The Northern EchoErrors that led to my daughter's death (From The Northern Echo)

For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here

Safety Net Campaign News RSS Feed

Errors that led to my daughter's death

The Northern Echo: ATTACKED: Ashleigh Hall ATTACKED: Ashleigh Hall

Ashleigh Hall's mother says that if the police had done their jobs properly her daughter would still be alive today. David Roberts reports.

THE mother of murdered teenager Ashleigh Hall said her daughter would still be alive if the region’s police forces had done their jobs properly.

Andrea Hall said she was considering legal action after a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) did not attach any blame to the way in which Durham, North Yorkshire and Cleveland Police tracked the movements of convicted sex offender Peter Chapman.

However, the IPPC report highlighted a number of serious errors in the monitoring of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system by the three forces.

The ANPR uses cameras that read vehicle numberplates.

Despite an alert for Chapman’s arrest being put out by Merseyside Police, it took 16 hits on the ANPR system before the 33-year-old was pulled over by officers.

By that time, it was too late for 17-year-old Ashleigh, from Darlington.

Chapman had already befriended the trainee nursery nurse by posing as a 19-yearold on the social networking site Facebook.

After picking her up in his car, he raped and murdered her and left her body in a layby on the outskirts of Sedgefield, County Durham.

Related links

Chapman was wanted by Merseyside Police in relation to charges of arson, theft and breaching the terms of his sex offender’s registration, and an alert was distributed to police nationwide.

His vehicle was first spotted on the ANPR system in the Cleveland force’s area on October 23, 2009.

There were then an estimated nine further occasions when the blue Ford Mondeo was seen, before he killed Ashleigh some time on the evening of October 25 Some of the damning findings of the IPPC report are:

• Despite an alert activating at the Durham Police control room when Chapman’s vehicle entered the force area, it was not spotted by staff because they were not logged onto the ANPR system;

• The ANPR system at Durham was unreliable and was often not working for days at a time, and regularly did not work;

• North Yorkshire Police do not monitor their police cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week;

• There are no policies in relation to ANPR at North Yorkshire Police;

• No records were made at Cleveland Police about why officers were not dispatched to an ANPR hit.

Last night, Ms Hall said: “I feel completely fobbed off.

“As I am reading it, it reads like they are all in the wrong, but when they come to the conclusion at the end, no one is at fault.

“Two of the times, Ashleigh would have been in the car with him on the 25th, and if they had done their job properly, she would still be alive.”

In March last year, Chapman pleaded guilty to Ashleigh’s murder and was jailed for a minimum of 35 years.

Following the conclusion of the court case, it emerged that he had a series of convictions for sex offences.

He was on the Sex Offender’s Register and had only recently been downgraded from a high to a medium risk category.

Despite that, he had been missing from his registered address in Merseyside for nine months before a nationwide alert was put out for his arrest.

A separate IPPC report is investigating why it took so long for Merseyside Police to put out the alert.

That report is expected in the next few weeks, and Ms Hall has said she has been told that one of the reasons is that a trainee policewoman with a limited amount of experience was put in charge of monitoring Chapman.

The report into the use of ANPR in the North-East has made a number of recommendations.

The report said: “Force inconsistencies, differing priorities and differing levels of importance placed on the ANPR system by each force impacts significantly on the effectiveness of ANPR within each force area.”

It said all police forces should have ANPR policies.

It has also recommended that forces should find a way of prioritising the information they receive on ANPR and that all the data should be kept as up-to-date as possible.

However, Ms Hall said someone should shoulder the responsibility for the mistakes made in monitoring Chapman.

She has been speaking to a solicitor about taking legal action, and said: “It is not about money – I am not interested in money.

“I am just very disappointed, I feel very let down. No one has said they are sorry or anything like that.

“They say they have learnt lessons, but what lessons have I learnt? The only thing I have learnt is having to live without my daughter.

“They’re saying that the only person to blame is Peter Chapman.

“But if they had done their job like they were supposed to, she would be here.

“If they are not going to do it, then why bother having them.”

The IPPC report acknowledged that Cleveland Police responded to nine of the 12 hits that happened in the force area and finally arrested him on October 26, 2009.

It said the forces were now addressing the issues raised in the report.

Last night, Cleveland and North Yorkshire police said that because the report had not been officially published, it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage.

A spokeswoman for Durham Police said: “We are aware of this report and will be considering it in due course.”

A spokesman for the IPPC said: “We have met with Ms Hall and shared the findings from our investigation into how Durham Constabulary, Cleveland Police and North Yorkshire Police dealt with intelligence from the ANPR system.

The meeting was private.

“However, we will publish the findings from our investigation in due course once our second investigation into how Merseyside Police monitored Chapman as part of the requirements of the Sex Offender’s Register is completed.”

