November 2017

North West child killer takes his first steps towards freedom

A notorious North West child killer has taken his first steps towards freedom.

Darren Ashurst, who beat and strangled 15 year old Appley Bridge schoolgirl Louise Sellars to death in 1995, has been moved to a lower category of prison, was being allowed an escorted town visit this month and has applied for parole.

The developments were revealed by the victim’s mother Elaine as she marked what would have been her daughter’s 38th birthday.

It was case that took five years to crack and it was only after a cold case review led by future Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Ian Seabridge that Ashurst, who had been prime suspect from early on, was finally nailed by DNA found on a cigarette stub found near his 15-year-old victim’s body.

A jury of nine men and three women took 26 hours to find him guilty of Louise’s brutal murder, delivering their verdict at Manchester Crown Court on November 1, 2000. And Ashurst has been in prison ever since.

While on remand, awaiting trial he was attacked by fellow inmates at Forest Bank Prison.

He would later testify against them, saying that they had accused him of being a “nonce”.

Louise’s death left an indelible mark on her mum Elaine and adoptive dad Gary who eventually split after the trial, the latter admitting that the long trauma had left him with psychiatric problems.

And she took to social media this week to vent her anger at news that her daughter’s murderer could soon be free.

She wrote: “Over the last few weeks I have learned that the monster Darren Ashurst who took Louise’s life has been moved to an open prison because of his exemplary behaviour!

“This is the first step for him to being released back into our community.

“I received a letter yesterday to say he has made an application for parole and he has been granted an escorted town visit this month!

“I knew at some point I would have to face this.

“I’ve also been informed that to this day he has still not admitted his guilt or shown any remorse. Apparently the law has changed and you no longer have to admit your guilt to be eligible for parole.

“This is where our justice system is so wrong. If you are proven without any shadow of a doubt that you have cold-bloodedly taken another person’s life, then you should forfeit your own.

“Unfortunately we don’t condone capital punishment in this country anymore, but when you’re sentenced to life incarceration then that’s what it should be; end of.

“I’m beyond anger that he can look forward to a life in this world, to meet someone, build a relationship, have children, when he took everything that life had to offer away from my beautiful innocent girl at the age of 15.”

November 2000

Cigarette butt helps jail killer

The parents of murdered teenager Louise Sellars have praised the DNA technology which helped jail their daughter’s killer.

Darren Ashurst, 26, was given a life sentence after being linked to the student’s death by a cigarette butt found at the scene in 1995

The jury of nine men and three women at Manchester Crown Court heard there was a one in 83 million chance that saliva on the butt found by Louise’s battered body was not Ashurst’s.

The lorry driver had been arrested on suspicion of murdering the teenager from Appley Bridge, Wigan, Greater Manchester, after her body was found.

But breakthroughs in DNA testing only enabled police to collect enough evidence from the butt to charge Ashurst last year.

The jury took nearly nine hours to return a majority verdict to convict Ashurst on Wednesday.

They had heard detectives suggest Ashurst may have murdered Louise in a fit of rage after she rejected his sexual advances.

The popular teenager fought for her life but died after she was beaten, stamped on and had a blue nylon rope wrapped tightly around her neck.

Her body was discovered in a remote copse behind Billinge Hospital.

Louise and Ashurst, who was then 21, had been close and had often gone for drives in his distinctive white Ford Escort RS Turbo, the court heard.

He was arrested for her murder after police noticed discrepancies in his account of his movements on the night Louise vanished.

The rope used to strangle her was identical to one he had borrowed from a girlfriend and tyre tracks at the scene were similar to the treads on his car.

A watch found at the scene was also similar to one he used to own.

There was still not enough evidence to charge him and he was released after claiming he had been trying to pick up a prostitute and was worried his family would find out.

But detectives investigating the case did not give up and they kept hold of the cigarette butt and retested it following breakthroughs in testing in 1999.

Louise’s adopted father Gary said it was thanks to the advances in DNA profiling that his daughter’s killer was now behind bars.

“Potential child killers, if you are thinking about it you will be caught because the technology is cleverer than you,” he said.

Sentencing Ashurst to life Mrs Justice Rafferty said the trial’s pathologist had never seen such injuries inflicted in his professional career.

“Darren Ashurst you snuffed out the life of a girl who had everything for which to live,” she said.

Outside court Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Seabridge, who led the investigation, said police had never given up on bringing Ashurst to justice.

He said the Sellars family had suffered for years because Ashurst lived so close to them.

“He lived within half a mile of Louise’s family, he had girlfriends in that area he worked in that area, it can’t have done anything to help Louise’s family with their suffering.”