Two men found guilty of Michael Griffiths' murder

  • 1 April 2014
  • From the section England
Michael Griffiths
Image caption Michael Griffiths was known to have diamonds worth £40,000 at his home in Fernhurst

Two men have been found guilty of murdering a jeweller who was tortured in a burglary at his home.

The body of 59-year-old Michael Griffiths was found after a fire at the house in Old Glebe, Fernhurst, West Sussex, on 24 January last year.

Hove Crown Court was told firefighters first thought he was disabled and had been unable to escape the blaze.

He was found lying against the front door with his legs and hands tied together with cables.

Mr Griffiths also had serious head injuries.

Harvey Munford, 23, of Monks Way, Staines, and Zack Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines, were both found guilty of murder.

The pair pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and perverting the course of justice. They were sentenced to life, with a minimum of 32 years.

Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 26 years.

Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, Damian Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, and John Bartholomew, 72, of Cross Street, Portsmouth, were all found not guilty of murder.

However, Rudder was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle and sentenced to three years. And Krafft, who had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle, was also sentenced to three years.

Destroy the evidence

Image caption Harvey Munford and Zack Cowdrey denied murdering Michael Griffiths

Prosecutor Christine Laing told the six-week trial Mr Griffiths had a jewellery workshop and also worked at auction houses where it was common knowledge he had two diamonds at home worth about £40,000.

She said he was tortured and killed by burglars who tried to get him to open his safe but he had refused.

The house was set on fire to destroy the evidence.

Convicted burglar Penton admitted he planned the burglary and brought in other people to help but he told the jury he had been committing burglaries for 25 years and had never used violence.

He said on the night of the burglary he parked nearby while two other defendants were taken to the house.

He said he was later told there was a fight and Mr Griffiths had had a heart attack.

Image caption The pair set fire to the house hoping to destroy the evidence
Image caption Mr Griffths' body was found behind the front door of his home after the fire

Det Ch Insp Jeff Riley said the gang were responsible for several burglaries across Sussex and Surrey.

He said: "Michael was deliberately targeted by this ruthless gang of criminals for the contents of his life's work.

"They went to extraordinary lengths: they did research on the internet to locate him, they conducted reconnaissance on his home making a number of trips to Fernhurst, they also attempted to force their way in by purporting to be police officers on the day preceding his death.

"The issue for them was that they needed Michael to be present so that they could gain access to the contents of his safe."

'Cruel and calculated'

A statement released by Mr Griffiths' family said: "There are no words to describe the effect of losing Michael has had on the family, especially his two brothers.

"The cruel and calculated way in which his life was taken has mentally affected our lives and not one day goes by without the thought of what terrible injuries were inflicted upon him just over a year ago on that long night in January.

"We will never come to terms with this family tragedy."

The six defendants were on trial for multiple offences:

  • Penton denied murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but admitted conspiracy to commit three burglaries, including the one at Mr Griffiths' home.
  • Rudder denied murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle a home in Loxwood, West Sussex.
  • Krafft denied murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
  • Cowdrey denied murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths' home.
  • Bartholomew denied murder and conspiracy to commit three burglaries.
  • Munford denied murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but admitted conspiracy to burgle three homes.

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