On the evening of Monday 8 May 1994 David Koppel was becoming increasingly worried about his 39-year-old wife Marina.

Unusually, he had not been able to reach her by phone that day. So at 9pm he left his home in Northampton and drove all the way into central London to visit her flat near Baker Street, Marylebone, in the City of Westminster.

Marina Koppel, nee May, in 1994

He arrived at the Flat in York Mansions in Chiltern Street at about 11.30. As he went through each room he found his wife lying on the floor of the second bedroom, wrapped in bedding.

She had been stabbed at least 140 times to the neck, chest and back, and her blood could be seen splashed over the floor, the bedding, the furniture and the walls.

Marina also had knife injuries to her arms and hands, which suggested she had attempted to fend off the blows during the attack.

David Koppel immediately called police, who began a murder investigation.

Detectives established that Marina, a colombian national, had moved into the flat two weeks before her death and used it to see clients while working as a masseuse offering sexual services.

Her husband, who had married her in 1983 after meeting her in a casino, was aware of the arrangement. He told police that her clients were usually well-to-do professionals and businessman and that her usual rate was £80 (roughly around £250 in 2024). She would usually stay at the flat during the week and stay with her husband in Northampton at weekends.

So was the killer one of her clients? Or was robbery the motive? One clue was that Marina’s bank card was stolen from her flat and used at a cash point to withdraw cash shortly after the murder, and several times in the next two days, having somehow gained knowledge of her PIN.

Other evidence recovered from the scene were Marina’s ring and a brown plastic shopping bag.

Inside Marina’s flat in York Mansions

A fingerprint found on the bag was identified as belonging to Sandip Patel, then 21, who worked at his father’s shop named “Sherlock Holmes News” in Baker Street.

However the bag in question was from the shop and therefore it could be argued that finding his fingerprint on it was not unexpected. As a result he was not treated as a suspect and the police investigation failed to make any further headway for more than a decade.

Sandip Patel as he would have appeared in 1994

Sadly David Koppel died in 2005 before further crucial evidence was identified.

When the evidence was re-examined in 2008, a single hair was found stuck to Marina’s ring. However it was not until 2022 when scientists were able to use new techniques to obtain a DNA profile from it.

When the profile was run through the database it came up with a match to Patel, whose DNA had been added to the database as a result of a conviction for actual bodily harm in September 2013 after he punched his girlfriend.

Sandip Patel on his arrest in 2023

When Patel, 51 (26.08.1972), of Queens Court, Finchley Road, NW8, was arrested he told police that he had no recollection of Marina Koppel or her flat. “I have no idea how my fingerprint came to be on this carrier bag or how a hair of mine was present,” he said in interivew.

Experts were also able to link Patel to the print of a bare left foot in blood on a skirting board at the crime scene.

The bloody footprint was matched to Patel’s left foot

He was rearrested and charged with murder in March 2023. This time he answered no comment to questions.

Patel was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey on 15 February 2024 following a trial at the Old Bailey.

At the sentencing hearing the following day, the prosecutor argued the murder bore some of the hallmarks of a sadistic and a sexually-motivated killing, and suggested it was a killing for financial gain given the use of the bank card.

The judge, Mr Justice Cavanagh, said he could not be sure there was a financial motive, or that it involved “sadistic conduct”, or that it was motivated by sexual conduct. However he said he had a “strong suspicion” that Patel killed Marina “because of shame and embarrassment at your sexual performance”.

It is clear that you had been admitted to Ms Koppel’s flat as a client. I have no doubt that you had taken your clothes off in the bedroom. Your bare feet made marks on the skirting board. Also, when she was found, Ms Koppel was wearing lace underwear and stockings and nothing else. This shows that you were involved in sexual activity with Ms Koppel, or had intended to be involved in sexual activity with her.

There is nothing to suggest that you went to the flat with the intention of murdering Ms Koppel: you went there to avail yourself of her sexual services. There is no evidence that you had taken a decision to stab Ms Koppel before you arrived at the flat. There was a search for the murder weapon but it was never found, so you certainly took the knife away with you, but the evidence showed that the murder weapon had a singled-sided blade of the sort that is found on a kitchen knife. The likelihood is that the knife that you used came
from Ms Koppel’s kitchen. Therefore, whilst I cannot be sure that you brought a knife to the scene, I can be sure that at some stage you left the bedroom to obtain a knife and then went back into the bedroom to assault Ms Koppel.

Sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Cavanagh

Patel was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 19 years before parole, on the basis of the sentencing regime that applied at the time of the murder. (The judge said that a minimum term of 24 years would have applied to the crime if it was committed under regime as it applied at sentencing in 2024).

Marina Koppel, our sister-in-law, was an extremely bright, highly intelligent and charismatic person, who saw good in her family and all people she met. She wanted to give them everything they needed, especially her two children and nephew who grew up in Columbia.

Her family and friends would have been in a much better place because of her abundance of energy for life had she not died. Marina was a daughter, a sister, a mother, a loving aunt, a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law who was much loved by all of us as she loved all of us.

Had Marina lived, all of the lives of her family and friends would have been enriched and further evolved. We have all suffered these many, many years because we lost Marina so early in life

Marina’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Mary and Martin Koppel, speaking in 2024

After the verdict, Detective Superintendent Katherine Goodwin, Head of the Specialist Casework team for Central Specialist Crime said: “It is extremely sad that her husband did not live to see this day.

“Even though Patel has been convicted for the brutal murder of Marina, we may never know the reasons for his actions on that day. Unsolved murder cases are never closed and it is due to the developments of forensic techniques we have been able to identify the suspect for this barbaric crime.”

Dan Chester, the Met’s forensic lead for cold case homicide investigations, said unsolved historic murders c”an be among some of the most complex and challenging cases for police to solve.”

He added: “This was a great team effort with the forensic scientists, fingerprint experts, the forensic manager and the investigating team all playing their part in solving Marina’s murder.

“Forensic techniques and technologies are constantly evolving, and the police will continue to review serious unsolved cases and, where possible, pursue new opportunities to enable both the prosecution of those responsible and to exonerate the innocent.”

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