R v OMAR BENGUIT
R v Omar BENGUIT
R v Omar BENGUIT
The murder of Korean student Jong Ok-Shin occurred at about 2.50am on 12th July 2002 when she was walking home along Malmesbury Park Road in Bournemouth following a night out with friends. An assailant wearing a "mask" (according to her dying words) stabbed her several times in the back and she died later that morning in hospital.
About a month later a woman by the name of Beverly Brown was caught shoplifting and when interviewed for that offence on 22nd August 2002 she was found to have crucial information about the murder. She said that on the night in question she was travelling with three men in her car - Omar Benguit, Nicholas Gbadamosi and Delroy Woolry - and that on entering the road where 'Oki' was walking (Oki was Jong Ok-Shin's nickname) the men jumped out and accosted the victim before running back to the car.
Ms Brown said Benguit was the murderer by virtue of the fact that when the three men returned to the car, she saw him with blood on his tee-shirt wrapping an object in a towel, which he then put into a shopping bag and stored under a seat, while Gbadamosi (one of the other men) who assisted him in the offence said "what have you done?" or words to that effect - the implication being that Benguit had just stabbed Oki.
Ms Brown had even more to say about the three men, which is that immediately after the murder she drove them all to a crack-house in Clements Road, Bournemouth, where they smoked crack cocaine. She then drove them to an unknown cul-de-sac, where the men took turns to rape her on "gravel" ground. She was able to give graphic and disturbing details of what took place: "red-handled pliers" were allegedly forced into her vagina and rectum; Woolry attempted to anally rape her; Gbadamosi forced her to perform oral sex which culminated with him ejaculating into her mouth; and both Benguit and Woolry ejaculated into her vagina.
Following this 'gang-rape' she then drove the three men to another house in Cunningham Crescent where Benguit had a shower to wash blood from himself. The towel he used together with his blood-stained clothing and knife were wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown by Gbadamosi into a river before Brown was finally allowed to return home to bathe.
On another occasion Gbadamosi had raped her at the Queen's Park Golf Club- again on "gravel" ground.
Delroy Woolry who was allegedly one of the passengers in Brown's car was interviewed but not charged, but their finding of insufficient evidence did not cause them to ponder whether Brown might be telling them a pack of lies in respect to both her accusations of rape and the murder of Jong Ok-Shin.
Benguit was charged with the murder of Jong Ok-Shin, with Gbadamosi accused of assisting in the offence.They were jointly charged with raping Brown and Gbadamosi was also charged with the rape of Brown at the golf club.
The jury found Gbadamosi not guilty of rape but could not reach a verdict on whether he assisted Benguit in the murder. They were unable to reach verdicts in respect to Benguit, who had no idea where he was on the day in question.
The prosecution continued to rely on Beverly Brown as a 'witness of truth' and retried Benguit for both the murder of 'Oki' and the rape of Brown, while Gbadamosi was again charged with assisting in the murder.
Gbadamosi was able to locate CCTV evidence which showed that he was not with Brown as she claimed and a speeding camera had caught him late in the evening in another part of town. The jury found him not guilty of assisting an offender.
The jury found Mr Benguit not guilty of rape, but could not reach a verdict on the murder charge.
It is worth pausing here to note that no DNA from any of the three men or the victim could be found in Brown's car.
The CPS then applied for permission from the Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Kenneth Macdonald QC, to launch a 3rd trial, which was granted in January 2005. Lord Macdonald (as he is now known) is described on the internet as a "clever and resourceful man" and it is to be assumed that the investigating police officers and the CPS were no less capable of assessing the strength of the evidence against Benguit when deciding whether to continue to prosecute him.
