THE 12-year-old mystery of who killed teenager Rachel Manning is finally due to draw to a close this week as a jury decides if Indian restaurant worker Shahidul Ahmed is guilty of murder.
The month-long case against the 41-year-old from Bletchley hinges upon a single hair found on Rachel’s clothing and some smudges of DNA .
And there was a dramatic eleventh hour twist when Ahmed’s defence lawyers unveiled an alleged confession of the killing – from another man.
Luton Crown Court jury retired to consider all the facts on Tuesday and is expected to return a verdict today. This could mark the end of more than a decade of heartbreak for Rachel’s family, who have sat through three lengthy court trials in a bid to discover who killed their daughter.
Shopworker Rachel was just 19 when she disappeared during a night out with her boyfriend in December 2000. Two days later her body was found dumped in woodland at Woburn Golf Club, her face beaten beyond recognition with a car crook lock.
Her boyfriend Barri White was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002. His friend Keith Hyatt was convicted for perverting the course of justice.
Six years later, following an appeal and a retrial, both sentences were quashed and the pair acquitted.
Police launched a fresh murder investigation and Rachel’s parents Paul and Liz Manning pleaded for the public to help.
The breakthrough came out of the blue in 2010 after Shahidul Ahmed was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman.
Police discovered Ahmed’s DNA was a match for samples taken from the crook lock used to batter Rachel’s face. The same DNA profile was found in a hair recovered from Rachel’s shorts. But in the concluding days of the trial, the jury heard of an alleged confession from Mr White.
A prison inmate gave evidence of a conversation he had with Mr White when they were serving time in the same jail.
The witness, who cannot be named, said Mr White described how he had an argument with Rachel then followed her to a telephone box, punched her and strangled her with the phone cord.
Ahmed chose not to give evidence for his defence.
The verdict will be reported on this website as soon as it is announced