Belfast Telegraph

Jury as it retires to decide if Tyrone chef killed missing ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray

Charlotte’s mother Mary and twin sister Denise leave Dungannon Crown Court
Charlotte’s mother Mary and twin sister Denise leave Dungannon Crown Court
Charlotte Murray
Murder accused Johnny Miller

By Michael Donnelly

The jury in the trial of a chef will return to Dungannon Crown Court today to continue deliberations into whether Johnny Miller murdered his former fiancee Charlotte Murray - whose body has not been found - seven years ago.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC called a halt to the deliberations of the jury of eight men and four women after it had retired for just over 90 minutes yesterday.

Earlier he instructed the jurors that the evidence had to convince them of three matters: that Ms Murray is in fact dead, that the defendant Johnny Miller killed her and at the time of the killing he either intended to kill her or intended at the very least to cause her really serious harm.

However, the trial judge also told the jury that it could bring an alternative verdict of manslaughter if it found Mr Miller killed her, but when doing so he had not intended her serious harm.

The 48-year-old chef, from Redford Park, Dungannon, denies murdering his then 34-year-old ex-girlfriend between October 31 and November 2, 2012 when she disappeared from their then Roxborough Heights home in Moy, Co Tyrone.

Outlining the "headline points" in both cases, Judge Fowler said while the prosecution claims its circumstantial evidence provided a compelling case of guilt, the defence was also clear and unequivocal in that the defendant did not Ms Murray.

Judge Fowler also ordered the jury: "I direct you in this case that there is no direct evidence the defendant committed the crime of which he is charged."

The judge said while the prosecution case was made up solely of circumstantial evidence, it claims when the various strands of evidence were viewed as a whole they provided a compelling case of guilt.

The prosecution, Judge Fowler, 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.

The prosecution further maintains that Mr Miller fabricated text messages claiming they came from Charlotte after he had murdered her and he later told police lies.

However, the defence, Judge Fowler told the jury, argues that there are too many gaps and too many individual questions in the prosecution case.

The defence also claims the case pointed away from Mr Miller and that as a jury they could "never be sure, never be firmly convinced Charlotte is dead".

The judge said it was accepted by both the prosecution and defence that Mr Miller is "effectively a man of good character" with no criminal record, save some minor motoring offences.

He told the jury that it must take this into account in Mr Miller's favour, as being such a man it was less likely to have committed this offence.

Judge Fowler said that Mr Miller has always been in full employment as a chef and described as "a mild manner man, not prone to fits of bad temper or violence" and that "considerable weight" should be given to his "good character".

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