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A killer who kept a lock of his vulnerable teenage victim’s hair in his wallet after concealing her naked body in a ditch has been jailed for 18 and a half years.
Keith Hall, 62, lied for almost two decades after he beat 19-year-old Rachel Wilson to death in 2002, then disposed of her body on farmland on the outskirts of Middlesbrough.
Her remains were found in 2012, devastating her family who had always hoped she would return safe and well.
Hall, who was in an exploitative relationship with his victim, using money she made as a sex worker to feed his cocaine and heroin use, was charged with murder.
He denied any involvement in her death for years, but on the first day of his trial in May he admitted manslaughter.
Judge Paul Watson QC sentenced him at Teesside Crown Court to 18 and a half years jail for manslaughter, living off the earnings of prostitution and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Hall was around 42 when he killed her, having been with her for around two years.
She was painfully thin when he killed her and he would beat her up if she did not make enough money for his drug habit, the court heard.
Jonathan Sandiford QC, prosecuting, said: “By the time Rachel Wilson disappeared in May 2002 her existence had become a misery, blighted by her own addiction to controlled drugs but also by the mistreatment and violence she received at the hands of the defendant.”
Witnesses said she was afraid of Hall and sometimes had bruises on her neck and body from his attacks.
It was suspected that he beat her one final time, killing her, when she returned after a night on the streets with what Hall thought was not enough cash, although the judge said no-one apart from the defendant knew exactly what had happened.
Hall killed her then took her naked body in his works van and dumped her in a drainage ditch where she lay undiscovered for a decade.
Hall tried to cover his tracks, spreading a lie that she had gone off with a man from the local fair.
But he kept a note she wrote to him and took a lock of her hair, keeping what police believe was a memento in his wallet.
After her remains were found in 2012, Hall made a comment about it to a friend, then tried to get the witness to lie about what he had said, leading to the charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Hall, who is now seriously ill, avoided prosecution for years with his lies and enjoyed his liberty, the judge said.
The judge praised Cleveland Police for the way officers had handled what was its biggest homicide inquiry, calling it “colossal”, and said the investigation was a “credit to a force which in recent times has too frequently been maligned”.
In a victim statement for the family, Ms Wilson’s sister Nicola told the court they had waited 19 years to find out what happened to her.
About Hall’s belated guilty plea, she said: “We believe this was due to the police building a strong case against him.”