Belfast Telegraph

Charlotte Murray murder: Key elements that nailed killer Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller with his ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray
Johnny Miller with his ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray

The Co Tyrone chef Johnny Miller was sentenced to life for the murder of his ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray.

She went missing in 2012 and her body has never been found.

A jury of eight men and four women unanimously found him guilty of killing his then 34-year-old former girlfriend between October 31 and November 2, 2012.

Here we look at the key elements that led to his successful prosecution.

Engagement ring: Key to the police investigation was her engagement ring. Miller admitted he was searching the internet looking up sites to pawn it on. However he said this was because she sent him explicit messages of herself with another man. However the timing of the emails revealed he had carried out the searches around 13 minutes before the images were actually sent. The prosecution claimed this was "the last straw ... a  last humilitaiton...being shown to be a cuckold" and in his rage he killed Charlotte.

It was Charlotte who had proposed to Miller in 2012 - a leap year.

Mobile phone: Miller claimed Ms Murray sent him messages from Belfast after her supposed disappearance to "lay a false trail" she was still alive but cell site analysis found the phone never left the Moy area. The prosecution claimed that Mr Miller had the opportunity and motive to murder Charlotte. He was with her, it claims, both before and after she allegedly disappeared. She also left behind her dog Bella and car, which he later sold.

Mr Miller told the jury that he wanted Charlotte “to walk through the door someday and say, 'sorry about all of this'.”

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Charlotte Murray

Christmas present axe:  It was claimed three weeks after her "disappearance" Miller dismembered and disposed of her body using an axe and a saw he'd bought online for the gruesome task, and not as a Christmas present for his dad, as he had claimed.

Diary: Miller had kept a diary in which he wrote of how someone must have known something of her disappearance and how someone could not just vanish without trace. The prosecution contended this was a sham and that he thought someone may find it and read the notes.

He told the court that these notes were "all genuine" and never once did he "imagine when writing this that it would be read out in court, you charged with murder, by your barrister".

Police probe: Police determined Charlotte was murdered from early on after her disappearance. In their investigation detectives established there was not a shred of evidence to suggest she had disappeared. Their efforts included tracing 41 women with the same name across the UK to ensure they were not "the Charlotte Murray in this case".

Over the years more than 600 people have been spoken to, with help sought from other police agencies, including An Garda Siochana, as well as links to all 45 police services in the UK, with requests for information from over 430 councils and local authorities, health services, charities, airlines, transport companies, including rail networks, social services and HMRC.

Asked if they revealed anything on Charlotte's possible whereabouts, including 10 potential sightings of her, not only in Moy, but also in Birmingham, London, Belfast, Monaghan and Edinburgh, he said all had drawn a blank.

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Johnny Miller

Police interviews: The trial heard extracts from over 800 pages of interviews he had with police since she disappeared in 2012. In the main during interviews, and on the advice of his solicitor, Miller replied "no comment" to the bulk of their questions, put to him in 2015 and 2017, even when he was directly "challenged" as to whether he had "murdered her".

While a detective agreed this was his right, she added that as an experienced officer, with 12 years' involvement in investigating murders, she would have expected Mr Miller "to clear up some inconsistencies", if he was right in saying Charlotte had disappeared, "to help us find the missing person".

The officer also agreed with defence counsel Desmond Hutton, that on occasions Mr Miller was "emotional and visibly upset" and that there was "nothing shocking or unusual" in his solicitor advising him not to answer questions put to him.

At the end of each set of interviews, detectives "asked if he had killed her ... and that was a 'No Comment'", or that they "put a challenge to him as to whether he had murdered her ... that again was a 'No comment'".

Family determination: The heartbroken family of Ms Murray were determined to get to the bottom of what happened her. In an appeal in 2017, marking the fifth anniversary of her disappearance they spoke of how devastated they were over her disappearance.

Charlotte's eldest sister and brother told the court how they had not seen her for a year and a half to two years before the family reported her missing to police in May 2013 after she had been gone for six months.  They described her as pleasant and helpful, but accepted she could change while drinking.

They also confirmed that at times Charlotte would disappear without telling anyone, and on one occasion even went abroad on holiday without saying.

Her brother Aiden who said that Charlotte could disappear "for weeks", however agreed with prosecution QC Rishard Weir, while this maybe the case, his sister had "never disappeared for years".

After the guilty verdict on Tuesday the family appealed to Miller to "do the right thing, the honourable thing" and reveal where he had disposed of her body seven years.

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