Kind, considerate and popular — these were just a few of the many nice things people had to say about 30-year-old Natalie Harker at her killer’s trial..
Natalie, who lived with her parents John and Deborah in Colburn, was well-known and well-liked.
After attending primary schools in Wensleydale, Miss Harker went to Mowbray School in Bedale before studying a childcare course at Darlington.
As an adult she loved spending time with her family and attended the local church, as well as going to the cinema with her brother Alistair.
During the trial witness after witness said how highly they thought of Natale and how kind and gentle she was.
One witness during the three week trial said: “Natalie wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Another added: “She was a breath of fresh air.”
A former colleague said she had nicknamed her ‘Bubbles’ after a colourful character in Absolutely Fabulous.
Natalie worked hard. The court heard how she would be out of the house at 4.30am to set off for work at Catterick Village Health Centre, where she was a cleaner. In the afternoons she also cleaned at Risedale College.
She would cycle to work in all weathers and was completely dependable. But even on her morning ride to work she made friends. Two dog walkers who would walk their pets at Catterick Racecourse told how they would see her most mornings and would often stop for a chat.
Miss Harker’s reliability and work ethic became a major element of the prosecution case, with lawyers obtaining the records for the digital entry system at the health centre for the preceding days and weeks which showed she was always on time and never missed a shift.
She was like “clockwork”, one witness said.
Miss Harker previously worked at Tesco in Catterick Garrison, where she first met Pearson. The court heard how when they were together Pearson would come in to chat to her when she was working, which agitated Miss Harker. She didn’t want to get into trouble for spending time talking.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC repeatedly suggested that not “in a million years” would Miss Harker have “bunked off”, as claimed by the defendant, to go walking in the woods.
Pearson’s bizarre claim was that they had gone for a nature walk “to look for animals”. Asked by Mr MacDonald if they saw any animals, the defendant replied “a rabbit”. But the court also heard Miss Harker was a “clean freak” who disliked getting dirty and hated bugs and spiders. It made his account even more improbable.
The court heard the defendant had never been in trouble with the police before. But he had his problems including mood swings, depression and anxiety. He was odd and awkward, witnesses said. Even his own barrister suggested to the jury they may not like Pearson. When giving evidence, Pearson was full of self-pity, telling the jury the trial process has been “very difficult” for him and that he was worried about coming to harm in custody.
At one point, the prosecutor asked if he felt he was the victim rather that Natalie?
“We’re both victims,” he replied
Pearson also couldn’t get a job. With Miss Harker working so hard, it increasingly became an issue. She would try to help him find work and was always ready with encouragement.
Several months before her death, things came to a head when the couple planned to go to Saltburn for a short-break. However, Pearson didn’t have enough money and Miss Harker went on her own, saying if Pearson couldn’t pay his own way then he couldn’t go.
She enjoyed herself on the break and soon afterwards she gently told Pearson she did not want to stay together, telling friends and colleagues she “couldn’t be doing with his issues”.
Although initially seeming to accept the split, Pearson’s behaviour increasingly became erratic and more menacing. He would follow her to work and check on her whereabouts, as well as sending pleading texts. The defendant also posted sarcastic messages on Facebook suggesting Natalie was somehow at fault for the break-up.
Despite the harassment Miss Harker was getting on with her life. Friends said she seemed happier, has lost weight, was wearing new clothes and make-up. One friend said she to told her she looked “wonderful”.
In his victim impact statement, her brother Alistair said it seemed she “had her old sparkle back”.
He described his sister as a “wonderful person”.
The trial heard Pearson thought Natalie’s family disliked him and believe she was too good for him.
If that was the case, they were right. She was far too good for him.