Coroner rules Joy Morgan death 'unlawful killing' but finds no cause at inquest

Joy Morgan's body was discovered in woodland near Stevenage. 

Joy Morgan's body was discovered in woodland near Stevenage. - Credit: Matt Margesson/Herts police

Today, the inquest of Joy Morgan has ruled that it was an "unlawful killing" after the University of Hertfordshire student was found dead in a wood near Stevenage.

The hearing at Hertfordshire Coroners Court in Hatfield also heard that the midwifery student, who was last seen in December 2018, had no blunt or sharp force trauma to the body.  

A dog walker eventually found her wrapped in bin bags, bound up with gaffer tape,  and covered with a mound of logs in Norton Green, and she was identified through DNA testing in October 2019 after her murderer Shohfah-El Israel was jailed in August of that year. 

Even after being jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years, Israel from North London refused to reveal the location of her body. 

A police dog search team search an area of Norton Green for any sign of missing University of Hertfo

A police dog search team search an area of Norton Green for any sign of missing University of Hertfordshire student Joy Morgan back in 2019. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

The inquest also heard there was no evidence of compression to the neck and associated bruising and pinpoint haemorrhages consistent with strangulation, or any evidence of sexual assault.

Pathologist Charlotte Randall said there was damage to the hyoid bone in the neck, but could not rule out this being due to the body’s state of decomposition.

Samples taken from Ms Morgan’s liver and muscles revealed the presence of the party drug MDMA in her system, although it was impossible to determine the amount.

Hatfield student Joy Morgan. Picture: Herts police

Hatfield student Joy Morgan. Picture: Herts police - Credit: Archant

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Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins said there was no evidence to indicate the devout Christian would have voluntarily or knowingly taken illegal drugs.

Ms Jenkins, of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, added: “She was a churchgoer, there is nothing to suggest [she took drugs] at all.

“We did however find MDMA in Israel’s car, and it is likely that he was responsible for giving her these drugs.”

Dr Randall said the post-mortem examination could not rule out suffocation as a cause of death, potentially following milder blunt force trauma to the head that may have rendered her unconscious.

Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “[The MDMA] is not something that she would have taken and one can’t exclude that she was given that and it in some way rendered her incapable or unconscious.”

Recording a conclusion of unlawful killing, he said Ms Morgan’s disappearance and the efforts to conceal her body “strongly suggest her death was caused by the actions of another person”.

She was a committed member of the Israel United in Christ Church in Ilford, east London, running several of its childcare groups and the sewing club.

And was last seen on Boxing Day 2018 after a celebratory dinner with the congregation, after which Israel and his wife offered her a lift home.

Israel, whose birth name is Ajibola Shogbamimu, claimed he dropped her off at her student accommodation in Hatfield.

Shohfah-El Israel has been found guilty of murdering Hatfield student Joy Morgan and been sentenced

Shohfah-El Israel was guilty of murdering Hatfield student Joy Morgan and been sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison. - Credit: Herts police

He later admitted he had spent two nights alone with the University of Hertfordshire student in his flat in Cricklewood, north-west London.

The family home he shared with his wife and children was in Luton, the court heard.

But Israel claimed his lies were due to concerns about having broken church rules banning women from being alone with men other than their husbands.

During his trial, Reading Crown Court heard that a signal from Ms Morgan’s phone, which has never been found, was detected in Israel’s car in the Stevenage area on December 28, 2018.

Police want to hear from anyone who has information about this red Honda vehicle, which belongs to t

Joy Morgan's car - Credit: supplied by Herts Police

The keys to her accommodation were discovered in the footwell of his car after his arrest in February 2019.

In a message sent in March 2018 Israel told Ms Morgan she was an “amazing princess” and “a treasure that cannot be measured”.

Israel claimed he saw her as a daughter and she had told him she wanted to leave the church.

But in a video taken less than two weeks before she went missing, she described the church as “the best family that I’ve ever had”.

She was eventually reported missing by her mother Carol on February 7 after she was contacted by the student accommodation provider to say she had fallen behind on her rent.

A picture from the service. Picture: Fiona Souter

Uni of Herts' tributes to Joy Morgan - Credit: Fiona Souter

After Israel’s conviction, Carol Morgan appealed to him to tell her where he had hidden the body, pleading with him to “give my baby back”.

Speaking after the inquest, she described her daughter as “an amazing person”, adding: “She’s been cremated, I haven’t decided where to put her ashes so at the moment she’s still at home with me.”

Herts police said in 2019 that there would be "no further implications" for El-Israel after Joy's body was found. 

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