London Homicides 2013 – Review

Homicides in London have increased year-on-year for the first time since murdermap launched in 2010.

As it stands we have counted 108 victims for 2013 compared to 100 in 2012.

Taking a more detailed look at the figures, the most striking change is in the percentage of female victims – up to 37 per cent of the total (39 out of 108) compared to around 23 per cent in previous years (e.g. 23 out of 100 in 2012) .


Here’s a chart showing the changes in weapon type compared to the overall total of homicides over the last six years.

In terms of borough by borough totals, Hackney has the most at eight, followed by Ealing, Newham, Lambeth and Enfield on seven and Islington and Croydon on six.

NOTE: This post has been updated as new cases come to light.

On 16 January 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Paula Newman in New Addington in November 2013 (previously categorised as a suspicious death).

On 8 February 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Shenol Shevka-Ahmed in January 2013. (Health and Safety at Work investigation)

On 7 March 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Amani Abdi in October 2013 (previously causing or allowing the death of a child).

On 11 March 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Ellie Butler in October 2013 (previously classed as unexplained/suspicious).

In June 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Mark Haley, who spent two years in a coma before dying in August 2013.

In July 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Ram Gharu in July 2013.

On 12 July 2014 it was updated to remove the death of Zbigniew Michniewicz, whose death was found to be due to drug abuse rather than an assault.

On 29 July 2014 it was updated to add the manslaughter of Sylwester Mendzelewski, who died in a fire in a derelict building in Croydon.

In October 2014 it was updated to include the death of Oliver Farrell, who was hit by a car in Islington.

Unsolved Murders in London: 2013

These six London murder cases from 2013 remain unsolved. Can you help? Call the police, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Joseph Burke-Monerville, 19, was shot dead in a suspected case of mistaken identity in Clapton on 16 February 2013. The teenager, a forensic science student at the London Metropolitan University, was sitting in a parked car with two of his brothers in Hindrey Road. At around 8.20pm a gunman approached the car with a second suspect before opening fire. Joseph was hit in the head and died at 11.20pm after being airlifted to hospital. His older brother David, 33, was shot in the arm. Joseph’s twin brother Jonathon, 20, was unharmed. Three men were charged with murder but the case was dropped in May 2015. An inquest heard evidence the shooting was part of a feud between the Amhurst Road (A-Road) gang and rivals from the Pembury estate. Call the incident room on 020 8345 3982

Yassin Omar Mohammed,  28, died at a care home on 14 May 2013, four years after he was left paralysed from the neck down as the result of being hit over the head with a bottle. He had been attacked in Greenhill Road, Wembley, as he made his way home from a party at around 3am on 1 April 2009. A special postmortem found the cause of his death was bronchial pneumonia linked to the spinal injuries he suffered during the assault. Prior to his death, police charged a man with GBH but the suspect was acquitted.

Surjeet Singh, 23, was stabbed in the neck during a brawl at a fairground in Southall Park, Southall, on 26 August, 2013. His killer has never been identified. Seven men were charged with conspiracy to commit GBH but they were all acquitted after a trial at Isleworth Crown Court in April 2014.

The body of Damian Chlywka, aged around 30, was found in a well in the garden of 11a Audley Drive, Warlingham, Croydon, on 15 November 2013. He had last been seen alive in March 2011. A postmortem revealed he had suffered multiple broken bones. In 2015 an inquest recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Antonio Rodney-Cole, 22, was stabbed to death in Stoke Newington on 2 December 2013. Detectives believe he was attacked in Oldfield Road but managed to get in his car and drive to Marton Road before collapsing. The cause of death was a stab wound to the leg. Five men were arrested during the investigation but nobody was charged.

Rowan Thomas-Williams, 20, was shot dead after spending the evening celebrating a friend’s birthday on 6 December 2013. Detectives believe he was attacked near an address in Mulberry Court in Neasden, northwest London, at around 1.30am, when residents reported hearing gunshots. Rowan was taken to hospital by friends but it did not have an accident and emergency department and an ambulance had to be called. Police were alerted about his injuries just before 2am. He was pronounced dead at 9.40am and a postmortem confirmed the cause of death as gunshot wound to the chest. Rowan’s mother Ruth Thomas said in a statement: “Rowan’s loss is not only felt by me, but also his father, his children and his younger sisters. Rowan was only a young man when his life was taken. Rowan had his whole life ahead of him. He was at the age where he wanted to build a future for himself and his children.” Contact the incident room on 020 8721 4805.

Homicide and Mental Illness

Following a series of stories about the number of people killed by mental health patients (1,200 in Britain in a decade, said The Sun), we decided to look at a single year in depth to illustrate the situation in London.

