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Charlotte Murray family plead for killer Johnny Miller to give up body's location as 16-year jail term handed down

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Charlotte Murray

Charlotte Murray

Photopress Belfast

Charlotte Murray

The family of murdered Charlotte Murray appealed for a law in her name to stop the release of killers like her former fiancee Johnny Miller until they do ''the decent honourable thing'' and give up the location of their victim's body.

The former chef was told by Judge Stephen Fowler QC he will serve a minimum 16 years of his life term in jail before ever being considered for release by the Parole Commisioners for murdering Charlotte in 2012.

The 49-year-old Co Tyrone chef, from Redford Park, Dungannon, who has already lodged an appeal against his conviction, was unanimously found guilty last October, just weeks before the 7th anniversary of 34-year-old Charlotte's disappearance.

He was described as being her "cold calculating murderer".

Police also re-issued their appeal for Miller to give up the location of the body.

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Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

Photopress Belfast

Johnny Miller

"This is denying her friends and family the chance to say their final goodbyes and to know the truth about what happened to her," said Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan.

"His cowardly silence is cruel and is prolonging the suffering and distress for Charlotte’s family. They have already been through unimaginable turmoil and have been robbed of the normal events they should have enjoyed as a family over the past seven years.

“I am appealing directly to Johnny Miller. Johnny imagine it is your mother standing where Charlotte’s mother Mary stands today. Not able to lay her child to rest. Do the decent thing, end this suffering and tell us where Charlotte is.

What if this was your daughter or sister? Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan

“It’s possible other people also know where Charlotte’s body is or what happened to her. If you do, come forward now with the information as we need to bring Charlotte home to her family. It is the honourable thing to do and is the very least Charlotte’s family deserve."

He added: "I am immensely proud of the painstaking investigation carried out by dedicated detectives over the years to make sure that Johnny Miller is now behind bars. Normally sentencing brings an element of closure for a family after a loved one is murdered. However, there is still no closure for the Murray family - only continued suffering and unanswered questions.

In sentencing remarks on Monday Judge Fowler acknowledged the devastating impact on Charlotte's family that her body has never been recovered, or ever likely to be.

"This has caused and will continue to cause the family considerable pain, distress and hurt. I regard this as the most serious aggravating feature of this case," declared Judge Fowler.

The Dungannon Crown Court judge said the disposal of Charlotte's body was not "transient concealment" the effect of which "has been to deprive Charlotte's family of any form of closure.

"Their ability to grieve the loss of their loved one has been denied by the defendant," he said.

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Charlotte Murray’s mother Mary, left, and Charlotte’s twin sister Denise with sisters Michelle and Emma. Credit: Peter Morrison

Charlotte Murray’s mother Mary, left, and Charlotte’s twin sister Denise with sisters Michelle and Emma. Credit: Peter Morrison

Charlotte Murray’s mother Mary, left, and Charlotte’s twin sister Denise with sisters Michelle and Emma. Credit: Peter Morrison

Judge Fowler, who said the police should be commended for their "thorough and painstaking investigation", said her disappearance also made it impossible to say how she died, what injuries she suffered and that the reason behind it he was satisfied was "to evade detection and destroy evidence".

Outside the Tyrone courthouse, Charlotte's still grieving family, while also praising both the police and authorities, said "we would also like to ask our local politicians to bring into place a Charlotte's law to compel murderers such as Mr Miller to divulge the location of their victims, failing this they do not stand a chance of parole".

We want to say our goodbyes in peace Charlotte Murray family

Speaking on behalf of her mother and brothers, Charlotte's identical twin sister Denise added: "No family should have to suffer like this. We should not be denied the right to be able to bury our sister Charlotte, to mourn her and to lay flowers on her grave."

The family said they left court, "knowing justice has been served... but we still don't have Charlotte's body home".

And in a direct appeal to Miller, they asked him "to tell us where Charlotte's body is and to let us bring Charlotte home. We want to say our goodbyes in peace," describing his continued silence as "a cruel suffering he has put upon us, especially our mum".

"You had a fair trial Mr Miller, give it up and let us know what you have done with Charlotte," the family said.

The Public Prosecution Service said the absence of a body made the case particularly challenging.

"It was in these highly unusual circumstances that the PPS Serious Crime Unit worked closely with police and our team of counsel to prepare a robust prosecution case, which resulted in a jury unanimously finding Johnny Miller guilty of her murder," said Hazel Edmondson, senior public prosecutor.

While nothing can bring Charlotte back, we hope that this guilty verdict will bring some measure of comfort to them PPS

“We would also like to thank those members of the public who came forward to make statements and give evidence in the case. Their evidence formed important strands which, when drawn along with the expert evidence and the thorough investigative work of police, allowed the jury to reach their verdict.

“While Charlotte’s family, including her mother Mary and twin sister Denise, continue to try to cope with the loss of their much loved daughter and sister, the fact that they have not been able to lay her to rest is a source of great distress for them.

“While nothing can bring Charlotte back, we hope that this guilty verdict will bring some measure of comfort to them.”

During the four-week trial last October the trial heard Miller murdered Charlotte in a rage when sent explicit images of herself in the arms of another man. It was, said prosecution QC Richard Weir, "the last straw ... a last humilitaiton...being shown to be a cuckold".

In answer to these murderous claims, Miller maintained that she simply left their Roxborough Heights, in The Moy, Co Tyrone, to take up a job in Belfast, leaving him her car, which he sold to pay off her debts to him. She also left her beloved dog Bella behind for him to look after.

However, on Monday Judge Fowler dismissed his claims as little more than "an elaborate ruse to put her family and police off their enquiries" by creating a false trail of messages "to suggest she was alive, in communication with him, living in Belfast and had made arrangement to collect her things".

"This," added the judge, "was further evidence of his actions to evade detection and prosecution".

A third aggravating factor, as identified by the prosecution at his trial, was Charlotte's vulnerability, estranged from her immediate family with no real friends, and murdered in a domestic setting, "in her home where she should have been safe" and that she was "no physical match for the defendant".

In the aftermath of his conviction last year, Charlotte's twin Denise, appealed on behalf of their mother Mary and family for "Mr Miller to do the decent thing, the honourable thing and let us know where Charlotte's body is, so we can bring her home".

To date Mr Miller has kept that secret to himself, maintaining she still is alive, while “assiduous, thorough, wide-ranging, comprehensive inquiry .... gargantuan efforts" by police has established there was not a shred of evidence to suggest this is the case.

And despite renewed searches by police since his conviction, including the draining of a local quarry pit at Benburb, Charlotte's whereabouts remain unknown.

During his trial the jury heard of alleged sightings of Charlotte in the weeks and months following her disappearance, in Moy itself, at a local hospital, and even in England.

However, by their verdict the jury must have discounted this and Miller's denials of using her mobile phone to send text messages to "lay a false trail" in an attempt to show her alive.

The jury must also have rejected defence claims Charlotte was either alive or had fallen victim of another killer, and instead accepted the "circumstantial" prosecution case she did not simply disappear, but was murdered by the man she'd proposed marriage to.

And that three weeks later Miller dismembered and disposed of her body using an axe and a saw he'd gone looking for online for the gruesome task, and not as a Christmas present for his dad, as he claimed.

Belfast Telegraph


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