Belfast Telegraph

Court hears claim Charlotte Murray murderer has to be boyfriend

Disappeared: Charlotte Murray
Disappeared: Charlotte Murray

The former boyfriend of missing Co Tyrone woman Charlotte Murray was named as the man who murdered her nearly seven years ago when she allegedly disappeared without trace.

He is John 'Johnny' Patrick Miller (48) and while the alleged evidence against him is admittedly circumstantial, a prosecution lawyer at Dungannon Crown Court claimed it pointed "to one man only" - him.

Miller, originally from Coleraine, but with an address in Redford Park, Dungannon, denies murdering the 34-year-old Omagh woman on a date between October 31 and November 2, 2012.

However, the jury of eight men and four women also heard on Wednesday that police had investigated reported sightings of Charlotte both in NI and in England up to nine months after she allegedly disappeared. This was claimed by defence QC Orlando Pownall came during cross-examination of Charlotte's identical twin sister Denise.

Mr Pownall said police had asked her about purported sightings of her sister in the Co Tyrone town of The Moy, in June 2013 and in Birmingham, England three months later.  Ms Murray said she remembered being asked "about things like that", but not "when and where".

Earlier Charlotte's mother Mary, accepted Charlotte and her family were not close, and that the last time she saw her was about a year and a half before she was reported missing.

Contact between them was sporadically by phone, usually initiated by Charlotte "in the early hours" and in drink. Mrs Murray also accepted her daughter had a troubled past, drank too much, was violent in alcohol and was suspected of abusing Class A drugs.

Charlotte was also said to be suicidal and at one stage attempted to take her own life following the death of a boyfriend. Her mum  also agreed that she had "problems with Travellers"  and that she was involved in an assault in which she had hit a man with her shoe.

Her identical twin sister Denise, who reported her missing in May 2013, also said the sisters had not been on speaking terms for a couple of months.

Then just after Halloween a notice appeared on Charlotte's Facebook, which she claimed had punctuation her sister would never use.

Denies killing: John Miller
Denies killing: John Miller

However, in cross-examination, Ms Murray admitted she had accessed the entry via another account as Charlotte had blocked her from the social media platform.

She further agreed that message had no punctuation in it at all.

Denise said she became worried after there was no contact between them around Christmas, their birthday, and in January 2013 she attempted through Facebook to contact Miller, but without success.  Eventually with her brother, contact was made and they met in a restaurant just after St Patrick's Day.

While Miller brought along a box of Charlotte's things, he claimed not to know where she was, and had complained that Charlotte had spent all of her time on the computer and in the end they weren't talking and just passing each other in the hallway.  He also told her Charlotte had left while he had been out working.

During her later cross-examination, Denise claimed she had met her sister in Asda, although she's told police they hadn't spoken from March 2012 and that she knew nothing of her engagement.  And that she'd described her as being "volatile", and their past relationship was "rocky".

She also accepted Charlotte had been in care and that part of the problem of little or no contact between her and her family arose out of her aggression, particularly in drink, and that it was not difficult to fall out with her in drink.

Earlier prosecution QC Richard Weir admitted this was a somewhat different case in that "no body has been recovered" but that Charlotte has "not been seen or heard from since ... and the evidence points to her being dead and that John Miller killed her".

However, while later accepting their case was ''circumstantial" Mr Weir maintained when each evidential strand was examined, individually and wholly, it proved that Charlotte "is dead and that she died around the end of October, beginning of November 2012.

"We can't say precisely when she died, and we do not know how she died, but we say that circumstances point to Mr Miller and only to him.

"They point inexorably to him, they point comprehensively, they point with certainty and sureness to him," said Mr Weir who also told the jury once they had heard and analysed all of the evidence they would be satisfied to the necessary standard, "that the accused is guilty of the offence of murdering Charlott Murray".

The jury and trial Judge Stephen Fowler QC also heard that among those strands of evidence were bloodstains found in the bathroom of the home the couple once shared, bloodstains which matched Charlotte's DNA profile.

Other evidence included examination of various computers, and the mobile phone records of the couple which allegedly showed text messages couldn't have been sent by Charlotte from "Belfast or anywhere near it", and that "Mr Miller could have and did instigate those texts to falsely show that Charlotte was alive after November 1, 2012".

When initially spoken to by police in May 2013, he made a witness statement said Mr Weir, before he was later interviewed as a suspect in Charlotte's disappearence.

"Essentially," added Counsel, Miller "denies that she is dead, and denies that he has killed her".

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