Man found guilty of murdering Murray Thompson - St Albans

27/09/2012

A man from Watford has today, Thursday, 27 September 2012, been found guilty at St Albans Crown Court of the murder of St Albans man, Murray Thompson.

It took eleven jurors 2-days to deliberate on their verdicts following a 7-week long trial.

The jury was taken through a 2-year long investigation that had amassed over 600 written statements, over 1700 exhibits and involved 90 police officers and staff.

Murray, aged 34, was last seen at a property in St Albans Road, Watford on 20 April 2010.

James Evans, aged 24, of Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, was found guilty of Murray's murder, two counts of perverting the course of justice, of which one was for disposing of Murray's body, and conspiracy to produce cannabis.

A second man was on trial alongside James Evans. Lee Sullivan, aged 48, from Hudson Close, Watford, was charged with perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to produce cannabis and four counts of intimidation of witnesses. Sullivan pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trail to conspiracy to producing cannabis and was subsequently found guilty for perverting the course of justice and three counts of intimidation of witnesses.

A third man was found guilty at an earlier trial in November 2011 of perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to produce cannabis and intimidation of a witness. Amit Agar, aged 32, from Parkfield, Chorleywood, was sentenced to 7-years imprisonment and ordered to pay £50,000 costs.

Murray's disappearance prompted a major inquiry in which police officers and staff undertook a detailed and painstaking investigation in an attempt to discover what happened to Murray. A media campaign was launched to try to find Murray, supported and often fronted by family members.

Murray's family also offered a £5,000 reward for information, which might lead to the whereabouts and recovery of Murray. This was backed by Crimestoppers, the independent charity, but no one came forward with that information.

Murray's body has never been found and none of the convicted people have spoken during interview about where his body might be.

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "We have worked closely with the police since this investigation was launched.  This was a tragic crime, which led to the untimely death of Murray Thompson.  The fact that Murray's body has never been found makes this crime all the more upsetting.

"Historically, cases of this type have been hard to prove, the prosecution must rely on other evidence, usually circumstantial.  Recent developments in forensic science make it less likely that such a murder will go unpunished.  The jury found Evans guilty of murdering Murray, despite his denials and the absence of a body.

"Both Evans and Sullivan were involved in the cannabis factory business with Murray, and Sullivan assisted Evans with the clean up operation after Murray's murder, the disposal of evidence, and sought to intimidate vital witnesses.

"The Crown Prosecution Service praises the strength and courage of Murray's family who have sat through the trial and listened to the circumstantial evidence, which led to the conclusion that Murray was killed at an address in St Albans Road, Watford by Evans.

"As a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved for the victim and his family.  We hope that the convictions will in some way help the family come to terms with this tragic event.  Although, I understand that they will not be able to move forward with their lives until Murray has been found and laid to rest.  Our thoughts are very much with them at this time."

Following the verdict, Murray's father, Tony Thompson said: "This has been a long ordeal, with two trials over a combined 14-weeks of court. Im naturally pleased with the verdict. I hope now we can start moving on with our lives.  However, Murray is still daily in our thoughts. Until we put him to rest, it'll always be nagging in our minds about where he is.

"I would like to thank DI Kent and his team for their hard work and persistence over the past two and a half years, and QC John Price and his assistant Sandra Beck for being so supportive throughout the trial.  I'd also like to thank my friends for their daily phone calls and support at court, as well as the jury for their patience and dedication to the trial."

Detective Inspector Jerome Kent from the Joint Major Crime Unit who led the investigation said: "This murder conviction follows painstaking work carried out by the team of detectives from the joint Beds, Herts and Cambs Major Crime Unit, alongside various specialists, who have all worked to prove Murray's death and, working alongside the CPS, we've ensured this conviction could be secured.

"Throughout our investigation we've learnt a lot about Murray and, who despite being involved in drugs, was a kind man who was loyal to his family and had a large group of friends. I would like to thank the family and friends of Murray who gave considerable support to police during the investigation.

"Lee Sullivan, James Evans and Amit Agar clearly set about 'covering up' Murray's death and the cannabis operation, by a sustained campaign of intimidating people who they believed were feeding information to police.

"I am pleased the jury have come to these guilty verdicts. It has been an incredibly challenging case, particularly because Murray's body has never been found. For Murray's parents the anguish they have faced since Murray went missing is unimaginable. Their bravery and strength is admirable.  However, I know that finding Murray means more to them than the verdict today. They desperately want to put Murray to rest and say goodbye properly.

"I believe that James Evans, Lee Sullivan and Amit Agar know where Murray is, but they have always refused to give any assistance to the police and actively engaged in disrupting the police enquiry.

"We are still looking for Murray's body and would ask anyone with information to contact us via the Herts Police non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers, the independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111."