In 2009, Morgan Harrington, 20, vanished shortly after leaving a heavy metal concert. Her remains were found on remote farmland three months later. Years on Hannah Graham, 18, disappeared after a party. Her body was found at an abandoned property. But who’d killed her? And were they behind Morgan’s murder too?
Morgan Harrington, 20, loved heavy metal music. So when she got tickets to see her favourite band Metallica in 2009, she was thrilled.
On 17 October 2009, the night of the concert arrived. Morgan tried on three outfits before settling on a black t-shirt and crystal necklace. At the concert hall at The University of Virginia, Morgan danced away with friends.
When she left them to go to the toilet and didn’t return, they phoned her. She explained she couldn’t get back in due to the arena’s re-entry policy. She told them she’d find a way home.
Passersby spotted her nearly an hour later at 9:30pm walking along a bridge. That was the last anyone saw of her…
The following day her purse and phone were found in a car park near the arena. Weeks on, her t-shirt was found in bushes.
But months later, in January, Morgan’s skeletal remains were discovered in a remote hayfield about 10 miles from the arena. She had rib and arm fractures, and also a fractured skull. An autopsy revealed she’d tried to fight off her attacker.
A manhunt failed to catch the killer, but police soon revealed Morgan’s murder was forensically linked to the rape and attempted murder of another woman back in 2005.
The rapist had never been caught, despite the victim helping investigators to put together a sketch of him. Was the rapist a killer too?
Then in September 2014, another young woman went missing. Hannah Graham, 18, disappeared after a party with friends.
Born in Reading, Berkshire, Hannah had moved to the US aged 5 with her parents. A student at The University of Virginia, she left a party to make her way to a second one, but then text her friends to say she was lost.
She was captured on CCTV wandering the area. Footage also showed her being followed by a tall man with dark hair. Witnesses even described seeing her talking to him. Then, Hannah seemed to vanish without a trace…
Her disappearance had startling similarities to Morgan’s. Police soon began to suspect a local man, Jesse Matthew.
A former cab driver, they believed he had something to do with Hannah’s disappearance. When they searched his apartment they found a pair of shorts with his and Hannah’s DNA on them.
Days later, Matthew was arrested near Galveston, Texas. Police claimed tests forensically linked Matthew to the 2005 rape too.
Then, that October, a month after she’d disappeared, Hannah’s remains were found. Her body had been dumped near a derelict property. The medical examiner believed she’d likely been strangled, or suffocated to death.
In October 2015, Jesse Matthew, then 33, appeared in court for the 2005 rape and attempted murder.
He entered an Alford plea, meaning he acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict him, without directly admitting any crime. He was handed three life sentences, serving a minimum of 45 years.
Then, in March 2016, he appeared in court for the murders of Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham. As part of a plea agreement, he admitted to killing them both and avoided a death sentence.
He was handed four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Under the terms he also waived his right to appeal.
Matthew has never revealed a motive for his crimes.
The judge branded him a modern day ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. He believed Matthew projected an image of a gentle giant to friends and family, while hiding his double life as a violent, sexual predator.
Now, despite serving life sentences for his crimes, Matthew has condemned his victims’ families to a life of grief and loss.