Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting Harrow Times to 80360, or email us
Wife and daughter accused of killing Wealdstone man Don Banfield have murder convictions quashed
A mother and daughter convicted of killing their husband and father have had their murder convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Shirley and Lynette Banfield argued there was no evidence that retired bookmaker, Don Banfield, who was last seen in 2001, was even dead and he could be amongst the 2,000 people a year who disappear and are never heard from again.
Three of the country's top judges yesterday agreed with their lawyers that - with no body, no suggested mechanism of death and no indication even of the date when Mr Banfield was allegedly killed - his wife and daughter simply had 'no case to answer'.
The jury's murder verdict was quashed and the women will not face a retrial.
Shirley, 65, was last year found guilty at London's Old Bailey of enlisting her 42-year-old daughter's help to do away with Mr Banfield, 63, and profit from his death.
Ex-bookmaker, Mr Banfield, of Locket Road, Wealdstone, who was reputed to be a heavy gambler and womaniser, had retired shortly before he disappeared.
After completing the contract for the sale of his home for £179,000 in May 2001, he was never seen alive again. His body has never been found.
Crown lawyers argued the mother and daughter had a financial motive and acted "in concert" to dispose of Mr Banfield.
The jury found both women, who lived together at Ashford Road, Thanington, near Canterbury, guilty of murder by a ten to one majority in April last year.
The pair, who had earlier admitted fraud offences in relation to the plundering of Mr Banfield's £64,000 pension fund, were each jailed for life.
However William Clegg QC, for Shirley Banfield, told the Appeal Court it had not even been proved that Mr Banfield was in fact dead.
He said: “The evidence proved that Don Banfield disappeared over the weekend of May 12 and 13, 2001. The Crown did not suggest when, where or how he was killed, who was present, the mechanism of death or what happened to the body.”
He added: “200,000 people disappear each year, and 2,000 of those are not heard from again. Don Banfield could have been one of those 2,000.”
Overturning the women's murder convictions, Lady Justice Rafferty said: "This was an alleged joint enterprise murder with no body, no suggested mechanism of death, no identified day when the murder was said to have occurred, no time and no place and no suggestion of what happened to the body."
Although Mr Clegg had accepted the likelihood was that "one or other" of the women killed Mr Banfield, the judge said there was simply no evidence on which any rational jury could conclude they had acted together to do away with him.
Crown lawyers argued the woman had both the opportunity and motive for murder, but the judge emphasised "suspicion without more does not equate to proof.”
It was also suggested that one woman might have had trouble killing Mr Banfield single-handed and disposing of his body.
But the judge, sitting with Mr Justice Simon and Mrs Justice Carr, said: "The courts regularly see proved allegations of homicide against a woman acting alone."
The judge ruled: "The submission of no case to answer should have been allowed. These appeals will be allowed and both convictions will be quashed.”
She added: "For the most evident of reasons there could be no question of a retrial.”