TWO men have today (April 1) been found guilty of murdering Michael Griffiths at his Fernhurst home in January last year.
The jury found Zack Cowdrey, 23, and Harvey Munford, 23, guilty of murder. They found Simon Penton, 43, guilty of manslaughter.
Jurors spent more than 18 hours deliberating, having retired last Tuesday (March 25).
Seven defendants appeared at Hove Trial Centre in relation to the death.
Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and admitted conspiracy to burgle homes in Loxwood, Poynings and a home near Godalming as well as Mr Griffiths’ home.
His partner, Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, was found not guilty of murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but guilty of conspiracy to burgle two homes.
Damian Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, was found not guilty of murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He admitted conspiracy to burgle Old Glebe.
Zack Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines, was found guilty of murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’ home.
John Bartholomew, 72, of Cross Street, Portsmouth, was found not guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit burglaries in Loxwood, Fernhurst and Poynings.
Harvey Munford, 23, of Monks Way, Staines, admitted manslaughter, conspiracy to burgle homes in Loxwood, Poynings and Godalming, conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’ home and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
He was found guilty of murder.
Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Pool End Close, Shepperton, has been found not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Prosecutors say Michael Griffiths was tortured for £40,000 worth of diamonds thought to be kept in a safe.
The diamonds were later found by police stored in picnic flasks which had removable compartments.
Mr Griffiths, 59, a jewellery-maker and antiques buyer, was found dead by fire crews at his home in Old Glebe, Fernhurst, on the morning of January 24, 2013.
The jury heard Mr Griffiths said goodbye to the friend he had spent the evening of January 23 with, and made his way home – arriving around 11.30pm, where burglars lay in wait.
His body was found by fire crews behind his front door, with his hands and feet ‘hog-tied’.
Accelerants including petrol were used to torch the house, and petrol was also found on Mr Griffiths’ neckerchief, which friends say he was never seen without.
Prosecuting, Christine Laing said: “The burglars were ruthlessly prepared to use violence. His reluctance, or inability, to hand over the diamonds cost him his life.
“These were professional, organised, calculating people. The degree of planning demonstrates that this was no ordinary burglary. All signed up to this enterprise, knowing that Mr Griffiths may be subjected to serious violence.”
A post-mortem held at St Richard’s Hospital on January 25 showed significant injuries to his head and body.
His ankles had been tied using his own apron and a scart lead wrapped around his hands and feet, intertwined with another electrical cable and there were footprints on his forehead and chin.
He suffered several fractured ribs and a pathologist report said compression was placed on his neck, using his neckerchief.
The cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head, and compression to the neck causing him to choke to death on his own vomit.
For the full story, and coverage of the trial, see this week’s Midhurst and Petworth Observer (out April 3).