by Bob Couttie

Twelve men and woman good and true sent Barri White to prison for life for the brutal murder of his 19-year old girlfriend, Rachel Manning. They had been told that it “beggared belief that a wandering maniac had been involved”. But that is exactly what happened and it was 13 years before serendipity sent that maniac to prison this week.

barri2On 10 December 2000 Rachel, 19, and Barri, 21, went to a fancy dress party on a cold wet night in Milton Keynes, UK. It was two weeks before the couple were due to get married. The couple argued and left the party separately. Rachel, dressed in a blue wig and hotpants, got lost in the sprawling streets of the town and rang Barri from a public callbox asking for help; he agreed to meet her at a DVD store.

She was never seen alive again.

After making that phone call Rachel was accosted and strangled. Her body was dragged through underbrush to a golf course and her face battered 17 times with a steering wheel lock before being abandoned.

barri5Barri was the main police suspect. They did not believe his claim that he and a friend, Keith Hyatt, had gone to the DVD store and then searched the streets for Rachel when they could not find her. Hyatt’s van was forensically examined and particles of cigarette lighter flints were found which the forensic scientist, geologist Professor Kenneth Pye, claimed showed that Rachel’s body had been transported in Hyatt’s van.

barriAt Barri’s trial another expert witness, pathologist Dr Nat Carey, said that the sort of beating Rachel suffered happened only in domestic situations, or when the killer suffered from a mental illness.

Slim and presumptive though it was, the evidence was enough to send White and Hyatt to prison in 2002.

There were few places then where the victims of this unjust conviction could turn. One of them was a BBC programme, now defunct, called Rough Justice. The feisty programme was unloved by the police and the judiciary but had cleared 16 people of convictions for crimes they did not commit. Rough Justice took on the Rachel Manning case.

barri7With the help of forensic scientists Dr Andrew Moncrieff and Dr Peter Bull, who worked on the case pro bono, the programme debunked Professor Pye’s evidence. The programme was broadcast in 2005 and watched by Barri White in prison, but it was another two and a half years before his retrial found his conviction unwarranted and released him.

Rightly convicted criminals who have served their time have a number of support services to help them. For Barri, there was none; they let him him walk out and that was that. He still lives with the trauma and reports that he suffers from nearly crippling paranoia as a result of all he’s been through.

That left the question of who did kill Rachel Manning, a question that seemed unanswerable until 2010.

barri4In the spring of that year a good samaritan named David Rogers spotted a distraught 19 year old student near where Rachel had vanished. She had been to a party and had been drinking. A car had stopped next to her and, thinking it was a taxi, she got in. The driver then reached over and touched her breasts. She screamed and got out of the car and was spotted by Rogers.

She explained to Rogers what had happened and he took the license number of the car, a Vauxhall Zafira, and gave the information to the police.

The police located the owner of the car, a restaurant worker named Shahidul Ahmed. He was 29 with two young children. He was found guilty of sexual assault of the student and given a community service sentence.

As part of a routine test he gave a sample of DNA which was run through the police database. It matched DNA found on the steering wheel lock which had been used to beat the face of Rachel Manning and also matched hairs found on her skirt.

Had Rogers not had the presence of mind to note down the car number plate, Rachel Manning’s killer might never have been found.

On 4 September Shahidul Ahmed, now a father of four with a pregnant wife, was found guilty of Rachel’s murder. He did not speak at his trial so what happened the night of Rachel’s murder remains unclear. Justice, though delayed, has been achieved at last.

 

Click here to view other stories by Bob Couttie:

The Day I Said “No” to the French Connection

England’s Most Notorious Child Killers: Myra Hindley and Ian Brady

Serial Child-Killer Ian Brady Argues For Death

More stories from Bob Couttie

 

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