24 January 2013
FIRE SERVICE REPORT Call Ref: 15382
Location: HOUSE - OLD GLEBE, FERNHURST
Incident: FIRE FATAL
Emergency services were called by neighbours, who were alerted by their smoke alarm, to a fire at a semi-detached house in Old Glebe, Fernhurst.
A man who is believed to be the 59-year old sole occupant was found in the building by the fire service but was sadly certified dead at the scene soon afterwards
The house was seriously damaged but there was no fire damage to adjoining premises.
One neighbouring house was affected by smoke but nobody else, other than the deceased, was injured.
The full circumstances are in the course of being established, and at present the cause is being treated as unexplained.
Divisional detectives, police scenes of crime officers, and fire service investigators are currently at the scene. Next of kin are being informed
WrL x2 Haslemere, WrL x2 Midhurst, FIO
25 January 2013
UPDATE - POLICE report - Ref: PR41517 / 2013
Time: Friday 25 Jan. 13:15
Incident: Murder enquiry launched into Fernhurst fire death
Officers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team have launched a murder investigation into the death of a man in a fire in a house in Fernhurst on Thursday, January 24.
The man has not been formally identified, but is believed to be 59-year-old Michael Griffiths who lived at the house in Old Glebe, was found dead inside by the door of his home by firefighters who were called to the scene at 7.42am.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley who is leading the investigation said: "When police and fire investigators were able to enter the property, it was established that Mr Griffiths's body had been lying by the front door, blocking entry and forcing firefighters to remove the door to get in. On Thursday evening we were advised by our fire service colleagues that there was a suspicious seat of fire near a window in the lounge at the rear of the property. Additionally, a couple of windows appeared to have been opened before the fire took hold. We are now treating Mr Griffiths's death as suspicious and a murder investigation has now commenced. A post mortem will be carried out in Chichester on Friday afternoon.
"In the meantime, detectives and local police officers will be talking to neighbours and others in the area. If you have any information that you feel may be relevant or are concerned about what has happened, please feel free to talk to them."
It is understood that Mr Griffiths lived alone at the house and there was nobody else in the property at the time of the fire.
26 January 2013
UPDATE - POLICE report - Ref: PR41524 / 2013
Time: Friday 25 Jan. 13:15
Incident: Fernhurst fire death victim had been seriously assaulted
A man whose body was found in a burning house in Fernhurst had been seriously assaulted before his death.
Michael Griffiths, 59, was found by firefighters who were called to his home in Old Glebe on Thursday morning. A post mortem carried out by a Home Office pathologist on Friday has not yet established the cause of death and further tests are being carried out. Detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team are conducting a murder enquiry and believe that Mr Griffiths may have been specifically targeted.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley, who is leading the enquiry, said: "On Thursday evening, fire investigators advised us that they were suspicious of a seat of fire close to a lounge window at the rear of the house. Smoke patterns on a couple of the windows suggest that they were open when the fire broke out.
"The post mortem has revealed that Mr Griffiths suffered serious injuries to his head and body, but at this stage it is not possible to firmly conclude that they were the cause of his death. Tests are now being carried out to establish how he died.
"Michael was a well-known and popular local man who was a talented jewellery designer and maker and was an enthusiastic antiques buyer and seller. I am considering that this may have led to he, or at least his home, being specifically targeted and this forms one of our main lines of enquiry at this time. There is no doubt that we are dealing with a murder and I would appeal to everyone in Fernhurst's close-knit community to think about anything suspicious or just out of the ordinary in the days leading up to the fire and especially the time between 6.30 and 8am on Thursday morning, to give us a call.
"Were you walking, driving or working in the area and saw people who you didn't know or unfamiliar vehicles, maybe parked up? We'd like to hear from anyone, no matter how insignificant you may think your information is. We do know that Michael had a couple of callers at around 8.25pm on Tuesday evening, 22 January, who threw snowballs when he answered from an upstairs window. This may well have been an innocent prank, but we would also like to hear from them or anyone else who experienced a similar thing. Scenes of crime officers and forensic investigators are now examining the house closely and will continue to do so for a few days. Their task is not made any easier by the damage caused by the fire and some of the upstairs areas need to be made safe before they are able to carry out their work.
POLICE report - Ref: PR41544 / 2013
Date Added- 29 January 2013 12:49
Location: Old Glebe, Fernhurst
Incident: Fernhurst murder - drivers and walkers to be questioned
Detectives investigating the murder of 59-year-old Michael Griffiths at Fernhurst will be questioning walkers and drivers in the area on Wednesday and Thursday mornings January 30-31.
