Girlfriend of missing St Albans man visited cannabis factory

MURDER victim Murray Thompson’s concerned fianc�e went to a cannabis factory she knew he was tending the day after his disappearance, St Albans Crown Court heard last week.

Rachel McDowell, who shared a flat in St Peter’s Street, St Albans, with Murray and worked for Santander in the city, was giving evidence at the trial of two men in connection with the disappearance of her fianc� in April 2010.

The prosecution alleges that Murray was a “gardener” at a Watford cannabis factory and was murdered by another grower in April 2010. His body was subsequently disposed of but despite numerous family appeals, has never been found.

Outlining the case last week, John Price, prosecuting, said that it was not clear what the motive for the killing had been but it took place against a background of, “serious, organised criminal activity involving the production for commercial supply of controlled drugs”.

Miss McDowell told the court that when Murray had not been home since the previous day, she had been worried and had driven over to the flat above a chemist shop in St Albans Road, Watford, where she knew he was involved in the tending of cannabis plants.

She banged on the door but no-one answered and she saw Murray’s van locked and parked nearby.

The second time she knocked the door was opened by James Evans, 23, of Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, who pleads not guilty to murder.

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Miss McDowell asked him if he had seen Murray and when she told him he had not come home, Mr Evans said, “He has probably gone off on one” to which she responded that it was not like him.

As her car had broken down on the way over to the flat, Mr Evans offered to drive her home. She told the court: “He drove me home, it was his idea. I wanted to wait and I wasn’t interested in going home. I wanted to see if Murray came back to his van.

“I told him I didn’t want to go and he asked for my contact number and said when he saw Murray he would ring me.

“He said, ‘I promise you Rachel I will call you’”.

On the way to St Albans, Mr Evans passed her his mobile phone so she could speak to Lee Chapman, 47, of Hudson Close, Watford, who denies perverting the course of justice and five charges of intimidating a witness.

Miss McDowell said that he had told her not to worry about Murray’s disappearance and her fiance would be back.

She subsequently told police about Murray’s disappearance although she had been nervous about doing so because of his involvement with the cannabis factory.

She had also been afraid to tell the police about James Evans and Lee Sullivan.

In the days that followed she spoke to Mr Sullivan again on the phone and he had shouted at her that she needed to shut up.

She added: “So from that point I got very emotional and I got quite scared because that was the first time he was threatening and forceful over the phone.”

Earlier Murray Thompson’s father had told the jury that he had no idea that his son had been involved in a commercial drug operation.

Anthony Thompson said he was aware that Murray had put “a bit of stuff in a roll-up” but nothing more.

The last time he saw his son, a martial arts enthusiast, was on April 9, 2010, when they had a meal together at which there had been nothing untoward and although he had received a phone call from Murray subsequently, he never saw him again.

He added that his son had been in a relationship with Zimbabwean Miss McDowell for four years and had talked about going to her home country to ask her father’s permission to marry her.

The case continues.