The circumstances surrounding Ashleigh’s murder led to The Northern Echo setting up the Safety Net campaign.

The campaign successfully called for internet safety to be a mandatory part of the National Curriculum and also for links to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to be available on Facebook.

Comments (8)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:17am Thu 10 Feb 11

donaldhunt says...

Just don't use Facebook.

Most of the main child-protection agencies and the like advocate that if children (or any individual, really) must use a social network site, then they should do so anonymously - fake name, fake picture. Don't give out any personal details. Considering so many people have been murdered just in this country, because of personal details posted on Facebook, you would have thought there would be a mass Government (and media) campaign to educate people to the real dangers. Just like moral panics in the past (video nasties, ecstasy and recently 'legal highs') this topic though actually has a point. I wonder why it is ignored?

Trouble is, this is what Facebook is built on (personal details which they sell) and now so many people, including the media, newspapers, government, councils plus private companies benefit from Facebook in many different ways. Its now a hand that feeds them.

How does a company (Facebook) go from being worth nothing in the space of a couple of years to a valuation of at least $50 billion...without anybody actually paying for anything?
Just don't use Facebook. Most of the main child-protection agencies and the like advocate that if children (or any individual, really) must use a social network site, then they should do so anonymously - fake name, fake picture. Don't give out any personal details. Considering so many people have been murdered just in this country, because of personal details posted on Facebook, you would have thought there would be a mass Government (and media) campaign to educate people to the real dangers. Just like moral panics in the past (video nasties, ecstasy and recently 'legal highs') this topic though actually has a point. I wonder why it is ignored? Trouble is, this is what Facebook is built on (personal details which they sell) and now so many people, including the media, newspapers, government, councils plus private companies benefit from Facebook in many different ways. Its now a hand that feeds them. How does a company (Facebook) go from being worth nothing in the space of a couple of years to a valuation of at least $50 billion...without anybody actually paying for anything? donaldhunt
  • Score: 0

11:32am Thu 10 Feb 11

miketually says...

"Considering so many people have been murdered just in this country, because of personal details posted on Facebook"

How many?

How does that figure compare people killed by neighbours, relatives, strangers in pubs or car accidents?

Yes, people need to be sensible and careful when using Facebook, but to stop using any form of social networking at all seems rather extreme.
"Considering so many people have been murdered just in this country, because of personal details posted on Facebook" How many? How does that figure compare people killed by neighbours, relatives, strangers in pubs or car accidents? Yes, people need to be sensible and careful when using Facebook, but to stop using any form of social networking at all seems rather extreme. miketually
  • Score: 0

11:51am Thu 10 Feb 11

David Lacey says...

It seems to me that both the police and the mother have to face up to some serious questions. The police (who have yet to feel the impact of any cuts) were clearly not organised to deal with the threat. The mother seems to have absolved herself of any blame for her daughter's actions which put her life in danger.
It seems to me that both the police and the mother have to face up to some serious questions. The police (who have yet to feel the impact of any cuts) were clearly not organised to deal with the threat. The mother seems to have absolved herself of any blame for her daughter's actions which put her life in danger. David Lacey
  • Score: 0

1:31pm Thu 10 Feb 11

entitled opinion says...

The fact of the matter is that ANPR is there to aid police work and there is just not the resources to sit monitoring it 24 hours a day. The system relys on someone picking up the hit on ANPR and then an officer being dispatched to it. More often than not the vehicle is long gone before anyone gets near to it and more often than not officers are tied up dealing with other things so cannot go anyway. Considering the number of hits on ANPR each day and the number of cameras then it is just impossible to react to each one and if there is an incident taking place elsewhere that requires resources then that becomes the priority. Would be great to be able to use the system to its full capability because it is a great asset but it is just not possible. Expect things to get worse when more officers and staff go.

As for the mother to put the blame on the police then she needs to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to point the finger and I am sure that many have passed comment about her daughter using Facebook etc but none of it will bring her daughter back. Truth is she went on Facebook and willingly met up with someone she did not know which resulted in her death. The rest is all 'what ifs', there is no blame to pass here.
The fact of the matter is that ANPR is there to aid police work and there is just not the resources to sit monitoring it 24 hours a day. The system relys on someone picking up the hit on ANPR and then an officer being dispatched to it. More often than not the vehicle is long gone before anyone gets near to it and more often than not officers are tied up dealing with other things so cannot go anyway. Considering the number of hits on ANPR each day and the number of cameras then it is just impossible to react to each one and if there is an incident taking place elsewhere that requires resources then that becomes the priority. Would be great to be able to use the system to its full capability because it is a great asset but it is just not possible. Expect things to get worse when more officers and staff go. As for the mother to put the blame on the police then she needs to look at the bigger picture. It is easy to point the finger and I am sure that many have passed comment about her daughter using Facebook etc but none of it will bring her daughter back. Truth is she went on Facebook and willingly met up with someone she did not know which resulted in her death. The rest is all 'what ifs', there is no blame to pass here. entitled opinion
  • Score: 0

3:11pm Thu 10 Feb 11

pip1976uk says...

