Man ‘lay in wait in woodland’ before ‘kidnapping’ and ‘murdering’ ex-partner

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A man laid in wait for his ex-girlfriend in woodland before kidnapping and murdering her, a court heard.

Andrew Lee Pearson wept during a 999 call to police in which he said Natalie Harker had slipped and fallen in a stream and that he had tried to perform CPR on her but then he passed out for hours, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He claimed to have woken up and found her “purple” and with foam coming from her mouth in the tent where he had been staying in woods near her home, he told the emergency call-handler.

He had sex with her either before or after she died, the court heard.

Pearson, of Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, denies murder and kidnap.

Alistair MacDonald QC, prosecuting, said Ms Harker was a “creature of habit” and Pearson would know she cycled the same way to her job as a health centre cleaner.

She left her parents’ home in Colburn before dawn and never arrived at work on October 9 last year, and later that day her father raised the alarm.

Mr MacDonald said: “Natalie Harker had set off to work at 4.30am a fit and healthy person.

“The injuries she suffered and her death were anything but natural.

“They were caused, we say, by this defendant who applied pressure to her neck and prevented her from raising her head and immersing it in water.”

The prosecution said Ms Harker had led a sheltered life and was vulnerable, and had previously been in a sexual relationship with the defendant, but it had ended in August 2018.

Mr MacDonald said: “It’s the prosecution case that the defendant laid in wait for Natalie.

“He put his tent in a place she would pass on her bicycle, or nearby.

“He took advantage of the fact he knew perfectly well she was a creature of habit.”

The prosecution added: “He sought no help for Natalie for many, many hours and his story of having just passed out was simply not true.”

A pathologist recorded that Ms Harker had died as a result of neck injuries and that her nose and mouth had been under water, and she had suffered bruising to her arms and wrists.

There was no evidence of her suffering a brain injury, such as one from a fall into the stream which would make her incapable of lifting her head out of the water, the jury was told.

In his 999 call, which was made firstly by his mother before he came on the line, and which happened around 12 hours after Ms Harker was injured, Pearson claimed to have been camping for a few days to “chill out”, that he and Miss Harker had gone for a walk and she had fallen in the stream.

He claimed he then dragged her out, took her to his tent and stripped her, following his first aid training, and that he attempted CPR but that he passed out, waking around 4pm.

Pearson, of Brompton on Swale, North Yorks, denies murder and kidnap.

The trial continues.