Man jailed for 25 years for kidnap and murder of his former girlfriend Natalie Harker in Catterick last year

Natalie Harker

A Richmondshire man has been jailed for 25 years for the kidnap and murder of his former girlfriend at Colburn, Catterick, in October last year.

Andrew Lee Pearson, aged 45, was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court today (20 November) after being found guilty following a three-week trial.

The victim was his ex-partner Natalie Eve Harker, aged 30, from Colburn, who had ended their 18 month relationship around two months earlier.

Friends and colleagues of Natalie have since told the police that she had confided about being stalked and harassed by Pearson following the break-up.

North Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Team say there was clear evidence that Pearson had carefully planned Natalie’s kidnap and murder.

Natalie’s heartbroken family say her death has had a devastating impact on their lives.

North Yorkshire Police say Natalie had been ambushed by Pearson from the cycle path on Foss Way as she rode her bicycle to a cleaning job at Catterick Health Centre at around 4:40 in the morning on Wednesday 9 October 2019.

Natalie had failed to turn up at the health centre at 5am, missed a medical appointment at 10am, and a further cleaning job at Risedale Community College at 3pm.

Natalie was reported missing by her worried family at 1.37pm that same day and North Yorkshire Police issued an urgent missing person appeal as her disappearance was judged to be completely out-of-character and could not be explained.

At 4.43pm, a call was made to the Force Control Room from Pearson’s mother.

She said her son had told her that the pair met up and had been walking together at around 4.30am when Natalie had accidently slipped and fell into a river and she pulled him in too.

She said Pearson told her he was camping in woodland across a field from the cycle path, pulled Natalie from the water and started CPR. He then took her to his camouflaged tent where he continued CPR. Pearson is a trained first-aider.

He told his mother he must have passed out and when he woke up following a phone call from a friend in America, Natalie appeared to be dead.

It was at this point that he phoned his mother and they met with officers nearby.

He spoke to the Force Control Room briefly before officers arrived.

A recording of the 999 call can be heard here:

Attending paramedics certified the death and Pearson was arrested soon after on suspicion of murdering Natalie.

Chilling evidence from North Yorkshire Police's investigation

  • In the days leading up to Natalie’s disappearance and death, Pearson had used all of his Universal Credit - paid into his bank account on 30 September 2019 - to purchase camping equipment, knives, gaffer tape and supplies of food which were later found in the tent. 

  • Police found a series of photographs from Pearson’s mobile phone which were taken on 30 September 2019. They showed the cycle path, a locked gate leading into the field which led to the woods, a view from the cycle path towards the gate, the route across the field, over a barbed wire fence, through a thicket, the stream that needed to be crossed and the area where the tent was found. This demonstrated the fact that Pearson was, at that time, planning his attack upon Natalie following her refusal to rekindle their relationship.

  • Police also found the following text message from Pearson's phone was written, sent, delivered and then deleted to the American friend at 3.09pm: “Goodbye, I’ve killed Natalie I’m going to hand myself in”.

Statement from Natalie’s family

Nothing will ever ease the pain of losing Natalie in such a tragic way. She will always be in our hearts and thoughts. We have lost a loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend to many. We thank the senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Steve Menzies and his team for all their hard work.

Statement from Natalie’s parents John and Deborah, and her brother Alistair

Detective Inspector Steve Menzies, of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Team, said:

“Natalie Harker, a hardworking and conscientious young lady, set off from her family home in Colburn, Catterick, on 9 October 2019 to start work at 5am. Unfortunately, she was never to arrive.

“Her ex-partner Andrew Pearson, a self-centred, calculating and evil man, had laid in wait for her down a pitch-black cycle path.

“Evidence proved beyond any doubt that Pearson had planned the kidnap and murder Natalie, and the level of planning was extremely calculated and chilling.

“He knew exactly what he was going to do that morning, and in the days before he had started to put his plan in to place.

“He had even been near to the cycle path at 4.30am as Natalie cycled past in the days before, suggestive that he was carefully putting final preparations together for his ultimate attack upon her.

“It is very clear that the account Pearson gave to his mother over the phone was concocted in an effort to escape justice; it was pure lies based on self-preservation and no thought for Natalie, nor indeed her family.

“Whilst the incident appeared suspicious from the outset, the Major Investigation Team still had a significant amount of work to do to piece together the evidence and find the truth for Natalie’s devastated family.

“The family have and continue to endure the most unimaginable pain and sense of loss. I praise them for the dignity and restraint that they have shown throughout the investigation and the trial.

 “No outcome at court can bring Natalie back to them and our hearts continue to go out to them.

“As for Pearson, it says everything about him as an individual that he refused to answer any questions throughout the police investigation. He refused to give his passwords to his mobile telephone and computer devices, on which crucial evidence was subsequently discovered.

 “He refused to explain in his own words about what happened to Natalie and sat emotionless in the interviews with my specialist officers.

“Only Pearson knows what motivated him to kidnap and murder her. Only he knows if it was through jealously or anger in refusing to believe that his relationship with Natalie was over for good.

“What we were able to uncover was that he persistently stalked and harassed Natalie after she ended the relationship some weeks earlier. We have spoken to a number of Natalie’s friends and colleagues who she confided in about Pearson’s behaviour, including pleading text messages from him about wanting to get back together.

“We now know that he had been following her and turning up at her work during the early hours of the morning. He had tried to discredit her character, including via social media, making out that he had been wronged by Natalie.

“In actual fact, he was infatuated with her and refused to accept that she had ended their relationship.   

“Natalie was living in fear and was rightly advised by her friends on a number of occasions to report Pearson to the police, but she never got the chance.

“We only hope that other people in a similar situation reading about this case, will seek the help and support that is readily available from the police and organisations such as Supporting Victims in North Yorkshire, IDAS and the National Stalking Helpline among a host of others. 

“Please do not wait - we are here to help.

“It is my belief that Andrew Pearson is a dangerous man and the public, particularly females, will be protected from him as he now starts a life prison sentence.”

Stalking and harassment - seeking help and support

Please do not hesitate to report incidents of stalking or harassment to the Police on 101 If you or someone you know are being threatened or in danger, always dial 999 for an emergency response.

  • IDASspecialist charity in Yorkshire for domestic abuse and sexual violence - 03000 110110

  • Women’s Aid - Helpline 0808 2000 247

  • Men’s advice line - Helpline 0808 8010 327