Police officers will be talking to anyone around Mr Griffiths's home in Old Glebe between 6.30am and 8pm, the time when the fire that seriously damaged the house, in which his body was found, is thought to have broken out.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said: "We are hoping that by talking to people who regular use the roads and footpaths around Michael's house, we might nudge someone's memory about something that just wasn't quite normal or usual. That might be someone they didn't recognise, an unfamiliar car parked nearby or just an item or event that may now seem suspicious."
Mr Griffiths's body was discovered by firefighters who attended the blaze. A post mortem revealed that he had suffered serious injuries to his head and body, but it has not been possible to confirm that they were the cause of his death. Further tests are now being carried out.
Someone, somewhere has vital information that will lead Police to Michael's killer.
No matter how insignificant you may think it is please call.
Contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Killick or talk to one of our officers in the area.
If you would prefer not to talk to Police directly, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
POLICE report - Ref: PR42571 / 2013
Date Added- 11 June 2013
Incident: Six people are arrested in relation to Michael Griffith's murder in Fernhurst
Detectives have arrested six people in relation to the murder of Michael Griffiths in Fernhurst.
Michael Griffiths, 59, was found dead following a fire at his home on 24 January. The jewellery designer and antique buyer had been seriously assaulted before his death. Five men and a woman were arrested by the Surrey & Sussex Major Crime Team in relation to this investigation.
Three men from Sunbury, aged 53 and two aged 43; a 23-year-old from Staines and a man, aged 27, from Shepperton have been arrested for murder, conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. A woman, aged 39, from Shepperton, has been arrested for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They are currently in custody and helping police with their inquiries.
POLICE report - Ref: PR42586 / 2013
Date Added- 12 June 2013
Incident: Five people charged with the murder of Michael Griffiths
Five people have been charged with the murder of Michael Griffiths in Fernhurst.
Michael Griffiths, 59, was found dead following a fire at his home on 24 January. The jewellery designer and antique buyer had been seriously assaulted before his death.
Gary King, 52 of Broadstairs Road, Broadstairs, Kent, Simon Penton, 42 of Markway, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, Harvey Munford, 22 of Monks Way, Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex, Kerry Rudder, 42 of Markway, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex and Damian Krafft, 26 of High Street, Shepperton, Middlesex have all been charged with the murder of Michael Griffiths, conspiracy to commit a burglary with intent to steal and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Rebecca Rogers, 39 of Pool End Close, Shepperton, Middlesex has been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
They will all appear at Worthing Magistrates Court on Thursday [13 June]
Thursday 13 June - update
The six people charged in relation with the murder of Michael Griffiths have been remanded in custody and will appear again at Lewes Crown Court on Monday 17 June.
POLICE report - Ref: PR42930 / 2013
19 July 2013
Incident: Two further people charged in relation to the murder of Michael Griffiths
Two further people have been arrested and charged in relation with the murder of Michael Griffiths at his home in Fernhurst.
John Bartholomew, 71, of Cross Street, Portsmouth, was due to appear at Crawley Magistrates on 19 July charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit a burglary, including at Michael Griffiths home in Old Glebe.
Zack Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines in Surrey, was arrested on 9 July and charged on 10 July with three offences- the murder of Michael Griffiths, conspiracy to burgle at Old Glebe and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Monday 15 July and was remanded in custody to re appear at Lewes Crown Court with the other defendants charged in relation to the murder of Michael Griffiths on 23 September. Cowdrey was the seventh person to be charged in relation to this investigation.
23 September 2013 - BBC update
Michael Griffiths death: Cases against two dropped
Monday 17 February 2014 - Hove Crown Court
After spending the evening with a close friend, Michael Griffiths arrived home at 11.30 to find that burglars were already in his home. He was tortured in an attempt to find £40,000 worth of diamonds thought to be in his home safe - but which were later found concealed in compartments inside 2 vacuum flasks, Hove Crown Court heard today.
Seven people are on trial in connection with Mr. Griffiths murder.
None have pleaded guilty to the murder.
The court case is expected to last up to 2 months.
Three guilty of Fernhurst killing
Date Added 01 April 2014 15:26
Police Reference PR45025/2014
Two men have been found guilty of the murder of Michael Griffiths in Fernhurst and another has been found guilty of his manslaughter.
At Hove Crown Court today, April 1, Zac Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines, and Harvey Munford, 23, of Monks Way, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, who had both offered an alternative plea to manslaughter, were found guilty of murder.
Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury-on Thames, was found guilty of manslaughter.
John Bartholomew, 72, of Portsmouth, Damien Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, Middlesex and Kerry Rudder, 43, of Markway, Sunbury-on-Thames, were found not guilty of murder.
