Student murder trial case summed up ahead of jury retiring

PUBLISHED: 17:42 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 30 July 2019

Hatfield student Joy Morgan. Picture: Herts police

Hatfield student Joy Morgan. Picture: Herts police

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The prosecution and defence have been summing up their cases in court, ahead of the jury retiring to decide whether a Hatfield midwifery student was murdered by a member of her church.

Shohfah-El Israel, from Cricklewood in North London, is accused of killing University of Hertfordshire student Joy Morgan - with prosecutors saying he killed her over the Christmas period after the pair attended a celebration at the Israel United in Christ church in Ilford, East London, on Boxing Day last year.

Prosecutor Mark Fenhalls QC stressed her only keys to her home were found in the footwell of the distinctive red Honda car driven by Mr Israel, but detectives have been unable to find any DNA or forensic evidence.

Mr Fenhalls told the jury that the defendant killed Ms Morgan between December 26 and December 30 last year when she was 20 years old, but her body had remained undiscovered, the method used to kill her unknown and little trace of her found since December 27.

He said that there remained no forensic evidence or DNA to help the jury navigate the mystery of her disappearance and her alleged murder.

Ms Morgan was mysteriously removed from a group chat on WhatsApp-style platform Telegram chat on December 28, the jury was told, prompting surprise and concern among other members at the church congregation, after the IUIC had become her second home after strained relationships with her family.

In the days after she vanished a number of people tried to track her down at her home, but any attempts went unanswered and phone communications unread.

Mr Fenhalls said Mr Israel himself attended one visit on December 29 - in an attempt the cover his tracks - but he sparked suspicion among officers when he was interviewed during police enquiries, although not initially as a suspect.

The prosecutor said that Mr Israel told officers he had dropped his wife back at home before driving Ms Morgan back to her university address in Aviation Avenue, Hatfield, following a church celebration on Boxing Day.

He told officers she was using her phone to talk to someone on WhatsApp when he was dropping her back off in Hatfield, and then went on to Crickelwood alone. However, the jury heard he was challenged about this account and asked about phone data that suggested his and Ms Morgan's phone in fact went to Cricklewood on December 26 - which contradicted his initial clam that he had left at her home.

Mr Israel then changed his account, and claimed that Ms Morgan did go to Cricklewood with him just after midnight in the early hours of December 27, but said she slept on the sofa, the jury heard.

He said she stayed for two nights and that he drove her back to Hatfield around 7pm on December 28 - the last time he had seen her, 36 hours after they went to Cricklewood.

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After Mr Israel was freed on bail following days of police interview, two keys were found in the footwell of his red and black Honda car. The set were the only keys Ms Morgan owned to her home and bedroom, the jury was told.

Giving evidence last week, Israel admitted that he had allowed an "upset" Ms Morgan to stay at his Cricklewood home after the event.

The pair watched videos, ate dinner out and discussed issues affecting their church on December 27 and 28, the jury heard.

Mr Israel said that during their conversations, Ms Morgan revealed she was "leaving the church" that he said had been hit by "controversy".

He explained that after the church dinner, the plan had been to leave Ms Morgan with his wife at their home in Luton, before he went to stay at his other home in Cricklewood.

On December 26, Ms Morgan asked to be taken to her accommodation in Hatfield instead, Mr Israel told the court.

He said he drove her there and on arrival she started "crying" and said she was "leaving".

Ms Morgan then asked to stay at Cricklewood instead, but Mr Israel said it was not a good idea.

"I was already breaking the church rule by dropping her off," he told the court.

But Mr Israel said he allowed her to stay at Cricklewood that night because she was "upset".

He described the student as "100 per cent part of the family" who was like a "daughter" and frequently stayed at both properties.

Mr Israel, of Fordwych Road, denies the charge of murder.

The trial continues.

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