A MAN has been jailed for life for the kidnap and murder of his former girlfriend.

Andrew Lee Pearson, 45, of Chestnut Crescent, Colburn, near Catterick, was sentenced to life and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years for kidnapping and murdering his ex-girlfriend, 30-year-old Natalie Harker.

He was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court today (Friday, November 20) after being found guilty following a three-week trial.

The court heard that on October 9 last year Natalie left her home to cycle to work at Catterick Health Centre but never arrived.  At lunchtime that day her father raised the alarm over her whereabouts.

Later that day, emergency services received a call from Andrew Pearson’s mother, who was relaying to them what her son had told her about events of that day. Pearson claimed that he and Natalie had been camping and she had fallen in the river, but he had dragged her and tried to resuscitate her. However, he had then passed out - only to be roused many hours later by a telephone call from a friend in America.

Police found Natalie’s body concealed under a sleeping bag in a tent in dense woodland near Catterick.

She had sustained 93 separate injuries, and had died as a result of neck injuries and immersion in water.

The court heard that Natalie and Pearson had been in a relationship for about 18 months, but this had ended, at Natalie’s instigation, in August 2018.  The defendant had never accepted this and continued to pester her to rekindle their relationship.

Analysis of mobile phone evidence shown to the jury established that far from being unconscious for hours, Pearson had been moving about within the woodland, and a deleted text recovered from his mobile to his friend in America stated: “Goodbye, I’ve killed Natalie, I am  going to hand myself in.”

Tariq Bostan, from the CPS, said: “Pearson concocted a wholly implausible and entirely fictitious account in an attempt to cover up his actions of that day. In presenting our case to the jury, his lies were uncovered, one by one, and his real actions and motivations were laid bare. 

“Having heard all the evidence, the jury has decided that the defendant was responsible for the kidnap and murder of Natalie Harker. Today, he is beginning a life sentence.

“Pearson’s inability to accept the end of the relationship led him to take Natalie’s life in a cold-blooded, premeditated and brutal attack. Her close-knit family is devastated.  I hope that today’s sentence has brought Natalie’s family and friends some comfort. Our thoughts remain with them.”