Missing St Albans man’s cannabis factory link

A “GARDENER” at a cannabis factory whose job it was to water and feed the plants was murdered by another worker who then disposed of the body so that it has never been found, a court heard yesterday.

Murray Thompson vanished in April 2010 after going to one of five properties where skunk was being produced.

At the start of a trial of four men charged in connection with the 34 year old’s disappearance, prosecutor John Price QC said the motive for the killing was still not known.

But he said the background to it was “serious, organised criminal activity involving the production for commercial supply of controlled drugs.”

The jury at St Albans Crown Court was told that in the days leading up to his disappearance Mr Thompson’s fiancee, who knew of his involvement in the chain of cannabis factories that had been set up in Watford, was aware of “difficulties” that had arisen because of the failure of one particular crop.

The prosecutor told the court that failure could have meant there were “tensions” amongst the gang said to have been behind the factories

On trial is James Evans, 22, of Bushey Mill Lane, Watford described as another “gardener” who denies murder, conspiracy to produce cannabis, and two counts of doing acts to pervert the course of justice.

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Alongside him is Lee Sullivan 46 of Hudson Close, Watford who it’s said was the ‘boss’ of the cannabis operation.

He denies perverting the course of justice and four charges of intimidating a witness. He has pleaded guilty to to conspiring to produce cannabis.

Amit Agar, 31, from Parkfield, Chorleywood, denies perverting the course of justice, conspiracy to produce cannabis and intimidation of a witness. Shafakat Ali Khan, 32, from Rose Gardens, Watford denies perverting the course of justi,ce.

The court was told Mr Thompson, who lived with his fiancee Rachel McDowell in a flat in St Peter’s Street, St Albans, worked as a courier driver.

But he was also involved in a criminal enterprise to cultivate skunk cannabis at various addresses in Watford.

The prosecution said Mr Thompson and Evans were “gardeners” who had the job of visiting the addresses to tend the plants.

The jury heard that on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 20, last year Mr Thompson drove in his work van to one of the addresses being used – a flat above a chemist shop in St Albans Road, Watford.

Also there, said the prosecutor, was the defendant Mr Evans and it was possible a third person may also have been present.

The court heard shortly before going into the flat Mr Thompson took a call on his mobile phone from Rachel.

Mr Price said the call lasted 62 seconds during which Mr Thompson said he was going to visit a friend in Watford and would then come home

After that call Rachel never heard from Murray again. He regularly visited his parents but they have not heard from their son and neither have friends or his employer.

Mr Price said: “His phone fell silent and his bank account became dormant.”

The prosecution alleges he was murdered by James Evans in a the upstairs flat soon after entering the premises.

Mr Price went on: “It is not possible to state exactly how he died because his body has not been found. We don’t know how he did it but it was with something that caused him to shed a lot of blood.

The prosecutor said James Evans might not have acted alone and it was possible that at least one other person was in the flat when Murray Thompson suffered injuries which caused his death.

He alleged that after the killing James Evans took the body from his flat in his Corsa to an unknown destination and then got rid of the car at a salvage yard.

Mr Price went on: “Having killed Murray Thompson the prosecution allege James Evans was responsible for disposing of that young man’s body, taking it from the flat in his car to wherever it was concealed and where most likely it remains to this day.”

He said the prosecution could not say with any certainty why James Evans murdered Murray Thompson. but the law did not require motive. The prosecution had to prove that such a crime was committed and who was responsible.

He went on: “We can tell you this murder took place against a background of serious organised criminal activity involving the production and commercial supply of controlled drugs.”

Case proceeding.