Blaming the police and social networking site such as 'facebook' for Ashleigh Halls death isn't the answer. It isn't their fault that Ashleigh Hall was murdered.

The reason for this murder was inappropriate use of in this case 'Facebook'.

It is not just Ashleigh Hall that has mis-used 'Facebook'. There are numerous people young and old across the country that are mis-using the system.

I often use the internet in my local library and while making use of these facilities I overheard a couple of young people of around 10 years of age. One was asking the other "How many friends have you got on 'Facebook'?". The reply was "310". To which the first replied "I have 420".

Now when I was 10 I wouldn't have known that many people. I'm nearly 35 and I still don't know that many people. Even when I used to work for local theatre groups in the town where I come from, I knew a lot of people then, but to call them all friends to add on 'Facebook' I certainly would not have done.

So as you can see these young people are just adding anyone who says "Hey, lets be friends" even if they don't actually know them. They are thus putting themselves at risk.

With other uses of 'Facebook' and other such social networking sites it is the inclusion of such sensitive data such as I'm on holiday in ....... that is the problem. You might as well just leave the front door of your house open because you have just given the information to everyone that you are away from home!!

The answer is to use the internet as you would meeting people in the street. Stranger Danger messages. Don't talk to people unless you know them!!!!! Don't give out information to anyone other than those who it concerns!

This is basic safety so just use it!!
Blaming the police and social networking site such as 'facebook' for Ashleigh Halls death isn't the answer. It isn't their fault that Ashleigh Hall was murdered. The reason for this murder was inappropriate use of in this case 'Facebook'. It is not just Ashleigh Hall that has mis-used 'Facebook'. There are numerous people young and old across the country that are mis-using the system. I often use the internet in my local library and while making use of these facilities I overheard a couple of young people of around 10 years of age. One was asking the other "How many friends have you got on 'Facebook'?". The reply was "310". To which the first replied "I have 420". Now when I was 10 I wouldn't have known that many people. I'm nearly 35 and I still don't know that many people. Even when I used to work for local theatre groups in the town where I come from, I knew a lot of people then, but to call them all friends to add on 'Facebook' I certainly would not have done. So as you can see these young people are just adding anyone who says "Hey, lets be friends" even if they don't actually know them. They are thus putting themselves at risk. With other uses of 'Facebook' and other such social networking sites it is the inclusion of such sensitive data such as I'm on holiday in ....... that is the problem. You might as well just leave the front door of your house open because you have just given the information to everyone that you are away from home!! The answer is to use the internet as you would meeting people in the street. Stranger Danger messages. Don't talk to people unless you know them!!!!! Don't give out information to anyone other than those who it concerns! This is basic safety so just use it!! pip1976uk
  • Score: 0

5:25pm Thu 10 Feb 11

jabdc5 says...

seems to me that the mother blames everyone else but accepts no blame herself.
seems to me that the mother blames everyone else but accepts no blame herself. jabdc5
  • Score: 1

10:26am Fri 11 Feb 11

stevegg says...

Personally I dont blame the police who had to try and pick up the pieces after she had willingly gone to meet this pervert with limited resources. I blame the offender for being sneeky and manipulative, facebook and all other networking sites who are only interested in reveue, the young girl herself for not using common sense and her mother who seems to want to point the finger of blame at everyone else but herself. Sorry if that offends, but its true.
Personally I dont blame the police who had to try and pick up the pieces after she had willingly gone to meet this pervert with limited resources. I blame the offender for being sneeky and manipulative, facebook and all other networking sites who are only interested in reveue, the young girl herself for not using common sense and her mother who seems to want to point the finger of blame at everyone else but herself. Sorry if that offends, but its true. stevegg
  • Score: 0

11:08am Fri 11 Feb 11

DarloMrs says...

In honesty, I wouldn't blame the police, or 'Facebook'... I'd blame the girl for not listening to warnings about meeting up with starngers, I'd blame the mother for not teaching her better about the dangers of the internet and never trusting completely that someone is who they say they are...
I'm sorry that she died, i really am, but sueing isn'y going to help the fact that she died, its just going to pay for new clothes and a new tv...
In honesty, I wouldn't blame the police, or 'Facebook'... I'd blame the girl for not listening to warnings about meeting up with starngers, I'd blame the mother for not teaching her better about the dangers of the internet and never trusting completely that someone is who they say they are... I'm sorry that she died, i really am, but sueing isn'y going to help the fact that she died, its just going to pay for new clothes and a new tv... DarloMrs
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree