Andrew Pearson kidnapped ex-girlfriend Natalie Harker and murdered her

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A storeworker who kidnapped and murdered his ex-girlfriend in a woodland hideout has been jailed for life.

Andrew Pearson will serve at least 25 years behind bars before he is considered for release.

The 45-year-old Pearson set up a camouflaged tent and lay in wait in the dark for Natalie Harker as she cycled to work roughly two months after they broke up.

Pearson is believed to have then dragged her to his camp where he stripped her naked and had sexual intercourse with her – the jury at Teesside Crown Court heard it was unclear whether that happened when she was dead or alive.

Natalie Harker was on her way to work when she was attacked and killed by Andrew Pearson
(Image: PA)

A post mortem revealed she had died as a result of compression to the neck and immersion in water.

Witnesses had said Miss Harker had raised concerns about her former partner following her when she was going to and from work in the weeks leading up to her death.

Yesterday it took a jury less than two hours to find Pearson guilty of murder and kidnap of Miss Harker in October last year.

The court heard how after the killing Pearson called a friend in the USA after sending him a message admitting what he had done, he wrote "Goodbye, I have killed Natalie, I’m going to hand myself in."

The court in Middlesbrough heard how Natalie’s dad reported her missing after the cleaner disappeared at around 4.30am while on her way to work at Catterick Health Centre on October 9 last year.

Alistair MacDonald, prosecuting, told the jury how Pearson’s mother Susan called  police roughly 12 hours later at 4.38pm told them that Ms Harker had slipped and fallen into the water.

Mr MacDonald said: "She went on to say that her son had pulled Natalie out of the river and had given her CPR but thought she was dead."

In the phone call, which was played to the jury, she said Pearson had been camping in the woods, he had tried to give her CPR and he had passed out.

The jury heard how Ms Harker has previously been in a sexual relationship with Pearson, which lasted around 18 months.