THE two men found guilty of killing Michael Griffiths have been given life sentences.
The jury found Zack Cowdrey, 23, and Harvey Munford, 23, guilty of murder and the judge served them both life sentences of 32 years. Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, was found guilty of manslaughter and was given a sentence of 26 years in prison, but will be able to apply for parole after he has served 13 years.
His partner, Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle two homes and was given a sentence of three years in prison.
Damian Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, admitted conspiracy to burgle Old Glebe, Mr Griffiths’ home, and was given a three year sentence in prison.
Two other defendants were acquitted of all charges. John Bartholomew, 72, of Cross Street, Portsmouth, was found not guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit three burglaries.
Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Pool End Close, Shepperton, was found not guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
JUDGE Michael Lawson QC said when sentencing: “No-one can fail to be shocked by the details in this case and the inhumanity of Penton, Munford and Cowdrey. What happened was a sickening display of utter callousness.
“You three were proud of your skills as burglars and despite claiming to know the devastation it causes, you continue on a daily basis.
“You show no remorse and plead guilty only to those offences you know the crown can prove.
“Kerry Rudder, you have been living on the proceeds of burglaries for many years. You were a trusted member of the team and you obviously share the same values.
“Penton is a prolific burglar. The death of Mr Griffiths seems to have passed you all unnoticed.
“There was a plan to cause harm to him. This was not a burglary that had gone wrong, but a burglary where Michael Griffiths was to return, over-powered, and pressure imposed upon him.
“Penton, you made sure you had at least two fit young men available to quickly over-power Mr Griffiths upon his return home.
“He was stunned immediately then hog-tied in the most undignified fashion, so that force could be exerted on him. He was tied up, beaten and strangled with his own neck tie.
“We do not expect any genuine expression of remorse. No time was wasted in returning to the house to destroy any evidence.
“There was a terrifying fire and so concerned were you with your own safety you gave no thought to the neighbours in the adjoining house.
“Had it not been for the dogged persistence of Sussex police, you might have escaped justice.
“Munford and Cowdrey, the only sentence is one of life. There was a degree of violence and humiliation and the attempt to destroy Mr Griffiths’ home while he lay dead in the corner.
“Penton, I am satisfied a sentence of life is justified. You directed this offence, planning and recruiting. You were an integral party in the destruction of evidence. You were ready to have Michael Griffiths subjected to violence.”
A loving brother and valued member of the community
Mr Griffiths’ family released the following statement:
“There are no words to describe the effect of losing Michael has had on the family, especially his two brothers.
The cruel and calculated way in which his life was taken has mentally affected our lives and not one day goes by without the thought of what terrible injuries were inflicted upon him just over a year ago on that long night in January.
Michael loved life in his own way, working with jewellery and antiques, and he was extremely talented in producing one-off designs for people. He was very happy socialising with the community in Fernhurst.
We will never come to terms with this family tragedy. Unfortunately we now live in a world of greed and violence and no sentence for this violent crime will ever be enough for the people who were involved. Perhaps they could imagine the pain if it were to happen to one of their own family?
Our thanks go out to Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley and his team who investigated this crime initially with very little evidence, but spared no expense or determination in the painstaking research to follow up on the minute detail to bring this case to prosecution.
Our thanks go out as well to QC Christine Laing and her team who handled the case with heartfelt dignity and in a very professional manner.”
“Michael we miss you, God Bless.”
For a full report of the trial, see Thursday’s Midhurst and Petworth Observer (April 3).
See http://www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/news/local/breaking-news-two-guilty-of-murdering-michael-griffiths-in-fernhurst-1-5972789 for the report on the verdicts.