Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Reveal How Killer Was Trapped; Sex Offender Lured Victim to Her Death

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Reveal How Killer Was Trapped; Sex Offender Lured Victim to Her Death

Article excerpt

Byline: Kerry Wood

POLICE at the centre of bringing murderer and rapist Peter Chapman to justice have revealed how they caught the killer in the first case of its kind for the force.

The death of 17-year-old childcare student Ashleigh Hall sparked a national campaign for increased internet safety after her body was found dumped in a field in Sedgefield, County Durham, last year. Investigators at Durham Police were faced with the possibility her killer could potentially have hundreds of other victims in his sights after it emerged Ashleigh had met Peter Chapman while chatting online in social networking sites.

Serial sex offender Chapman, 33, who was homeless at the time, went online and befriended Ashleigh on Facebook, posing as a good-looking 17-year-old. Having realised that Chapman had used the internet to trap his victim, Durham Police had to use the same tactic and for the first time in a murder case they logged on to try to catch the killer at his own game.

Det Insp Mick Callan, one of the senior investigating officers, said the team had to use several techniques new to a murder investigation.

He said: "The case was unusual in that for probably the first time in the force officers were dealing with a killer who met his victim through the internet.

"During the course of the investigation Chapman produced a prepared statement and we had to try to prove or disprove his account.

"We requested help from Forensic Telecommunications Services and employed a force analyst."

More than 1,500 of Chapman's online 'contacts' were emailed to see if there were any possible victims of grooming.

Some of those who got in touch with police were interviewed and their mobile phones examined so police could build up a picture of Chapman and his activities.

A texting forensic linguistic expert was brought in to prove text messages had been sent by Chapman. …

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