Robert Ewing (left) murdered Paige and Gareth Dewhurst was found guilty of helping to dispose of her body
Robert Ewing sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering 15-year-old in Blackpool to stop her reporting their sexual contact to police
A man who murdered a 15-year-old girl to stop her reporting their sexual contact has been sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 33 years in prison.
Robert Ewing, 60, exploited Paige Chivers, a vulnerable teenager from Blackburn, Lancashire, for his sexual gratification and then decided to silence her when she threatened to go to the authorities.
A jury convicted him of murder earlier this month, but was not told that Ewing had previous convictions for child sex abuse.
Ewing served a 12-month prison sentence in 1995 for gross indecency with a 13-year-old girl, whom he also indecently assaulted.
Justice Jeremy Baker, sentencing Ewing at Preston crown court, told him he had carried out a “carefully planned and executed murder” to avoid the prospect of returning to jail.
The body of the teenager has still not been found, nearly eight years after she went missing.
Mr Justice Baker said Paige’s life was “in turmoil” in the summer of 2007 after her mother had died in February that year and her late father’s addiction to alcohol had worsened to the extent that he largely abandoned her.
He said she was “sexually promiscuous” and an “easy target”, which was recognised by Ewing, whose flat near her home in Bispham became “something of a magnet” for young girls as he allowed them to smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs.
The judge said: “There came a point when Paige Chivers realised that she could manipulate the situation to her advantage and threatened to report you to the authorities … the last thing you wanted to occur was for the public authorities to be acquainted with what you had been doing.”
Less than a fortnight before Paige went missing, Ewing contacted police to tell them that a “problem child” had turned up on his doorstep, having been thrown out by her father.
Prosecutors said he was effectively “testing the water” and there had been “very little reaction” by officials.
The judge, who labelled the defendant intelligent and devious, said he also wanted to create an “innocent cover story”. He told the court that the precise circumstances of Paige’s death may never be known in the absence of any explanation from Ewing, but noted that Ewing had been heard in a covert police recording saying: “You don’t mess with me. Quick hammer over the fucking head, then they will be sorry.”
Only three tiny spots of blood belonging to Paige were found by police in inner hallway of his flat in All Hallows Road, after a meticulous clean-up by the defendant.
On August 23 2007, Paige packed two carrier bags with clothes and left her home in Longford Avenue, Bispham, after a row with her father over missing money. Later the same day she was spotted at a nearby bus stop with the defendant. An extensive proof of life inquiry followed her disappearance but found no evidence that Paige was alive and she never claimed a “significant” inheritance left to her after her mother’s death.
Ewing murdered her between August 23 and August 27 and then persuaded his friend, Gareth Dewhurst, 46, to use his car to dispose of the body. The judge said Dewhurst had been a “willing, if not enthusiastic, participant”. Dewhurst, of Duncan Avenue, Blackpool, was jailed for seven years for assisting an offender and an additional year for intending to pervert the course of justice by intimidating witnesses.
Ewing, of Kincraig Place, Blackpool, was also convicted of perverting the course of justice by intimidating witnesses and providing false information to the police.
Both men denied all the offences.
The teenager was described as “a fun-loving kid, bright and funny” in a victim impact statement from sister Madison Gordon, which was read out in court.
She said: “Paige was only a kid when her mum (Sheila) passed away in 2007. I would say it broke us. I think it hit Paige hard because of her age.
“Every birthday is a reminder that Paige is no longer with us to open her cards and to celebrate with her.”
She thought Paige would have gone on to study hair and beauty and would have been “a brilliant mum”. She added: “Not a day goes by that we don’t think about her. It should not have happened to my bonny outgoing sister. We all have big holes in our hearts that can no longer be replaced.”
Police say they remain committed to finding Paige’s body.