Murder of Hannah Foster
Hannah Foster (31 August 1985 – 14 March 2003) was a 17-year-old British student who was kidnapped, raped and murdered after a night out in Southampton in March 2003. Foster was murdered by an Indian immigrant named Maninder Pal Singh Kohli. Her body was found in nearby West End, two days after she disappeared in Southampton.
Hannah Foster was a promising A-Level student from Southampton, who had been preparing to study medicine at university. On 14 March 2003, she went out in Southampton with a friend for a few drinks. Her friend got the bus home, while Hannah decided to walk the half-mile to her home in Hampshire. Indian native, sandwich delivery man Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, was cruising the area in his white van. He snatched Hannah as she walked. From his van, Foster secretly made a call to emergency services in the hope they would realise she was in trouble. On the 999 tape, Foster can be heard speaking to a man with an Asian accent. The tape was played during the later trial at Winchester Crown Court on Wednesday 15 October 2008. Foster's body was found in bushes in a country lane just outside Southampton two days later. A post-mortem examination revealed she had been raped and strangled.
Kohli fled to India shortly after Foster's body was found. He was soon identified by investigators as a prime suspect in the case. After Indian police failed to apprehend Kohli, Foster's parents went to India themselves and made a public appeal for information of his whereabouts. During their 10-day visit, Foster's parents held a series of press conferences as well as opening a telephone "hotline". Their visit soon became a subject of high interest in the Indian press, and Kohli was arrested five days after their arrival. Hampshire police announced a reward of INR 5,000,000 to anyone whose clues led to the arrest of Kohli. Kohli's wife in England, and his brother, a policeman in India, denied his involvement in the murder.
The key to the arrest of Kohli was information from taxi driver Jason Lepcha, hired by Kohli partly because of his understanding of English. Lepcha received a reward of INR 367,000. He used all this money to establish a school in Hannah's name. When visiting Darjeeling in 2006, Hannah's parents unwittingly hired Lepcha as their driver, and heard his story. On their return to England, they worked with others to set up a registered charity in memory of Hannah which supports Lepcha's school.
Arrest and trial
Kohli was arrested on 15 July 2004 in West Bengal's Darjeeling district while trying to flee to Nepal. While in police custody, Kohli stated he was "tired of running". On 28 July 2004, Kohli admitted to raping and murdering Foster in an interview with a private television channel. Confessing to his crime, Kohli said that he was forced to kill Foster after raping her because she refused to cover up his crime. In August 2004, he retracted his confessional statement saying it was "not by my own will".
Kohli was held in judicial custody in India pending extradition to the United Kingdom; a final decision to extradite him to the UK was handed down on 8 June 2007. On 28 July 2007 Kohli arrived in the UK after being extradited. Kohli was charged with the murder, kidnap, and rape of Hannah Foster after landing at Heathrow, following his extradition from India. He was also charged with manslaughter, false imprisonment, and perverting the course of justice. On 10 December 2007, Kohli entered a plea of not guilty to the charges of kidnapping, rape and murder at Winchester Crown Court.
On 25 November 2008, Kohli, then aged 41, was found guilty of all charges at Winchester Crown Court and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommended minimum term of 24 years, less two years for time already served in the UK on remand. Hannah's family expressed their disappointment in the sentence, hoping that the killer would spend the rest of his life in prison.
Under the trial judge's recommendation, Kohli is expected to remain in prison until at least 2030 and the age of 63.
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