Man convicted of teen’s death in Dudley hostel
A jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court has today (17 January) taken just six hours to find a Dudley man guilty of murdering a young woman during a violent sex act.
Teenager Megan Bills is thought to have been strangled by 24-year-old Ashley Foster at a hostel on Highgate Road in Brierley Hill sometime on Sunday 16 April last year.
Foster was this afternoon jailed for life and ordered to serve at least 26 years before he can be considered for parole.
Megan’s body was found in a cling-film wrapped wardrobe in Foster’s bedroom nearly three weeks later after residents noticed an unpleasant smell coming from the room. Foster had claimed the smell came from the carpet, but when hostel staff investigated the following day - Thursday 4 May - the grim discovery was made.
Foster, who had only recently been released from prison, was out at the time but eagle-eyed officers spotted him in Walsall and he was arrested later that day. He attempted to give a false name and denied any knowledge of 17-year-old Megan’s death, but CCTV showed the couple coming and going from the hostel until the final sighting of Megan on the afternoon of 16 April, when she was seen entering his room.
Following this, CCTV captured Foster coming and going as normal and putting a purple quilt on the washing line in the garden of the property.
The court heard from Foster’s sister whom he had asked to purchase cling-film for him, believing that he wanted it to wrap cannabis. But the awful truth was that the cling-film was used to wrap the wardrobe in which Foster had concealed Megan’s body and the quilt was draped over it, with a fan above pointing towards the window to rid the room of the smell.
Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield, from the force’s homicide unit, said: "Because of the advanced state of decomposition, a post mortem examination was unable to determine the cause of Megan’s death, so at that time we were only able to charge Foster with prevention of a lawful burial, for which he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
"But our investigation recovered letters written by Foster to his family admitting he had strangled Megan during sex and claiming this was at her request.
"Furthermore, our interrogation of Foster’s mobile phones revealed searches for violent sexual activity and a previous girlfriend of Foster gave evidence that during their relationship he had asked to strangle her during sex.
"We also recovered Megan’s clothing, disposed of by Foster in a bin, together with a torn shirt which was stained with Megan’s blood."
With the mounting evidence against him, Foster was charged with Megan’s murder the following month and remanded into custody pending his trial.
Megan had a difficult childhood and was placed into foster care at the age of four, but she finally found happiness with adoptive parents in Stourbridge when she was seven.
In her teens she became very independent and left the family home. Although she stayed in close touch with her parents, without a mobile phone of her own, contacting her was difficult, so sadly Megan was only reported missing the day after her body had been found.
Her parents are naturally devastated by her loss, they said: “2017 was meant to be such a special year for us as a family, not only celebrating 10 years since Megan’s adoption hearing but also Megan’s 18th birthday, which we had planned to celebrate with both family and friends.
“This would also have seen us as a family taking her to swim with dolphins, something she had wanted to do for a while.
“After a turbulent period, Megan had decided to, and was in the process of, return home to live with the family.
“To have lost Megan is hard enough, but to try and understand the impact, when coupled with the facts that her body was concealed until it had rotted beyond recognition is clearly painful beyond words, and demonstrates an evil cruelty beyond any decent comprehension.
“Many of Megan’s family and friends have paid tribute to the Megan they knew and loved. Here are just a few of those memories:
“Big, cheeky, beautiful smile which lit up a room"
“Bright shining star"
“Bubbly, caring, lively"
“Exciting, happy girl with an infectious laugh"
“The on-going trauma we are living with is due in part to being denied the closure obtained from being able to see and hold Megan after she had died. The dynamics of our family have been broken - this vile and tragic event has robbed us of so much. Mentally and physically we are all changed people. We will have to deal with the impact of Megan’s death forever and it will affect the rest of our lives."
DI Corfield added: "This is a terribly tragic death of a teenager with her whole life in front of her.
"Despite Megan’s apparent independence she was a vulnerable young lady who would never have imagined the dangerous lair she was walking into when she entered Foster’s room.
“Foster had an unnatural obsession with deviant sexual activity and he disposed of Megan’s young life to satisfy his own twisted desires. For Megan’s family, hearing the details of this evidence must have been unbearable.
"I am pleased the jury saw through his thin fabric of lies and found him guilty of murder and I can only hope this gives her family some sense of justice.”
Foster will be sentenced this afternoon at Wolverhampton Crown Court.