Evil killer hid in bushes and got mum to call 999 after murdering ex in woodland ambush

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A killer who got his mum to call 999 12 hours after murdering his ex was today jailed for life.

Andrew Pearson lay in wait for 30-year-old Natalie Harker in a camouflage tent as she cycled to work in the early hours of October 9 last year.

They had broken up two months previous but twisted Pearson could not accept their relationship was over and plotted to kill her.

Pearson, 45, ambushed Miss Harker on a cycle path at roughly 4.40am. 

She failed to turn up to her job as a cleaner at Catterick Health Centre at 5am that day, missed a medical appointment at 10am and a further cleaning job at 3pm.

Natalie Harker and Andrew Pearson when they were in a relationship – he refused to accept she had left him
(Image: North Yorkshire Police)

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By 1.37pm her family had reported her missing and North Yorkshire Police put out an urgent alert to try and find her.

At 4.43pm, a call was made to the Force Control Room from Pearson’s mother.

She said her son had told her the pair met up and had been walking together at roughly 4.30am when Natalie had accidentally slipped and fell into a river and she pulled him in too.

She said Pearson, who told her he was camping in woodland across a field from the cycle path, pulled Natalie from the water and started CPR. He then took her to his camouflaged tent where he continued CPR.

He told his mother he must have passed out and when he woke up following a phone call from a friend in America, Natalie appeared to be dead.

It took a jury at Teesside Crown Court less than two hours to reject this story and find Pearson guilty of murdering Miss Harker.

Pearson's camouflage tent he set up in woodland on Miss Harker's route to work
(Image: North Yorkshire Police)

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Pearson is believed to have dragged 30-year-old Harker to his camp where he stripped her naked and had sexual intercourse with her – the jury heard it was unclear whether that happened when she was dead or alive.

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

Today Pearson was given a life sentence for murder and kidnap and he was told he must serve at least 25 years behind bars before being considered for release.

Andrew Lee Pearson has been jailed
(Image: North Yorkshire Police)

After claiming her death was a tragic accident Pearson led the officers to the tent and they found Natalie under a camouflaged sleeping bag. She was naked and soon after Pearson was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Police soon uncovered damning evidence which proved Pearson's guilt:

  • In the days leading up to Natalie’s disappearance and death, Pearson had used all of his Universal Credit – paid into his bank account on September 30 – to purchase camping equipment, knives, gaffer tape and supplies of food which were later found in the tent.

  • Photos on Pearson's phone from September 30 that showed that he  was, at that time, planning his attack upon Natalie following her refusal to rekindle their relationship.

Photos found on Pearson’s phone show how he planned the brutal murder
(Image: North Yorkshire Police)

  • His phone also revealed that he had not been camping out the morning of Natalie's death but had left his home address at 3.40am that day.

  • An unsuccessful video message was made to an American registered telephone number at 3.08pm, now known to be Pearson’s friend

    The following text message was written, sent, delivered and then deleted to the American friend at 3.09pm: “Goodbye, I’ve killed Natalie I’m going to hand myself in”.

Andrew Pearson kidnapped ex-girlfriend Natalie Harker and murdered her

A minute later, Pearson had a 32 minute call with his American friend. Then another 10 minute call at 3.42pm.

It took Pearson another 44 minutes before he called his mother at 4.26pm. That call only lasted 19 seconds.

Pearson’s mother called the police at 4.43pm.

Natalie's dad reported her missing
(Image: PA)

Alistair MacDonald, prosecuting, told the jury how Ms Harker has previously been in a sexual relationship with Pearson, which lasted around 18 months.

Detective Inspector Steve Menzies, of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Team, said: "Natalie Harker, a hardworking and conscientious young lady, set off from her family home in Colburn, Catterick, on 9 October 2019 to start work at 5am.

“Unfortunately, she was never to arrive.

“Her ex-partner Andrew Pearson, a self-centred, calculating and evil man, had laid in wait for her down a pitch-black cycle path.

“Evidence proved beyond any doubt that Pearson had planned the kidnap and murder Natalie, and the level of planning was extremely calculated and chilling.

"He knew exactly what he was going to do that morning, and in the days before he had started to put his plan in to place.

“He had even been near to the cycle path at 4.30am as Natalie cycled past in the days before, suggestive that he was carefully putting final preparations together for his ultimate attack upon her.

“It is very clear that the account Pearson gave to his mother over the phone was concocted in an effort to escape justice; it was pure lies based on self-preservation and no thought for Natalie, nor indeed her family.

“Whilst the incident appeared suspicious from the outset, the Major Investigation Team still had a significant amount of work to do to piece together the evidence and find the truth for Natalie’s devastated family.

“The family have and continue to endure the most unimaginable pain and sense of loss. I praise them for the dignity and restraint that they have shown throughout the investigation and the trial.

“No outcome at court can bring Natalie back to them and our hearts continue to go out to them.

“As for Pearson, it says everything about him as an individual that he refused to answer any questions throughout the police investigation. He refused to give his passwords to his mobile telephone and computer devices, on which crucial evidence was subsequently discovered.

“He refused to explain in his own words about what happened to Natalie and sat emotionless in the interviews with my specialist officers.

Photos from Pearson's phone show how he planned his murder in the days before
(Image: North Yorkshire Police)

"Only Pearson knows what motivated him to kidnap and murder her. Only he knows if it was through jealously or anger in refusing to believe that his relationship with Natalie was over for good.

“What we were able to uncover was that he persistently stalked and harassed Natalie after she ended the relationship some weeks earlier. We have spoken to a number of Natalie’s friends and colleagues who she confided in about Pearson’s behaviour, including pleading text messages from him about wanting to get back together.

“We now know that he had been following her and turning up at her work during the early hours of the morning. He had tried to discredit her character, including via social media, making out that he had been wronged by Natalie.

“In actual fact, he was infatuated with her and refused to accept that she had ended their relationship.

“Natalie was living in fear and was rightly advised by her friends on a number of occasions to report Pearson to the police, but she never got the chance."

In a statement released through North Yorkshire Police Natalie’s parents John and Deborah, and her brother Alistair said: "Nothing will ever ease the pain of losing Natalie in such a tragic way. She will always be in our hearts and thoughts.

"We have lost a loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend to many.

"We thank the senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Steve Menzies and his team, for all their hard work.

"Also, for the support of Lisa Carter from Homicide Victims Support, and from everyone in Colburn, Catterick and the surrounding area."

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