A restaurant worker has been jailed for the murder of Rachel Manning after her boyfriend was wrongly imprisoned for the crime.
Shahidul Ahmed, 41, strangled Rachel Manning in Milton Keynes and then dumped her body at a golf course in 2000.
In 2002, Miss Manning’s boyfriend Barri White was convicted of murder and his friend Keith Hyatt of perverting the course of justice. Both had their convictions overturned in 2007.
Mr Ahmed of Bletchley was ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years.
Mr White said that he was “over the moon” that Ahmed had been convicted of her murder and that “justice has finally been done”. He said: “I am really happy that Rachel’s family have finally got justice and the closure they deserve.”
Mohammed Miah from Bletchley who previously worked with Mr Ahmed at a restaurant said to 5Pillarz: “This came as a massive shock to those who know him, family and friends. No one expected that he was capable of such a heinous crime and I am glad justice has been served and the family of the deceased can now have some peace of mind.”
Speaking outside Luton Crown Court Mr Hyatt said the conviction had given him closure. “We’ve closed the book. Hopefully we can just rebuild our lives and try to get on with life,” he said.
Shop assistant Miss Manning, of Milton Keynes, was having a night out at a 1970s-themed fancy dress party and Chicago’s nightclub with Mr White. She went missing in the early hours of 10 December 2000.
Mr White went to the residence of Mr Hyatt, where he was staying, while Miss Manning walked off alone to catch a cab.
The teenager was found dead in undergrowth at Woburn Golf Club two days later. She had been strangled and her face disfigured with a steering lock, which was found 500m from her body.
Father-of-five Mr Ahmed stood trial earlier this year, when a jury failed to reach a verdict.
Mr Ahmed, whose DNA was linked to the case following his arrest for a sex attack in 2010, did not give evidence at either trial.
The court heard that the defendant, a restaurant worker, got rid of his car eight days after Miss Manning’s death.
Jurors were told his DNA was found on the steering lock and it was “totally improbable” that a hair found on Miss Manning’s clothing did not belong to Mr Ahmed.
Sentencing Mr Ahmed, Mr Justice Wilkie said: “Rachel Manning was a charming, witty, gregarious, happy, positive person who had much to look forward to. You snuffed all that out, driven by the same demon that led you, in 2010, to carry out a sex assault.”
The judge added: “You must have known that two other people – Barri White and Keith Hyatt – had suffered the agony of being accused, convicted and imprisoned for offences of which they were wholly innocent. Nobody can bring back Rachel’s lost life and their lost years.”
After the case, Miss Manning’s mother Liz criticised Mr White for leaving her daughter to walk home alone.
She said: “We believe Rachel would still be with us today if she had not been abandoned by her boyfriend the night she was attacked, killed and brutally battered. We cannot forget that.”
Det Ch Supt Rob Mason, of Thames Valley Police, paid tribute to the Manning family.
He said: “I cannot praise Rachel’s family enough – they have remained dignified and courageous throughout, despite the unimaginable nightmare they have endured.”
Afzol Khan, a worshiper at Bletchley Jamee Mosque who knew Mr Ahmed said to 5Pillarz: “The community is in shock. He is a father of five and known as a normal family man. What he did to Rachel Manning was cold blooded and heartless.”