Belfast Telegraph

No evidence Charlotte Murray dead, QC tells trial

Defence says case against accused just conjecture

Johnny Miller with his ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray
Johnny Miller with his ex-fiancee Charlotte Murray
Charlotte’s twin sister Denise who was visibly upset as she left the court yesterday

By Michael Donnelly

A Co Tyrone chef accused of "vanishing" his unfaithful ex-fiancee nearly seven years ago after she allegedly taunted him with explicit images of her and another man is no "murderous cuckold", his lawyer has claimed.

Johnny Miller (48), with an address in Redford Park, Dungannon, is on trial for the murder of Charlotte Murray, who he denies murdering between October 31 and November 2, 2012.

Yesterday his defence QC Orlando Pownall at Dungannon Crown Court told the jury his client was "not responsible for her death and we invite you to acquit him".

He also told them Murray was "not involved in the slightest".

"May I make the defence position clear... we suggest that the strands of circumstantial evidence are such that they are unable to demonstrate that Charlotte Murray is dead," he said.

On trial for the past four weeks, Miller has maintained that Charlotte got up and left their then Roxborough Heights home in the Moy without even saying goodbye.

As Mr Pownall made his submissions, and particularly when he suggested to the jury that "Charlotte Murray is not dead", her twin sister Denise left the court visibly upset.

Throughout his summing up the lawyer claimed the prosecution had failed to show that Mr Miller was responsible for her involuntary disappearance.

He told the jury this was a case where, in the future they could not "avoid turning back in your mind's eye and repeating the question, I wonder where she is".

And he suggested that their reaction to Charlotte turning up a number of years could be: "I simply don't believe it... it must be an imposter?"

Mr Pownall said the case against Mr Miller was "circumstantial", going on to "suggest" that the supposed strands of the prosecution case, "taken individually, and indeed collectively, those strands do not begin to create an unassailable case".

He added that many "have been disregarded and torn to shreds".

It was also, the QC argued, a case where many "assumptions have been made time after time" only for them to have been "demonstrated to be incorrect... false".

Mr Pownall attacked the prosecution for "stubbornly persisting" with their various strands of evidence, all of which were open to other interpretations, such as the presence of blood in the bathroom. Mr Pownall asked why Miller, living alone for nearly seven months, would not remove or clean the blood found in the bathroom, which was visible to the naked eye and clear for all to see.

The only inference to be drawn, he claimed, "is that he did nothing, he had nothing to fear".

Later he went on to answer his own question when he asked of the jury: "Can we be sure Charlotte Murray is dead, and the defence say you simply cannot be sure and the offence of murder is not made out", before adding, "How did she die?"

He also claimed others could equally be responsible for the death of the then 34-year-old woman, who he said despite prosecution claims, was indeed desperate to get away from the Moy, to start a new life without Miller.

"There are candidates a-plenty are there not?" said Mr Pownall.

The lawyer also attacked the prosecution for what he described as "nitpicking" at Mr Miller during the four days he spent in the witness box being cross-examined.

They claimed, he said, he had been inconsistent, misleading and lying in his evidence.

However, Mr Pownall said his client had not tried to brazen matters out, but instead agreed and accepted that he had made mistakes.

"Does that suggest to you that he is a murderer," he asked the jury.

He also asked if "Mr Miller was a murderous cuckold", as suggested by the prosecution, Mr Miller did nothing about the suspicions he was said to have about Charlotte and others.

Mr Miller, he said, was never asked why his former fiancee should send him explicit images of herself.

"Did she send these images to taunt him, anger him, to stimulate him, who knows?" said the defence QC.

"It was an odd thing to do... was this the last goodbye: here I am, I'm off."

It was "another strand" of evidence, he suggested that had "fallen by the wayside".

He said if the jury was indeed satisfied Charlotte was dead, they would then have to ask themselves when did she die, how did she die, and if it was at the hands of Miller.

Mr Pownall added the prosecution had failed "to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that Miller took Murray's life.

The case will resume on Monday when Judge Stephen Fowler will review the evidence.

He then is expected to direct the jury on the law involved in this case before asking them to retire to consider their verdict.

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