West Sussex: Two Guilty Of Killing Jeweller

Two men have been found guilty of the murder of Michael Griffiths in Fernhurst and another has been found guilty of his manslaughter.

 
Mr Griffith's body was found in the burnt out remains of his home in Glebe Close in January 2013.
 
At Hove Crown Court on Tuesday (April 1), Zac Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines, and Harvey Munford, 23, of Monks Way, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, who had both offered an alternative plea to manslaughter, were found guilty of murder. Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury-on Thames, was found guilty of manslaughter.
 
John Bartholomew, 72, of Portsmouth, Damien Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, Middlesex and Kerry Rudder, 43, of Markway, Sunbury-on-Thames, were found not guilty of murder.
 
Munford and Penton also pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Cowdrey also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
 
Munford and Cowdrey were sentenced to life sentences in prison with a minimum of 32 years for the murder and nine years to run concurrently for the other offences.
 
Penton was sentenced to a determinate sentence of 26 years' imprisonment and nine years to run concurrently for the other offences.
 
Kerry Rudder was also found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to burgle, but was cleared on two other counts and also cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. She was jailed for three years.

Damien Krafft also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to burgle and was found not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He received a three year prison sentence.
 
John Bartholomew was also found not guilty of three counts of conspiracy to burgle.
 
Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Shepperton, who had faced one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, was found not guilty.
 
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley, who led the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team hunt for Michael's killers, said: I am extremely pleased that those responsible for the brutal murder of Michael Griffith have now been rightly convicted. I hope that this will in some small way help his family and friends come to terms with their loss and my thoughts and those of my colleagues are with them at this time.

"The investigation into his death was difficult and complex.

"It was made even more so by the cold and calculated attempts of those responsible to destroy any available forensic evidence by means of fire.

"Michael was deliberately targeted by this ruthless gang of criminals for the contents of his life's work. They went to extraordinary lengths: they did research on the internet to locate him, they conducted reconnaissance on his home making a number of trips to Fernhurst, they also attempted to force their way in by purporting to be police officers on the day preceding his death The issue for them was that they needed Michael to be present so that they could gain access to the contents of his safe.

"However, Michael was not easy to fool so they then had to adapt their plan by targeting his home whilst he was out and laying in wait for his return.

"He was then subjected to a prolonged and serious assault that ended in him losing his life. He was callously left tied up by those responsible, not caring if he was still alive or dead.

"The group then left Fernhurst and over the next 24 hours set about disposing and destroying any items that could link them to the scene, including clothing, mobile phones and even a motor vehicle used to transport them.

"They then plotted to return and destroy any remaining evidence by pouring petrol over the crime scene including Michael's body before setting fire to it.

"The investigation uncovered that members of this gang were responsible for a series of burglaries across Surrey and Sussex. A number of these burglaries were conducted in the months following Michael's death.

"Rarely have I witnessed such callous disregard for life. During the trial, absolutely no remorse was shown by any members of the group for their shocking behaviour and actions.

"I am very pleased with the substantial sentences that have been handed down today. Michael was a well-loved and popular figure in Fernhurst and his death has left a hole in the lives of his family, friends and neighbours. I hope that the verdict by this jury will give them some peace and a sense that justice has been done." 

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