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Charlotte Murray killer deserves longer jail term for not revealing where body of fiancee is hidden, hearing told


Charlotte Murray’s twin sister Denise (left) and mother Mary (right) leave court yesterday

Charlotte Murray’s twin sister Denise (left) and mother Mary (right) leave court yesterday

Photopress Belfast

Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

Photopress Belfast

Charlotte Murray’s twin sister Denise (left) and mother Mary (right) leave court yesterday

A killer chef, who is yet to do "the decent, honourable thing" and reveal where his murdered fiancee is buried, will have to wait until later this month before learning his sentence.

Johnny Miller was convicted of Charlotte Murray's murder last year, just weeks before the seventh anniversary of her disappearance.

Yesterday Judge Stephen Fowler QC told Miller that he wished to reflect on his case before deciding on the appropriate tariff.

The Dungannon Crown Court judge, sitting in Belfast, heard submissions from both prosecution and defence counsel on the minimum tariff Miller must serve of the life term before being considered for release by the Parole Board Commissioners.

Prosecution QC Richard Weir claimed his tariff should be at the higher starting point of 15 to 16 years, given the aggravating factors.

These included Miller's continued silence over the whereabouts of Charlotte's remains, depriving her of the respect and dignity of a burial and depriving her family of the essential right of burying their sister, their daughter and the continuing grief that imposes.

Mr Weir said that Charlotte was a vulnerable person, whose "total disappearance, total vanishing" by Miller, with its devastating and tragic consequences for the family, had three main aims: to evade capture, evade arrest and evade conviction.

The prosecutor added that it has had "dire consequences on other levels let alone the grave affront to justice".

However, defence QC Orlando Pownall, while accepting this may be an aggravating factor, said given the prosecution case that Miller killed in a rage having been provoked, and as such the killing could not have been pre-planned, therefore the case fell within the normal starting point of 12 years.

Mr Pownall argued that there was a fundamental flaw in the prosecution proposition as it promoted the possibility, the real risk of double counting, when it came to sentencing.

The defence lawyer further rejected the contention Miller had preyed on Charlotte as a vulnerable person as suggested by the Crown.

And Mr Pownall, while also acknowledging Miller "was undoubtedly being cuckold", he had resisted the temptation to harm her previously and the picture painted of him by others was that of a man who was thoughtful, kind, hard working and not aggressive.

The 49-year-old Co Tyrone chef, from Redford Park, Dungannon, was unanimously convicted last October by a jury of eight men and four women at the end of a four-week trial of being the "cold calculating murderer" who killed his 34-year-old ex-fiancee Charlotte.

His trial heard that sometime between October 31 and November 2, 2012, he 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 humiliation... being shown to be a cuckold".

In answer to these murderous claims, Miller maintained that she simply left their Roxborough Heights home 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, and her beloved dog Bella to look after.

In the aftermath of his conviction, Charlotte's identical twin sister 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".

But to date 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 the Moy itself, at a local hospital and even in England.

However, by their verdict the jury 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 also rejected defence claims Charlotte was either alive or had fallen victim of another killer and instead accepted the circumstantial prosecution case she did not disappear, but was murdered by the man she had proposed marriage to.

The verdict also pointed to the jury accepting that three weeks later, Miller dismembered and disposed of her body using an axe and a saw he had looked for online for the gruesome task, and not as a Christmas present for his dad, as he claimed.

Belfast Telegraph