Megan Bills: How loved teen ended up murdered and left to rot
Born Megan Smith, she had a difficult start in life and was put into foster care at the age of four but her fortunes changed two years later when she was placed with a loving Stourbridge family.
Dawn and Martin Bills, who already had a son - James now aged 26 - formally adopted the seven year old the following year and she took their surname.
Megan attended two local schools - St James Church of England Primary and Ridgewood High School - enjoyed swimming, sang in a church choir and played the flute in an orchestra.
Then she started to grow up fast becoming increasingly independent. "It all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye," recalled her mother.
At the age of 16 Megan moved in with the family of her then boyfriend Josh Edwards, now 19, whom she met in August 2014.
She left school the following year and went to Dudley College where she took, and passed, a year long hairdressing course in 2016 before beginning more advanced training at Halesowen College.
She moved into a housing project but spent increasing amounts of time at the bedsit in Hallchurch Road, Dudley, where Josh now lived, breaking the terms of her tenancy.
Megan moved in with him full time at the start of last year but he found her a changed person.
Josh explained: "She was hanging around with the wrong people which led to rows between us. She would just leave and come back drunk. She was mixing with a different set of friends who I did not know. This put a lot of stress on the relationship and caused arguments."
The last of these was so bad that the police were called and the couple made a mutual decision to break up. Josh returned the flat keys to the council and went back to live with his parents on March 29 last year.
He last saw her on April 14 - the day after Ashley Foster was freed on licence from Winson Green jail where he had been serving a sentence after physically attacking a relative - and recalled: "We had a laugh and chat. We were on good terms, not arguing. Then after 90 minutes she said: ‘I’m off.’ I didn’t know where she was going."
What neither he nor her adoptive parents realised, was that she had broken into his former flat and was squatting there.
Megan had neither a mobile phone nor computer that worked which made it very difficult for her family to keep in touch.
They last saw the teenager on April 11 when she told her mother she wanted to make a new start in life.
Mrs Bills revealed: "We had made plans for her to move back in with us at the end of the May Bank Holiday but she asked for time and space to sort herself out first."
As a result Mrs Bills left it longer than usual to discover where the girl was and did not report her as missing until May 5 - the day after the body was found in the wardrobe which had been cling-film wrapped.
This speeded up decomposition of the body and ensured the pathologist could not pin point the cause of death.
Foster admitted preventing the lawful burial of the teenager and a letter written by him to his mother gave police a vital breakthrough.
The note - found in a cupboard where prisoners' possessions were stored at a magistrates court where he had appeared - confessed to strangling Megan during violent sex but maintained it was an accident.
Interrogation of his two mobile phones revealed that in the days following Megan's death he made numerous searches of the internet for 'snuff' movies - pornographic films involving murder with sexual overtones.
Det Insp Caroline Corfield, who led police inquiries, said: " What normal human being would start searching this kind of porn after doing what he had done? It clearly turned him on."
Officers also recovered Megan's clothes and one of his shirt's with her blood on it which had been dumped in a bin outside the hostel and could have been used to throttle her.
Mrs Bills had no idea that Megan had started to mix with people from the New Horizons hostel for ex offenders in Highgate Road, Brierley Hill where 24-year-old Foster was given a room after being released from prison.
He moved in on April 13 after being collected from jail by his mother Annette - who had four children, not all by the same father - but stayed that night at the Wednesbury home of his sister Carley, who is married with two children, and with whom he had an especially close relationship.
He met Megan for the first time just hours before she died on April 16, Easter Sunday. She arrived at the hostel, where she had been several times previously, around midday after leaving the Dudley flats block where she was squatting. She asked Foster for a cigarette and quickly returned to his room to cadge another one.
They left the hostel together soon afterwards to buy cannabis, dropping in at a branch of the convenience store Onestop where he bought two cans of drink and some cigarette papers before returning an hour and a half later to get another soft drink, sweets and a sandwich.
The pair spent a short time at the hostel between the two shopping trips before Megan returned with Foster for the final time around 1.50pm.
The hostel’s CCTV showed them going into his room and captured Megan again in the doorway at 3.35pm. She was never seen alive again.
She had been living a 'dangerous' life, squatting at a flat and taking several sexual partners, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard. Forensic examination of the trousers she had been wearing on the day she died revealed evidence of sexual contact with two men other than he ex boyfriend and Foster.
Two and a half weeks later, on May 3, staff at the New Horizons hostel noticed a suspicious smell while carrying out the first monthly inspection of Foster’s room since his arrival. He blamed this on the carpet, claiming it needed replacing. The wardrobe was shrouded in a quilt.
The following day the hostel's director revisited the room with another member of staff and two residents when Foster was out and made the gruesome discovery of Megan’s decomposing body in the cling-film wrapped wardrobe. He was arrested later the same day after being spotted walking in Walsall town centre.
His sister Carley Forrester, who cared deeply for him and helped to manage his finances but was unable to get him off cannabis, confessed: "He left school without qualifications. He is not the brightest and this led to bad decision making."
The worst decision he ever made was to try to fulfil his perverse sexual fantasies with a girl he barely knew. It ended her life and destroyed his.
In a heartbreaking tribute to their daughter, Megan's parents 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.
“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.
“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.”