In 2011 there were a total of 119 homicides. Twelve out of those 119 (just under ten per cent) were killed by suspects who were genuinely suffering from a mental illness.

Here are a breakdown of the cases, followed by another nine cases where suspects claimed that their responsibility was diminished by mental illness but were convicted of murder.

Suspect was being treated for mental illness in the community:

Kasey Gordon, 15, was stabbed to death by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in January 2011. The killer was being treated while staying at a care home.

Badi Saleem, 35, was stabbed to death by a a paranoid schizophrenic in May 2011. The killer had been released from a secure hospital the previous year.

Sally Hodkin, 58, was stabbed to death in the street by Nicola Edgington in October 2011. Edgington was a diagnosed schizophrenic and attempted to admit herself to hospital shortly before the attack.

Carmel Charles, 20, was stabbed to death at her home in November 2011 by her partner Richard Henry, a diagnosed schizophrenic. He had stopped taking his medication after being discharged from hospital.

Suspect had undiagnosed/untreated mental illness:

Ram Bhasin, 80, and his lodger Sunil Koosuru, 29, were killed in a house fire started by Mr Bhasin’s son in March 2011. Aaron Bhasin had developed a mental illness after suffering a heart attack.

Clarence Larteh, 23, was stabbed to death in May 2011 by a man suffering from a mental disorder as a result of alcohol dependency.

Sarwat Malik, 60, was stabbed to death by her husband in June 2011. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after doctors said he was suffering from depression at the time of the attack, but had recovered by the time of trial and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

Mary Quinn, 81, was strangled by her son in June 2011. Thomas Quinn admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility (depression). The prosecution did not accept the plea but the jury cleared him of murder.

Umesh Chaudhary, 41, was battered to death with a brick by a complete stranger in July 6, 2011. The killer was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

Maymoun Zarzour, 39, was strangled in his office in September 2011. The killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Desbert Welsh, 50, was stabbed to death by his uncle Ezekiel McCarthy in November 2011. McCarthy pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility (dementia and acute alcohol delirium) and received a suspended sentence.

Suspect’s claims of mental illness rejected by the jury:

Wing Ho, 18, was stabbed to death by his younger brother Andy in January 2011. Andy Ho claimed his responsibility was diminished by mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Lorna Smith, 45, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of a split-personality / schizophrenia. He was convicted of murder.

Alan Smith, 63, was stabbed to death in March 2011. His killer claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of schizophrenia but was convicted of murder.

Zandra Maxwell-Nelson, 24, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in April 2011. He claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of his depression but was convicted of murder.

Alice Adams and Tibor Vass, both 20, were stabbed to death in August 2011. Killer Attila Ban claimed he was suffering from mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Sashana Roberts, 24, was stabbed to death by her former partner in September 2011. He claimed he suffered from a mental illness and heard voices telling him to kill her but was convicted of murder.

Charito Cruz, 37, was battered to death by her partner Asad Niazi in September 2011. Niazi claimed diminished responsibility (severe depression) and loss of control.

Richard Ward, 37, was beaten to death in Battersea by Cameron McFly, who claimed to be suffering from a borderline personality disorder.

Ruby Love, 23, was strangled and dumped in a canal by her boyfriend Manzar Juma in December 2011. Juma denied murder on the grounds of loss of control (previously known as ‘provocation’) and diminished responsibility (depression and personality disorder).

Fitness to Plead: The Pritchard Criteria

What happens when the suspect in a murder trial is unable to understand the trial process? And what has that got to do with a man accused of having sex with an animal in 1836?

In October 2012, 65 year-old Colin Hammond was stabbed to death in a street in Fulham, southwest London, by Frederic Russell, a 27 year-old Frenchman who had been in the country for only a few days. The two men were almost certainly complete strangers.

Russell had a history of paranoid schizophrenia but unlike other mentally ill defendants did not respond to treatment. By September 2013, psychiatrists agreed he was so unwell that he was not capable of even giving his lawyers instructions.

When this issue is raised by the prosecution or the defence, the judge has to decide whether the defendant is ‘fit to plead’ using the ‘Pritchard Criteria’, as set out in the case R v Pritchard from 1836.

That case involved a deaf and mute man accused of bestiality. As he could not speak, he was unable to plead ‘not guilty’ (although he could indicate this by a sign, having been educated at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum in London).

It was left to the jury to decide ‘whether he was sane or not’ – meaning whether he could understand the trial proceedings enough to mount a defence to the charge. The judge set out his own three points, which were later turned into the ‘Pritchard Criteria’.*

Under these criteria, the accused is unfit to plead if he or she is unable:

  • to comprehend the course of proceedings on the trial, so as to make a proper defence;
  • to know that he might challenge any jurors to whom he/she may object;
  • to comprehend the evidence; or to give proper instructions to his/her legal representatives

If the judge finds the defendant unfit to plead then a jury is asked to decide whether he ‘did the act’ or not (instead of guilty or not guilty). The defendant can then be detained under the Mental Health Act, put under a supervision and treatment order or given an absolute discharge (meaning no further action).