Munford and Penton also pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Cowdrey also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Kerry Rudder was also found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to burgle, but was cleared on two other counts and also cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Damien Krafft also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to burgle and was found not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
John Bartholomew was also found not guilty of three counts of conspiracy to burgle.
Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Shepperton, who had faced one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, was found not guilty.
Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley, who led the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team hunt for Michael's killers, said : "I am extremely pleased that those responsible for the brutal murder of Michael Griffith have now been rightly convicted. I hope that this will in some small way help his family and friends come to terms with their loss and my thoughts and those of my colleagues are with them at this time. The investigation into his death was difficult and complex. It was made even more so by the cold and calculated attempts of those responsible to destroy any available forensic evidence by means of fire.
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.
Timeline of how Police
tracked them down
The issue for them was that they needed Michael to be present so that they could gain access to the contents of his safe.
However, Michael was not easy to fool so they then had to adapt their plan by targeting his home whilst he was out and laying in wait for his return. He was then subjected to a prolonged and serious assault that ended in him losing his life. He was callously left tied up by those responsible, not caring if he was still alive or dead.
The group then left Fernhurst and over the next 24 hours set about disposing and destroying any items that could link them to the scene, including clothing, mobile phones and even a motor vehicle used to transport them. They then plotted to return and destroy any remaining evidence by pouring petrol over the crime scene including Michael's body before setting fire to it.
The investigation uncovered that members of this gang were responsible for a series of burglaries across Surrey and Sussex. A number of these burglaries were conducted in the months following Michael's death.
Rarely have I witnessed such callous disregard for life. During the trial, absolutely no remorse was shown by any members of the group for their shocking behaviour and actions.
Michael was a well-loved and popular figure in Fernhurst and his death has left a hole in the lives of his family, friends and neighbours. I hope that the verdict by this jury will give them some peace and a sense that justice has been done."
Sentencing is taking place on this afternoon, April 1.
The two found guilty of killing Michael Griffiths were given life sentences.
The jury found Zack Cowdrey, 23, and Harvey Munford, 23, guilty of murder and the judge served them both life sentences of 32 years. Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, was found guilty of manslaughter and was given a sentence of 26 years in prison, but will be able to apply for parole after he has served 13 years.
His partner, Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle two homes and was given a sentence of 3 years in prison.
When sentencing, Judge Michael Lawson QC said :
"No-one could fail to be shocked by the details in this case and the inhumanity of Penton, Munford and Cowdrey.
What happened was a sickening display of utter callousness.
You three were proud of your skills as burglars and despite claiming to know the devastation it causes, you continued on a daily basis.
You show no remorse and plead guilty only to those offences you know the crown can prove.
Kerry Rudder, you have been living on the proceeds of burglaries for many years. You were a trusted member of the team and you obviously share the same values.
Penton is a prolific burglar. The death of Mr Griffiths seems to have passed you all unnoticed.
There was a plan to cause harm to him. This was not a burglary that had gone wrong, but a burglary where Michael Griffiths was to return, be over powered, and have pressure imposed upon him.
Penton, you made sure you had at least two fit young men available to quickly over-power Mr Griffiths upon his return home.
He was stunned immediately and hog-tied in the most undignified fashion, so that force could be exerted on him. He was tied up, beaten and strangled with his own neck tie.
We do not expect any genuine expression of remorse. No time was wasted in returning to the house to destroy any evidence.
There was a terrifying fire and so concerned were you with your own safety you gave no thought to the neighbours in the adjoining house. Had it not been for the dogged persistence of Sussex police, you might have escaped justice.
Munford and Cowdrey, the only sentence is one of life. There was a degree of violence and humiliation and the attempt to destroy Mr Griffiths home while he lay in the corner.
Penton, I am satisfied a sentence of life is justified. You directed this offence, planning and recruiting. You were an integral party in the destruction of evidence. You were ready to have Michael Griffiths subjected to violence."
Mr Griffiths' family have issued the following statement-
"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.
Michael loved life in his own way, working with jewellery and antiques, and he was extremely talented in producing one-off designs for people. He was very happy socialising with the community in Fernhurst.
We will never come to terms with this family tragedy. Unfortunately we now live in a world of greed and violence and no sentence for this violent crime will ever be enough for the people who were involved. Perhaps they could imagine the pain if it were to happen to one of their own family?
Our thanks go out to Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley and his team who investigated this crime initially with very little evidence, but spared no expense or determination in the painstaking research to follow up on the minute detail to bring this case to prosecution.
Our thanks go out as well to QC Christine Laing and her team who handled the case with heartfelt dignity and in a very professional manner."
"Michael we miss you, God Bless."
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