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Sexual predator guilty of holding murdered teenager Kayleigh Haywood captive

Published 28/06/2016

Murdered schoolgirl Kayleigh Haywood (Leicestershire Police/PA)
Murdered schoolgirl Kayleigh Haywood (Leicestershire Police/PA)

A sexual predator who groomed murdered teenager Kayleigh Haywood on Facebook has been found guilty of holding her captive at his home.

Luke Harlow was convicted of falsely imprisoning Kayleigh by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court a day after the 15-year-old's killer, Stephen Beadman, was found guilty of the same charge.

Beadman, who had previously admitted rape and murder and faces life imprisonment, will be sentenced alongside Harlow on Friday.

Neighbours Harlow and Beadman, aged 28 and 29 and both of George Avenue, Ibstock, Leicestershire, had denied falsely imprisoning Kayleigh during a six-hour period before she was raped and killed on farmland last November.

Harlow, standing in the dock with his arms folded, muttered to himself and stared at the jury after being found guilty.

A woman believed to be his sister walked out of the courtroom immediately after the majority 10-1 guilty verdict, telling Harlow: "We will fight this Luke, I mean it."

Harlow, a former media studies student and warehouse worker, admitted grooming Kayleigh and two offences of sexual activity with a child before the start of his two-week trial.

Kayleigh, from Measham, Leicestershire, was groomed on social media for around two weeks by Harlow before being persuaded to travel to his home on Friday November 13.

The teenager was then killed by Beadman, who told police he struck her with a brick, in the early hours of November 15 after she fled partially-clothed and barefoot from Harlow's home.

Prior to the trial Harlow also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet another 15-year-old girl following sexual grooming earlier last year, and trying to to meet a third child following grooming between March 2013 and March 2014.

Addressing jurors on the second day of the trial, prosecutor Miranda Moore QC read a series of social media messages sent by Harlow to a girl he had befriended online when she was aged 15.

Among the messages, Miss Moore said, was one reading: "I wish I could kidnap you for Christmas but I would probably be arrested and sent to prison."

Another message sent via WhatsApp to the girl, who cannot be identified, read: "If I kidnap you, I am keeping you."

Further messages, sent during 2014 and 2015, showed that Harlow had an interest in having sex with "drunk, unconscious" girls.

Beadman refused to enter the dock during much of his trial and opted to offer no evidence to the charge of false imprisonment.

Speaking after the guilty verdicts, Detective Superintendent Kate Meynell, who led the inquiry, said: "All murders are shocking but what happened to Kayleigh Haywood is particularly harrowing.

"Kayleigh was just a teenager with her whole life ahead of her but having been groomed online over the course of two weeks, her life was cut short in the most brutal way.

"Her family have lost a much cherished daughter and sister, and their hopes of seeing her grow up and have her own family have been taken away from them."

The senior officer added that Harlow was fully aware that Kayleigh was only 15, yet persisted in contacting her, "luring her closer" with messages of bogus affection.

Standing outside court near Kayleigh's parents, Stephanie Haywood and Martin Whitby, and other members of her family, Ms Meynell said: "Throughout the initial investigation and in the weeks and months since, Kayleigh's family have shown immense dignity.

"Their courage has never wavered.

"I can't begin to imagine what the past nine months have been like for them but I hope that now the judicial process is drawing to a close they can begin to gain strength and take comfort from the fact Beadman and Harlow will be behind bars and not be able to cause harm to another family."

At the height of the investigation more than 300 officers, support staff and volunteers were involved in the search for Kayleigh, whose body was hidden in a hedgerow near a stream.

Detective Chief Superintendent David Sandall, head of crime at Leicestershire Police, said: "Kayleigh's story demonstrates, in the most harrowing fashion, the ultimate potential consequences of children talking to strangers on the internet and the very real threat of online grooming.

" I can only hope that we all, as parents, take note of what happened to Kayleigh. We need to understand that there are people within our communities who are using social and digital media to beguile, to lure, and to entrap children. They are in a very tiny minority. But sadly they do exist."

Paul Burnett, independent chairman of the Leicestershire and Rutland Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: "It's tragic that a young person with their whole life ahead of them is no longer with us and, first and foremost, my thoughts remain with Kayleigh's family.

"Following a case of this nature, the next step is to carry out a serious case review, which is under way and will be looking carefully to see if any lessons can be learned and action taken."

In a statement, the NSPCC, which last week revealed that more than 3,000 sex crimes using the internet were committed against children last year, said: "Kayleigh's tragic death is an example of the way the online world is increasingly being used by abusers.

"In the coming years it is vital that police are given the resources to tackle this rapidly developing, 21st century crime, and that we continue to help our children stay safe online."

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