3rd Trial - January 2005
The decision to continue with the prosecution was seemingly vindicated because Benguit was finally convicted of the murder of Jong Ok-Shin. New evidence was submitted for the first time which showed that Benguit possessed a knife similar to the murder weapon. Mrs Justice Hallett rubbed salt into Benguit's wounds when sentencing him to life imprisonment by saying:
"This was a wicked crime...Poor Oki-Shin lies dead. Her family must mourn her terribly. From everything we have heard she was a lovely and kind girl. But for the courage of a number of your fellow addicts you would have walked free and you very nearly did. In my view on the evidence presented to this court you are a totally nasty piece of work and a very dangerous young man."
Detective Inspector Kevin Connolly of Dorset police who was in charge of the police investigation said: "I would like to welcome today's outcome on behalf of Oki's parents. Today's verdict represents the imprisonment of a very violent and dangerous offender - whose sexual desires drove him to murder Oki. Many witnesses from the drug world gave evidence as they were appalled by Benguit's crimes and I would like to personally thank them. Omar Benguit has now been imprisoned which I hope assists Oki's family to come to terms with their tragic loss."
It is difficult to see what was so compelling about the evidence against Benguit when the police had already been alerted to Danilo Restivo's possible connection with the murders of Oki-Shin and Heather Barnett.
We should leave aside the following considerations:
1) Ms Brown was a prostitute / crack-addict with convictions for dishonesty who made complaints of sexual assault against her police handlers during the murder investigation, which Dorset police found to be false.
2) She originally named another person as the murderer!
3) She said the victim was walking on the wrong side of the street to where she was actually murdered.
4) She said Benguit liked Korean girls and had shouted out while passing Oki "Cor, look at the arse on that!"
5) She named three men who were allegedly travelling in her car and who jointly raped her later that morning after the murder - Benguit, Gbadamosi and Woolry. Gbadamosi was able to prove that he could not have been in the car as CCTV showed him to be somewhere else; Woolry was presumably not in the car because he was not charged by the police; Benguit could not say where he was on the night in question. No DNA belonging to any of the three men or the victim was discovered in her car.
6) The victim said before she died: "someone came from behind wearing a mask - he ran off and I saw my own blood" . No reference was made to Benguit having had with him a mask and the victim spoke of only one assailant - not three.
7) She later appeared on the Jeremy Kyle show to say that she had actually seen Benguit plunge his knife into Oki-Shin, whereas at trial she had said she couldn't see the actual attack from where she was parked, but could only hear shouts as the three men ran back to her car (which none of the neighbours reported hearing).
A motley group of 14 crack addicts and 'smack heads' were assembled to provide highly incriminating evidence of Benguit's guilt. Dorset police should be commended for tracking them down as late as one year after the crime, particularly as all of them shared phenomenal memories about the background to the crime.
(1) Mr John Macleod corroborated Ms Brown's evidence by saying in the first trial that "on the morning following the murder, Benguit had blood on his shoes and he confessed he was behind Oki when she was stabbed in the back."
Amanda Kelly - reported Omar's 'confession'.
(5) Charlotte Johnson - reported Omar's drug taking and early morning visit.
(6) Victoria Ling - reported that Omar was sweaty, flustered and not normal following the crime.
(7) Joan Sheriden - reported on Omar's visit to crack house en route to the alleged rape.
(8) Richard Oliver - corroborating evidence
(9) Lisa Calamari - corroborating evidence
(10) Carla Mills - corroborating evidence
(13) Suzanne Thomas - corroborating evidence
(15) Mr Jonathan Cutting gave evidence to say he had seen Benguit sharpening "a six inch (15cm) long knife" in his house, although the witness could not remember when this occurred.
reality, the only evidence which linked Omar Benguit to
the murder of Jong Ok-Shin was the fact that he lived in
the same town as her. Dorset police and the CPS fail to appreciate that even if all
three men had been travelling in Brown's car as she claimed, CCTV evidence shows that her
car was never in the vicinity of the crime at the relevant time.
The Omar Benguit trials were conducted by Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor of Dorset and Alastair Nisbet of the CPS. She says on the CPS website: "Let me assure you, I have a strong team of high calibre prosecutors. What I am doing is to make the team even better."
