Murdered woman 'looking for love'
A wealthy woman was murdered by a conman she had been intimate with and whom she regarded as a friend, a court heard today.
Carole Waugh, 49, was stabbed in the neck in her flat in Marylebone, central London, the Old Bailey was told.
The lonely woman, who people thought was looking for love, was killed by two professional conmen with gambling habits, and regarded one of them, Rakesh Bhayani, 41, as a friend, Patrick Gibbs QC, prosecuting, told the court.
"It seems that she had been intimate with him at one time or another in the past," counsel told the jury.
"She may have first met him through an advertisement of herself as an escort that she had placed on the internet.
"Like everyone else that has met Mr Bhayani, she was taken in by him.
"She thought that he was her friend, but you may decide by the end of this trial that Mr Bhayani doesn't really do friends.
"Once he had been released from prison, knowing how much she had, he planned that she should die."
Bhayani and Nicholas Kutner, 48, deny murdering Miss Waugh, who disappeared from her home last year and whose remains were found three and a half months later.
Mr Gibbs said: "The Crown cannot say whose hand was on the weapon.
"But whoever struck the fatal blow, we say that Mr Bhayani and Mr Kutner planned it, and were responsible for it, and having taken her life, they then systematically took all her worldly goods as well."
Miss Waugh lived alone in a flat just off the Edgware Road.
"She wasn't married, she didn't have a steady boyfriend. She was, it seems, a lonely woman on the lookout for male company.
"She didn't have a regular job, she had done a number of jobs in the past, including having worked as an accounts clerk in Libya, in the oil industry, some years before, which she plainly had enjoyed, and about which she spoke a lot - sometimes, you may think, in rather exaggerated terms.
"She spoke about going back to Libya, or wanting to, in the future.
"She was a woman who had plenty of money. That was to prove her undoing.
"She owned her flat, it was worth more than £600,000, she had savings, shares, jewellery, of which she was proud, and a cash income from working as an amateur escort."
Bhayani and Kutner were professional conmen and lifelong gamblers, Mr Gibbs said.
"They have a long history of tricking people and defrauding people to get their hands on the large sums of money which they require in order to feed their gambling habits."
They knew each other through prison, and had a lot in common.
"They had a taste for grand and expensive things. Both were gripped by the same compulsion, to gamble."
As soon as Miss Waugh was dead, a number of women were used to impersonate her.
At Bhayani's instigation, they pretended to be Miss Waugh, on the telephone to banks, in shops, buying things.
"They were rehearsed by Mr Bhayani, nursemaided by Mr Bhayani and usually accompanied by Mr Bhayani around London, and on the telephone, stripping Carole Waugh's assets."
Mr Gibbs told the jury that the women would not be before them in the trial, which would focus on the murder and concealment of the murder.
Miss Waugh had known Bhayani for quite a while, visited him in prison, and lent him £40,000, Mr Gibbs said.
She knew Kutner less well, and had not been intimate with him.
Her body was found on August 2, and from the state of her remains, she had been dead for many months, Mr Gibbs said.
She saw her mother and brother at their home near Durham on April 7 and 8 and spoke to her mother again a week later.
They became increasingly worried when they did not hear from her and reported her missing on May 7.
"The evidence strongly suggests that she died during the night of April 16/17," Mr Gibbs said.
Mr Gibbs said that from bloodstains in the flat, it appeared she was killed there, on or by her bed. She was stabbed in the neck.
"In all likelihood she was killed in her bedroom, wrapped in whatever was to hand, and then later crammed into a large holdall, put in the boot of an old car, and left in various car parks.
"It looks as if her killers were hoping to dispose of the body in a secluded spot in the Cotswolds, but seem to have thought better of it and used a garage in New Malden, which had been rented for the purpose."
Money kept in various bank accounts was emptied into a Barclays current account then taken out of there, Mr Gibbs said.
Payments for gold bullion worth tens of thousands of pounds were made.
"By the time they were arrested, they had taken hundreds of thousands of pounds - and she could not stop them."
Mr Gibbs said Miss Waugh was something of a Walter Mitty character, with rather fanciful notions about herself.
"She seems to have been good company but lonely and looking for love."
She advertised on dating sites and as an escort.
In the last 18 months of her life she met a lot of men through adult work, calling herself Sam. Her user name on a website was posh totty fun, and she wrote that she was not a professional, but an enthusiastic amateur, offering a true girlfriend experience, and interested in good clean adult fun.
Men who had sexual intercourse with her, and paid her for it, described her as being less interested in the money than the company.
Her activity over that last year played no part in her death, the Crown say, save for the fact that may have been how she first met Bhayani.
Bhayani, of Chamberlayne Avenue, Wembley, north west London denies murder but admits perverting the course of justice by concealing the death and also conspiracy to defraud.
Kutner, of Leighton Road, Kentish Town, north west London, denies murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing the death, but admits conspiracy to defraud.
Elie Khoury, 40, of Spring Street, Paddington, central London, denies conspiracy to defraud.
The trial was adjourned until 10am on Monday.