Two on trial for murder of missing St Albans man

A “GARDENER” at a cannabis factory was murdered by another grower who then disposed of the body so that it has never been found, a court heard yesterday.

St Albans resident Murray Thompson hasn’t been seen since the day more than two years ago when he walked into the “factory” in a flat above a shop in Watford, it was claimed.

His fianc�e, parents and employer haven’t heard from him and his bank account has fallen dormant, a jury heard.

John Price QC told St Albans crown court: “Murray Thompson vanished that afternoon because the Crown alleges he was murdered.”

Mr Price was outlining the prosecution’s case in the trial of two men, James Evans, 23, and 47-year-old Lee Sullivan.

Mr Evans, of Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, alone pleads not guilty to murdering 34-year-old Mr Thompson, who lived with his fianc�e Rachel McDowell in a flat in St Peter’s Street.

Sullivan is said to have been the “boss” of a criminal operation to grow skunk cannabis.

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The court was told how, on the afternoon of April 20, 2010, Murray, a courier driver for a company in Hemel Hempstead, arrived in his van close to a flat at 221A St Albans Road, Watford.

The jury heard it was above a chemist shop and was being used for the cultivation of skunk cannabis.

It was one of five properties being used in Watford to cultivate the drug, said the prosecutor.

Both Murray and Mr Evans were “gardeners” whose job it was to tend and water the plants.

Mr Price described Lee Sullivan, of Hudson Close, Watford, as the “boss” or “chief executive” who had rented properties around Watford using a false name for the purpose of growing the drug.

The jury was told that also at the flat that afternoon was Evans. It was possible, said the prosecutor, that a third person was present.

Mr Price said that while in the flat, Murray Thompson was murdered by Evans.

“It is not possible to state how he died because his body has not been found,” said the prosecutor who then told the jury: “But whatever happened to Murray Thompson to cause his death in that flat, we do know it was something which caused him to shed a great deal of blood.”

He then told the jury: “Having killed Murray Thompson, it was James Evans who disposed of his body.”

The prosecutor said it wasn’t known what the motive for the killing was, but he said it took place against a background of “serious, organised criminal activity involving the production for commercial supply of controlled drugs”.

The jury was told that following the murder, Evans and Sullivan took steps to close down the factory at 221A and were involved in a cover-up.

But the clearing out of the flat happened only after a crop of skunk cannabis had been harvested, said Mr Price.

He said once that had happened equipment was removed from the flat along with carpets, and rooms were decorated and new carpets put in.

The court was told that by May 8, 2010, detectives investigating Murray’s disappearance had found the flat in St Albans Road which had been cleared of equipment and re-decorated.

However they could still detect a strong smell of cannabis.

Murray’s van had been moved to another location, said Mr Price, who said Evans had scrapped his own Corsa car because it had been used to transport the body away from the flat.

Mr Price told the jury as the police investigation into Murray’s disappearance continued, a number of witnesses including his fianc�e, Miss McDowell, the landlords of two properties that had been rented and a former girlfriend of Sullivan received threats meant to intimidate them into not cooperating with the police.

James Evans pleads not guilty to murder, conspiracy to produce cannabis and two counts of doing acts to pervert the course of justice.

Lee Sullivan denies perverting the course of justice and four charges of intimidating a witness.

The trial continues.