Clarke (pictured).

Peter Chapman committed petty crimes through his childhood. At 15 he was accused of sexual assault but the charges were dropped. Four years later, he was accused of rape again after girl he befriended fell pregnant as a result of the attack, but the police were unable to make the accusation stick and he once again faced no charges.

He then began to target prostitutes, knowing that they were vulnerable targets and that he was likely to get away with his crimes. He would lure the women into his car, force them to strip down and assault them before driving around, holding the women at knife point. The second woman who he did this to, reported the incident to the police and then they were able to connect this case and a previously reported one. It was in 1996 that Chapman was picked out of a line up and at 19 years old, he was charged with 7 years in prison for the rape of the two women. He was let out on parole, halfway through his sentence, his name being added to the Sex Offenders Register.

Knowing that he would be unlikely to attract the women that he found attractive, he used the profile picture of a teenage boy to lure Ashleigh Hall, 17, to her death. He groomed her on Facebook using the name Peter Cartwright and arranged to meet Ashleigh on the 25th October. He spent the earlier part of the day visiting the area that he would later take Ashleigh.

A short while before Chapman was due to meet her, he sent a text from the ‘boy’ saying that his father was going to pick her up instead of him. Ashleigh’s body was found dumped in a farmer’s field, her arms bound and her mouth taped shut, resulting in suffocation. She had been raped - peri mortem. Later evidence also suggests that she was forced to perform oral sex on Chapman. He received a 35-year prison sentence for the crime.

Two days before Ashleigh Hall’s death, 23rd October, Chapmans details including his car registration number were circulated to all UK police forces as he was wanted by police in relation to allegations of theft, arson and failing to notify his change of address in line with the requirements of the sex offenders register. At this time it was still unknown to the police that Ashleigh was missing. His car was picked up by three police forces Automatic Number Place Recognition (ANPR) Systems following a nationwide alert to find him, but was never stopped. Cleveland Police recorded 12 ANPR hits, Durham Police recorded 2 hits and North Yorkshire recorded 2 hits.

In the end, it was the Cleveland Police hits that resulted in Chapman’s arrest. After which he confessed to Ashleigh’s murder and then took them to the field where he left her body. After the discovery of the body, the police called Mrs Hall who had called her daughter 30 times and her daughters friends in search of her. Mrs Hall recalled the horror of hearing the police answer Ashleigh’s phone. She said, “I could understand it if Ashleigh died because of illness but to actually have someone take someone’s life is just unbearable.”


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