William Bryan, 71, and Anne Castle, 74, had lived together at the flat on the Minerva estate in Bethnal Green, east London, for nearly five decades.
It was first occupied by Anne and her husband, who bought it together in 1943. Two years later William, who became ill after the Second World War and worked as a messenger in the City, moved in to stay with the couple.
In the years that followed Anne, who was employed as a cleaner at the Bethnal Green hospital and in a local bakery, raised five children. They in turn went on to give her 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Anne’s husband died in 1987 and she continued to live in the flat with her brother.
Just after 5pm on Sunday 22 August 1993, Anne left the flat to walk to the Clarion Social Club with a friend for their usual meeting. They left a few hours later, and Anne was back at her home by around 8.50pm.
It was William’s habit to prepare a coffee and a sandwich for Anne’s return.
At some point shortly afterwards the siblings were interrupted by a burglar, who may have either talked his way inside or forced his way in after knocking on the front door.
The intruder assaulted both victims and restrained William with his feet tied with his dressing gown cord and his hands bound using the strap from his binoculars.
As a result of the attack, Anne suffered a heart attack, while William went into cardiac arrest while being smothered.
One neighbour heard a woman screaming loudly at 9.30pm but saw nothing when he looked outside. Another said she could see movement in the lounge at around 11.30pm while a young boy reported being woken up by someone shouting “get out of here” several times.
The next day a neighbour called the police after noticing the lights were on and the balcony door was open, though nobody answered the door.
When officers arrived on Monday evening they used a ladder to access the balcony and found Anne slumped in an armchair in the lounge next to a half drunk coffee and half eaten sandwich. William was lying on his side on the floor. The cupboards and drawers were open and items were strewn across the carpet.
Several pieces of jewellery were missing, including two wedding bands and two diamond rings which had been removed from Anne’s fingers. A portable CD and casssette player had also been stolen. However the burglar had not found a total of £4,665 in cash which was hidden in several places around the flat.
Police also found a hammer and a screwdriver in the flat which may have been used to threaten the victims. Anne had several bruises on her arm suggestive of restraint while William had injuries consistent with blows to the head.
The Metropolitan Police said “significant inquiries” were made at the time, including examination of the scene and the gathering of witness accounts. Fingerprints and foot marks were found but no suspect was identified.
Six years later, in 1999, a partial DNA profile was obtained from the strap of the binoculars, again without identifying a suspect.
It was only in 2020, during a further review of the case involving more advanced forensic technology, that a DNA sample taken from beneath a knot in the strap was recovered and linked to Danville Neil.
Neil was 35 at the time of the killings and had already served an eight year prison sentence for two burglaries in south London in 1984. Both incidents involved assaults on female victims. He was released in 1992 but he continued to commit burglaries and his DNA profile was added to the national database.
He was arrested on 1 October 2020 during a search of his home in Lewisham. Then aged 63, he denied all knowledge of the incident, claiming he was only involved in buying and selling stolen goods and cannabis.
Neil, then aged 63, was arrested and charged with both murders. During his trial at the Old Bailey he continued to deny involvement and claimed his DNA might have ended up on the strap when he sold the binoculars to William Byran at a car boot sale.
The jury convicted him of the murder of William Bryan and the manslaughter of Anne Castle and on 25 November 2022 Neil was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 32 years before being considered for release on parole.
Detective Chief Inspector Joanna Yorke, of the Met’s Specialist Crime North Command, said: “We’ve never given up on this case. Thanks to the determination of my officers and efforts of forensic scientists we have been able to achieve justice for Anne and William, and their family who have waited 29 years for this day to come.
“Twenty nine years of not knowing how their loved ones died and who was responsible. That is a pain no one should have to endure and I just hope this result can bring them some small comfort and peace of mind. Their strength and composure throughout this trial is a testament to their values as a family, and I’m sure Anne and William would have been very proud.
“Conversely Neil is a callous and calculated individual, who has continued to deny any involvement in the incident despite the overwhelming forensic evidence against him. He entered the home of Anne and William that night intent on carrying out a burglary. The home they had shared for nearly 50 years. But it was not enough for him to just invade their home and steal from them. Instead he killed them during a violent and heartless attack. I am thankful that he is now out of harm’s way where he belongs.”
Anne’s daughters, Janice and Cynthia, said: “Our mother spent her whole life in east London where she raised her five children, who went on to give her 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
“She was the most wonderful loving and caring mother and grandmother who was thoughtful in every way. She always put everyone before herself and was a great pillar of the community – well loved and respected by all who knew her.
“When her brother Billy became ill after the war, our parents brought him to live with us and they both cared and looked after him with the greatest of attention. He remained living with Mum until that dreadful day. The fear they must have experienced will never leave us. Uncle Billy was a kind-hearted, thoughtful and generous uncle to all the family. Always happy and so grateful for how he had been looked after.”