November 25, 2008 / 1:34 PM / 11 years ago

Man jailed for life for Hannah Foster murder

LONDON (Reuters) - A van driver was jailed for life on Tuesday after being found guilty of murdering teenager Hannah Foster who was snatched off the street, raped and strangled after a night out five years ago.

A van driver extradited from India has been found guilty of the murder of Hannah Foster. REUTERS/File

The 17-year-old, who wanted to be a doctor, was grabbed just yards from her home in Southampton after spending a night out with friends in March 2003.

After the abduction, she had tried secretly calling 999 on her mobile phone, hoping it would be realised what was happening but the call was terminated because Foster did not speak directly to the operator.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, 41, was told he must serve at least 24 years behind bars after being convicted of her murder, rape, false imprisonment and kidnap at Winchester Crown Court, the Press Association reported.

Sixteen-stone Kohli grabbed the teenager just after she waved goodbye to her friend Helen Wilkinson and began a short walk home.

He took her to a secluded spot where he raped her in his sandwich delivery van several times before strangling her because he feared she might identify him.

He dumped her body beside a road in West End, Hampshire, and went back home to his wife and two sons. Four days later, he fled to India as the police net closed in on him.

After a long campaign by Hannah’s parents Hilary and Trevor Foster, Kohli was finally extradited back to Britain last year, three years after his arrest.

Prosecutors said DNA samples from Kohli matched semen found at the crime scene, a match probability of one in a billion.

In his defence he had claimed he had been forced to have sex with Foster after being kidnapped himself by a work colleague to whom he owed money.

However media reports said he had admitted raping and killing her in an interview with Indian TV shortly after his arrest. The clip was not shown to the jury.

“I abducted, raped and killed Hannah Foster. I want to confess the crime I committed in England,” Kohli said.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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