The former partner of Charlotte Murray has had an appeal against his conviction for her murder dismissed.
In October 2019, a jury at Dungannon Crown Court unanimously found Charlotte’s former partner John Patrick Miller guilty of her murder.
The case was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland as the murder trial took place against the knowledge Charlotte’s body had never been found.
Throughout cross-examination Miller, previously of Redford Park, Dungannon, denied killing Charlotte (34) on a date between October 30 and November 1, 2012.
She disappeared from the house they shared in Roxborough Heights, Moy, leaving behind her dog Bella, and a Peugeot car which he later sold.
Lady Chief Justice Siobhan Keegan delivered the judgement of the Court of Appeal rejected all arguments put forward by Miller’s defence.
And, after setting these out in full, she stated: “Overall, we do not find any strength in any of the arguments raised.
“Some of the alleged irregularities were not irregularities at all, and those which did arise were corrected during the trial process or were not of material nature as to cause us to question the safety of the conviction in any respect … According we dismiss the appeal.”
There were some aspects of the presentation of the trial which she described as “regrettable”, however these were not sufficient to render it unsafe.
Miller, who appeared by video-link from prison, listened intently and, as each strand of argument was dismissed, he dropped his head.
At trial he maintained Charlotte was still alive, that he never killed her, and he hoped she would some day, “walk in the door and say sorry for all this”.
After four weeks of evidence, Judge Stephen Fowler KC recapped both the prosecution and defence cases, describing events from Charlotte’s last known movements.
He told the jury of eight men and four women the evidence had to convince them of three matters, that being that Charlotte Murray was dead; the second that Miller killed her and the third, at the time of the killing he either intended to kill her, or intended, at the very least, to cause her really serious harm.
In that instance, said the judge, “You must return a verdict of murder. If he killed her by accident and didn’t intend to do so, you must find him guilty of the act of manslaughter. If you don’t know where the truth lies, the prosecution have not made out their case and you must acquit.”
Having retired to commence deliberations, the jury took just over three hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict.
Miller gasped in disbelief as the verdict was read out, before leaning forward in the dock and placing his face in hands.
Members of both families were seated in the public gallery, having attended every day of the trial.
Charlotte’s mother and twin sister wept silently and were comforted by family and friends, while others briefly broke out in applause.
Miller’s parents and sister appeared stunned.
Judge Fowler told Miller, now visibly shaking and crying, “You have been found guilty of murder and the only sentence is life imprisonment. You will be remanded in custody.”
He was handcuffed and taken to the cells, looking briefly at family members as he passed them.
The same day, it was discovered police had decided to drain a flooded quarry in the hope of finding Charlotte’s remains.
While this operation went ahead and lasted a number of days, nothing was found.
Charlotte’s grieving family have consistently called on Miller to “do the right thing” and tell them what became of her body so they can lay her to rest.
At a later tariff hearing Miller was told he will spend 16 years in prison before he is eligible for release.
In the last few weeks the case took a further twist when a man who gave evidence during the trial appeared in court accused of perverting the course of justice
Brian Ernest Barnard, of Currans Brae, Moy, faces three counts of making false statements to police in July 2013 as well as January and June 2018.
Members of Charlotte’s family, including her mother, were in attendance for the hearing.
No details surrounding the circumstances of the allegations were disclosed during the short hearing before Dungannon Magistrates’ Court where a defence solicitor requested an adjournment to await the outcome of Miller’s appeal which, “may impact on my client”.
The case will be mentioned again on December 22.