Ashleigh Hall waved goodbye and promised to be back home the next day. Then she slipped out of the door never to be seen again alive by her family. David Roberts hears a mother’s anguish.

ANDREA HALL has only just been able to summon up the courage to enter her daughter’s bedroom.

For four days after Ashleigh’s death she could not bear to go back into the pink room which is decorated with photographs of the family.

She still half expects to hear loud music blaring out of the 17-year-old’s stereo – letting the family know that she’s back home.

The day that Ashleigh left the family house in Darlington, ostensibly to stay at a friend’s house, is seared into Mrs Hall’s memory.

It had been a pleasant day, with Ashleigh offering to make breakfast for everybody.

Ms Hall said: “She made sausage sandwiches, which was really nice because that was the first time she’d made breakfast in ages.

“Sunday was a good day and Ashleigh was in a great mood.

“On Sunday evening she was on the computer chatting to friends using the computer on MSN.

“At about 7.30pm, she asked if she could sleep at a friend’s house. It was a bit last-minute but I said ‘Yes, okay, as long as you are home by 10.30 the next day’.

“She threw some clothes in a bag and went downstairs.

“I was upstairs putting the young ones to bed. Ashleigh opened the door and shouted: ‘See you tomorrow mum’.

“I shouted to her to make sure she was home by 10.30.

She said ‘I will’ and that was it. I never saw her again.”

However, Ashleigh had not gone to a friend’s house. Police believe she arranged to meet a man she had met on the social networking internet site, Facebook. The friend she was supposed to be staying with had not seen her since college the Friday before.

The following day, when Ashleigh failed to return home, her mother rang her phone 30 times in an attempt to reach her, but only catching the answerphone – until, at 8pm, a police officer answered.

“I felt physically sick,” said Ms Hall.

Two police officers arrived at the family home.

Ms Hall continued: “I started to scream, I just knew, it was a mother’s instinct. I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. My whole world fell apart in those two seconds.

“The policewoman didn’t even get the words out. I wouldn’t let her say it. Deep down, I knew what she was going to say.”

When the officer told her what had happened, she collapsed.

“It was the longest night of my life,” she said.

Ms Hall then had to break the heartrending news to Ashleigh’s sisters, Olivia, six, Ellie, four, and Evie, one.

“I told them that Ashleigh had gone missing. My sixyear- old, Olivia, said: ‘She is going to get into trouble when she comes home.’ “After my dad had identified the body, I took Olivia and Ellie into the lounge and said, ‘You know that Ashleigh was missing. Well, we have found her.’ “They asked: ‘Is she coming home?’ I said, ‘No, she can’t come home because some nasty man has killed her’.”

Ashleigh, a former Hurworth School pupil was studying childcare at Darlington College and was hoping to work with children in the future.

Ms Hall said: “Ashleigh was my rock. We were on our own for 11 years because I had my three other daughters late. Because of that she was also my friend as well as my daughter.

“She helped me constantly with the others. She babysat, ironed, changed nappies, she did everything I asked her to.

“She fed, washed and bathed them because she had a loving nature.

“I would give her a little bit of pocket money for helping round the house and she used every penny to top up her phone to chat to her friends.

“She was always talking and texting and on her computer.

As soon as she got in from college, she would be on using MSN to talk to her friends, even though she had been with them all day.”

The former Brownie and Guide did not have a boyfriend.

“She did have one recently but it only lasted about three days,” Ms Hall said. “She was not that bothered about boys, although she would tell me if she fancied a particular lad.

“I knew exactly where she was most of the time. She would never slip off without telling me.

“Ashleigh wasn’t a bad kid.

She wasn’t naughty. She made one mistake and has paid for it with her life.”

Returning into Ashleigh’s bedroom and seeing her possessions provoked mixed reactions from Ms Hall.

“Her smell was everywhere and it felt like she was still here. She was still in the house,” she said.

“There was a big pile of dirty clothes lying in the middle of the floor where she had dumped them.

“Like any teenager, she just took her clothes off and left them on the floor, thinking it was my job to pick them up.

“That was the hardest part, picking up those clothes, knowing she would never wear them again.

“But holding them did give me some comfort – it again made me feel that she was still in the house.

“Any moment now I expect to hear her music blasting down the stairs and me shouting for her to turn it down.”

Ms Hall has also taken comfort in the outpouring of sympathy from the local community She has also called for tighter restrictions on internet networking sites to prevent people putting up false pictures and information and more awareness to prevent another tragedy such as this occurring.

Ms Hall said: “She said she would never add a stranger as a friend on Facebook.

“She had about 400 friends on Facebook but she knew every single one of them.

“We can’t imagine how she got to be friends with someone she didn’t know.”

Facebook has said it was deeply saddened by Ashleigh’s death. It said the site has a number of privacy settings to prevent unwanted people viewing your profile.

■ Peter Chapman, 32, of no fixed address, will appear before Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday charged with kidnap, manslaughter and failing to identify a new address as required by the Sex Offences Act.