‘Murder victim’s fiancee visited death flat and spoke to killer’

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The fiancee of Murray Thompson, the man alleged to have been murdered at a cannabis factory, has told a court how she went there the day after his disappearance and spoke to the man it is claimed killed him.

Rachel McDowell, who lived with Murray in St Peter’s Street, St Albans, was giving evidence about April 21, 2010, when she went to the flat above a shop in Watford.

She had not seen her boyfriend since the previous day and was concerned he had not come home. Parked nearby she said was Murray’s van, which was locked.

Miss McDowell told St Albans Crown Court she knew Murray was involved in tending cannabis plants at the flat and after banging on the door James Evans opened it.

She said: “I asked him if he had seen Murray and he said he had not seen him since the day before when he said he was leaving.

“I asked him what time Murray left and he said around 7pm on the Tuesday. He said ‘He has probably gone off on one,’ and I said that wasn’t like Murray.”

She said when she told Evans her car had broken down and she was going to wait for Murray to see if he returned to his van, Evans said he would drive her back to St Albans.

“He drove me home, it was his idea. I wanted to wait and I wasn’t interested in going home. I wanted to see if Murray came back to his van. I told him I didn’t want to go and he asked me for my contact number and said when he saw Murray he would ring me. He said ‘I promise you Rachel I will call you’,” she said.

Miss McDowell said on the way to St Albans Evans passed her his mobile phone so she could speak to Lee Sullivan.

“I said it was unlike Murray not to contact me if he had gone off somewhere. Lee said ‘Don’t worry he’ll be back and if we find out anything we’ll let you know’.”

Rachel told the jury that by April 22 she had spoken to the police about Murray’s disappearance, but said she had been ‘nervous’ because of his involvement with the cannabis factory.

She said she had been afraid to tell the police about Evans and Sullivan.

In the days that followed she said she spoke to Sullivan again on the phone. “He started shouting at me about the police ringing him and I was s*** stirring and needed to shut up. So from that point I got very emotional and I got quite scared because that was the first time he was threatening and forceful over the phone,” she told the court.

Asked what she thought Sullivan had meant by telling her to shut up, she replied: “Not to let the police know what had been happening.”

During the trial the jury has been told that Murray, a courier driver with a company in Hemel Hempstead, worked as a ‘gardener’ at a number of cannabis factories set up in properties around Watford.

It was his job, along with Evans, to tend and feed the plants.

Sullivan is the man who the prosecution allege was the boss of the criminal enterprise.

The crown claim Evans murdered Murray and then disposed of the body so that it has never been found.

John Price QC, prosecuting, has told the court: “It is not possible to state how he died because his body has not been found.

“But whatever happened to Murray Thompson to cause his death in that flat, we do know it was something which caused him to shed a great deal of blood.

“Having killed Murray Thompson, it was James Evans who disposed of his body.”

The prosecutor said the motive for the killing was unknown, but it took place against a background of ‘serious, organised criminal activity involving the production for commercial supply of controlled drugs’.

The jury was told that following the murder, Evans and Sullivan took steps to close down the factory in St Albans Road and were involved in a cover up.

But the clearing of the flat happened only after a crop of skunk cannabis had been harvested, said Mr Price.

He said once that had happened equipment was removed from the flat along with carpets, and rooms were decorated and new carpets were put down.

The court was told that by May 8, 2010, detectives investigating Murray’s disappearance had found the flat, which still had a strong smell of cannabis.

Murray’s van, which he had driven to the factory, had been moved to another location, and Evans had scrapped his own Vauxhall Corsa because it had been used to transport the body away from the flat, the court heard.

In a statement read to the jury Murray’s mother Geraldine Woodstock, from Hemel Hempstead, said: “Murray gets on with everyone and is a free-spirited easy going young man.”

She said she last saw him on March 14, 2010, when he gave her some plants for Mother’s Day.

Evans, 23, of Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, denies murder, conspiracy to produce cannabis, and two counts of doing acts to pervert the course of justice.

Sullivan, 47, of Hudson Road, Watford, denies perverting the course of justice and four charges of intimidating a witness. He has pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce cannabis.