In the case of Frederic Russell, he was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act, meaning he can only be released when medical professionals find he is no longer a risk to the public. Theoretically, if his condition improves and he is found ‘fit to plead’ he can then be tried in the normal way (although the sentence is effectively the same).

*Pritchard was found unfit to stand trial and was locked up ‘during His Majesty’s Pleasure’ (His being William IV’s). The judge in R v Pritchard said he had adapted his three points from a similar case, R v Dyson, a few years earlier. Esther Dyson, 26, was accused of murdering her newborn baby daughter by cutting the infant’s head off with a knife at her home in Eccleshill, West Yorkshire. Dyson was both deaf and mute and unable to read or write. According to a report in the York Herald for 26 March 1831:

In consequence of the prisoner labouring under the infirmity of being born deaf and dub, the greatest interest was excited and the galleries were crowded on the opening of court… She is rather tall, and of slender make. She has light hair and complexion, and of rather a pleasing and pensive cast of feature. She was dressed in a  coloured silk bonnet, a light calico printed dress, and a red cloth cloak. She had the appearance of a respectable female in the lower walks of life.

The jury found she was ‘mute by the Visitation of God’ and could not understand the trial (even if she knew right from wrong).

CSI London: Bugs and Bodies

When the body of Leah Questin was found in a suitcase on farmland in Kent in September 2009, Metropolitan Police officers investigating her murder took a tip from CSI’s Gil Grissom and his fascination for bugs.

The activity of Blowflies and their eggs at the site of the corpse was crucial in working out approximately when Leah died. In this case it was some 12 days earlier. As a result the officers could focus on a narrower timeframe when it came to collecting crucial evidence including CCTV footage and mobile phone use and prioritising lines of enquiry.

It soon became clear that someone had been using Leah’s phone and withdrawing large sums of money from her account. Detectives quickly focused on the man she had recently met through the dating section of the Gumtree website: Clinton Bailey.

Bailey had killed the 37 year-old nurse after inviting her to his home in Brockley, southeast London, on 12 September 2009. And although the decomposition of her body prevented pathologists from working out the case of death, there was enough evidence to prove it was murder rather than accidental death.

The following year Bailey was jailed for life with a minimum of 30 years before parole.

This study of insects in connection with crime – forensic entomology – gained greater recognition thanks to the lead character in the US TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Gil Grissom’s fascination with bugs may have been creepy, but it often cracked a case that had foiled the human members of his team.

Forensic entomology can not only estimate the time since death, it can also provide evidence as to whether a victim has been stabbed or shot, whether their body has been moved from another location and the type of that location and whether there was a longer period of neglect or abuse before death.

Samples taken from insects that have fed on a body can also indicate what substances were present if the remains have decomposed too much to be analysed.

The insects in question include flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and moths. The most commonly used by forensic entomologists are blowflies, otherwise known as bluebottles and greenbottles. Blowflies are generally the first to arrive at a dead body and provide the most accurate means to estimate the minimum period since death.

After the eggs are laid by the female blowflies, they hatch into tiny larvae about a millimetre long which grow into maggots to feed on the body before moving away to turn into adult flies, leaving behind a brown case

The time intervals between each stage, and the size of the larvae allow the scientist to estimate the minimum time since death. However, when the body is placed in a zip-up bag – as in the case of Leah Questin – this timeframe is disrupted.

It was this issue which led MSc student Poulomi Bhadra to carry out a three-month experiment titled ‘Factors influencing accessibility of bodies to blowflies’ to determine how what delay can be caused by physical barriers like zip-up bags.

Chicken liver was placed in zipped containers of varying types and exposed to flies both in the laboratory and outdoors.

Commenting on her study, Poulomi Bhadra said: ‘The research itself has been so interesting; we have obtained some surprising results so far and there is much more to investigate.’

Her study is one of more than 100 research projects which have been carried out as part of the Metropolitan Police’s partnership with King’s College London since 2001.

No doubt her findings will be of use to the Met’s Evidence Recovery Unit and its staff of more than 100 forensic scientists and 400 crime scene examiners, who together investigate more than 11,000 crime scenes every month – that’s well over 132,000 a year.

The Unit is also responsible for blood pattern analysis, shoeprints, fingerpint enhancement, fibre analysis, crime reconstructions and DNA sampling.

Read the full case summary of the murder of Leah Questin