The murder of Joy Morgan: 'My sister's death showed me life is precious'

Joy Morgan
Image caption Joy Morgan was 20 when she was murdered

Dionne Morgan is standing by the cooker in her kitchen putting dumplings in a pan. She's trying to decide whether to have tuna or sardines with them for her dinner.

I ask her what the special ingredient is that she puts in her dumplings.

"Love," she replies.

I'm catching up with Dionne a year on from when her 20-year-old sister - Joy Morgan - was murdered.

Dionne says she's planning to travel to India to see the Taj Mahal this summer.

"Keep on pushing forward, never give up," she tells me. "Just enjoy life, because life is a precious thing, and as Joy showed me again it can be over just like that."

Image caption Dionne Morgan says she's "sorry" she was unable to protect Joy

Joy was last seen alive at an event at her church on Boxing Day 2018. In August last year, 40-year-old Shohfah-El Israel was convicted of her murder, but he wouldn't reveal where her body was.

Joy's body was finally discovered by a dog walker in October 2019, hidden in woodland in Stevenage - 10 months after she had gone missing.

I followed Joy's family over 12 months as they tried to make sense of what happened and why. Their story is told in a new Radio 1 Newsbeat podcast on BBC Sounds - The Murder of Joy Morgan.

Listen to the podcast

Hosted by Newsbeat's Cherry Wilson, our six-part podcast series follows Joy's family for months, as they try to make sense of what happened. Hear it at BBC Sounds.

In the year I spent with the family, one of the hardest things they'd had to deal with was not knowing where Joy's body was. Dionne, who lives in Battersea, south London, tells me about the moment she heard Joy had been found.

"I was hoping it was Joy, to be honest, but then you're hoping it's not Joy. Because in the part that wants to daydream, you want to still believe that maybe she's still out there. I felt sad again, because the reality hit me that she really is dead and that somebody murdered her.

"I think what gets me the most is that someone murdered her. If she would've died of cancer or been knocked over by a bus, I could've accepted it more. But to know that someone murdered and disposed of her like that, like she was nobody, when she was somebody.

"She was Joy Morgan. She was my sister."

Image copyright Morgan Family
Image caption Dionne with her sister Joy and brother Earl when they were kids

Joy and her killer were both members of a church called Israel United in Christ (IUIC). Dionne says she's "sick" of people saying her family didn't care about Joy because it took them six weeks to realise she was missing.

Her sister started distancing herself from her loved ones when she joined the church, she tells me.

"For all of those that think we didn't care about Joy, yes we did," Dionne says. "We loved Joy dearly. And the reason why we wasn't in contact is because Joy would be isolating herself to be with this church.

"We couldn't get through to her. I just left her to it in the end I was just like, 'She will come back around'. I believe she would've left the church, because she was better than all of that."

Image copyright Facebook / IUIC member
Image caption Joy had been a member of Israel United in Christ for nearly three years

Joy would've turned 22 on the 12 February, and later this year she would've graduated from university as a midwife.

"I'm gutted for her, I really am," says Dionne. "Every time I think about it, that's why I want to live life even more. Because my sister never got to live life.

"I always say, 'I'm sorry Joy'. I'm sorry I couldn't protect her, I'm sorry I couldn't be there for her and I'm sorry that she's not here to live her life."

Dionne is sad, but she's strong too.

"There's no time to be given up or stopping what you want to do. You just gotta go forward. I just want to travel as far as my legs can take me and as far as the planes can go."

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