Man arrested after discovery of teenage girl's body believed to be from Liverpool

A 32-year-old man strongly believed to be from the Liverpool area has been arrested after the body of a teenage girl he allegedly met over the internet was found in a field, police said today.

The 17-year-old’s body was found in the field near Sedgefield, County Durham, last night after the arrested man alerted detectives.

He had been arrested earlier that evening for motoring offences and took officers to the scene, near a Little Chef restaurant, close to the junction of the A689 and A177 roads, Durham Police said.

Durham Police said the teenage girl, who has not been formally identified, left her home in Darlington on Sunday night, telling her mother she was staying overnight with a friend.

It was only yesterday lunchtime when the mother, who had become increasingly concerned for her daughter’s welfare, repeatedly rang her mobile phone to find out where she was and could not get a reply.

It was following the arrest of the man, who has links to the Liverpool and Stockton areas, that the grim discovery was made.

He had been arrested on the A177 by Cleveland Police on suspicion of road traffic offences.

While he was being held in custody at Middlesbrough police station he asked to speak to detectives.

He then agreed to go with them and led them to a field close to the Little Chef.

A body was found and the area was immediately cordoned off. A tent was erected over the scene and a police guard set up overnight.

Forensic experts and a Home Office pathologist are carrying out detailed examinations of the scene.

Detective Superintendent Andy Reddick, heading the investigation, said it is believed the man and the girl may have met via the internet.

Mr Reddick added: "The man was driving a dark blue Ford Mondeo, registration number S148 JNK, and we are anxious to trace its movements from 7pm on Sunday evening until 5.40pm on Monday when he was arrested.

"That car is currently in a secure location and is due to undergo forensic examination today."

Detectives said the man, who is said to be of no fixed abode, is being held at Darlington police station.

At a News conference close to the field, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Harker confirmed officers had launched a murder inquiry.

Mr Harker said: ``This is a very tragic case, it came about from a strange set of circumstances.

"A man was arrested for minor traffic offences who then told the police about the scene.

"There they have found the body of a 17-year-old girl from the Darlington area."

Mr Harker said the case highlighted the dangers of meeting people on the internet.

He said: "This is a very, very unusual event.

"My message in terms of meeting people from the internet is please do not do it unless you are absolutely certain it is safe."

He urged parents to monitor their children’s use of the internet. He added: "Speak to them about it, speak to their friends, let them know the dangers of the internet."

`This is a very tragic case, it came about from a strange set of circumstances.

"A man was arrested for minor traffic offences who then told the police about the scene.

"There they have found the body of a 17-year-old girl from the Darlington area." The girl's body was fully clothed when it was found, the officer said.

She has yet to be formally identified, and that will happen after the post mortem, he said.

Forensic experts in white suits could be seen walking around a white tent erected in farmland about 300 yards across fields from the Little Chef services on the junction of the A689 and A177 near Sedgefield.

Mr Harker said a post mortem should reveal how she was killed and the investigation was at too earlier a stage to know a motive.

He believed the body could have been in the field for up to 24 hours.

The man was arrested after checks revealed suspicions about his driving documents, he said.

Mr Harker said: "We are trying to establish exactly who this is.

"He has given us a couple of different names and we are trying to establish through fingerprints his identity.

"There is a strong suggestion he is from the Merseyside area." The teenager was not reported missing to police, he said.

Mr Harker said there was no indication the girl had been sexually assaulted. He said: "At this moment in time there is nothing to indicate a sexual element. Forensic tests will tell us that."

Asked about any injuries to the body, he said there was "nothing obvious" to show how she may have died.

Residents living close to the scene spoke of their shock at the grim discovery.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: "I got home this morning having stayed at my daughter’s last night.

"It is almost opposite my house. It is quite shocking. You often get people driving up and down the lane, parking up the top, but you never really take any notice."