THE GRANDFATHER of a teenager murdered by an internet predator has spoken out a year on from her death.
Ashleigh Hall was killed by convicted sex offender Peter Chapman after she got to know him through the social networking site Facebook.
Now, a year on from the 17-year-old’s death, her family have spoken of their struggle to cope with the loss.
Opening his heart on the first anniversary of Ashleigh’s death, Mike Hall said his family is slowly trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
He has also urged other youngsters to learn from Ashleigh’s tragic example and stay safe online.
The Darlington College childcare student was killed by 33-year-old Peter Chapman who used the website to pose as a good-looking 19-year-old – befriending the teenager before arranging to meet her in person.
When trusting Ashleigh went to meet Chapman, he raped and then murdered her.
In March, he was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court to a minimum of 35 years behind bars.
Mr Hall said: “I don’t think of him as being anybody. He is an awful man.
“He was a sex offender and we all know that. He has a long list of sex offences.
“I still can’t understand why he had to take Ashleigh’s life. Why did he have to be a murderer? He could have let her go.
“He’s in the best place for him now. I hope he rots there.”
Mr Hall said that although the family were trying to get back into old routines, they were still finding it difficult.
“The past 12 months have been really rough, as you can imagine,” he said.
“It’s getting used to the idea. Sometimes it seems as though the murder happened just yesterday – it’s all the little things that remind you of her.
“We’re gradually starting to get our lives together, but it’s impossible because Ashleigh was such a big part of it. We hope to keep Ashleigh’s memory going one way or another, with campaigns to help children stay safe online.”
Following the tragedy last year an e-safety pack was produced by Darlington Borough Council.
Coun Cyndi Hughes, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Ashleigh’s death was a tragedy for everyone in Darlington. We took action by introducing new and fit for purpose curriculum materials, robust filtering and now the safety software to protect and prepare young people in Darlington’s schools for many of the challenges they will face in the virtual world.
“Ashleigh Hall has left a lasting legacy.”