The trials were a travesty of justice which allowed the real perpetrator of the crime Danilo Restivo free to kill only a few streets and months away from where Oki Shin had been slain. Heather Barnett paid with her life for the incompetence of Dorset police and the CPS, while the Court of Appeal declared Mr Benguit's conviction, based wholly on the obvious lies and conflicting testimony crack addicts, to be "safe".
Danilo Restivo settled in Bournemouth in March 2002 having moved there from Italy. His presence was notified to Dorset police by a telex from the Italian police on 29th August 2002, warning that Restivo was a "grave danger to women" and advising that "he should be investigated for the Oki murder". Dorset police replied to their Italian counterparts in September 2002 informing them that they need not worry about Restivo, as they had apprehended Benguit.
In November 2002 Heather Barnett was murdered in her own house opposite to where Restivo lived and a few streets away from where Oki-Shin had been slain, but this did not ring any alarm bells with the police or indeed with the CPS even though Restivo was at the scene of the crime offering sympathy to the victim's children.
The third and final trial of Omar Benguit took place in January 2005 while Danilo Restivo was being kept under 24 hour surveillance and when he had already been cautioned in May 2004 for having in his possession a knife [picture] identical in size and shape to the murder weapon used against Jong Ok-Shin and a balaclava (ie "mask"). [picture]
A fresh clump of human hair [picture] was found at the very spot where Oki-Shin was stabbed, but neither the police nor the CPS are prepared to admit that this evidence has any significance, even though in the Heather Barnett trial the presence of hair at the crime scene was considered to be a unique feature and "hallmark" of Danilo Restivo.
The CCRC have been asked to review the case to establish:
(i) whether the arrest and conviction of Danilo Restivo has provided sufficient fresh evidence to cast doubt on the safety of Benguit's conviction.
(ii) whether the non-closure of information about Restivo conveyed by the Italian police to Dorset police on 29th August 2002 and on other occasions prior to and following Heather Barnett's murder was a material irregularity.
(iii) whether Ms Brown's appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show can safely be reconciled with her former evidence.
(iv) that CCTV evidence proves her car did not travel along Charminster Rd towards the junction with Malmesbury Park Rd in the early hours of 12th July 2002 as she claimed and hence it is safe to conclude that her car along with her hypothetical passengers could not have been at the scene of the crime.
It is anticipated that the CCRC will make a referral of this case in the very near future following further forensic testing of material requested by the defence and that in the course of time a full enquiry will be launched to establish how these three trials against two innocent people ever saw the light of day.
=====End Press Release =====
=====End Press Release =====
6th July 2011- The following statement has been provided by Mr Benguit's defence team.
JUSTICE FOR OMAR BENGUIT
Omar Benguits conviction is a serious miscarriage of justice. On reading about the facts of the case and having become aware of the fresh evidence which has arisen post-trial, it must be clear that his conviction is unsafe.
Jong Ok-Shin (known as 'Oki' Shin), a student from Korea, was studying English in Bournemouth and was murdered on the 12th of July 2002. She had been to a night club in the town centre and on her way back home she was murdered by a masked man, who repeatedly stabbed her.
Mr Benguit was convicted of her murder after three trials and sentenced to 20 years.
At trial, the only evidence against Benguit came from an unreliable witness, with convictions in the past for dishonesty. This witness first named another man as the killer of Oki Shin and told many lies. The witness also said that Benguit along with another man had raped her on the same night after the murder, but both Benguit and the other man were acquitted of those charges. Some years after Benguits conviction for murder, the witness appeared on the Jeremy Kyle show and told a completely different story to that of her evidence of what happened on the night of Oki Shins murder. She had told three different juries that she did not see the murder, but she told Jeremy Kyle that she had actually seen Benguit kill Oki Shin with a knife.
The murder of Oki Shin on 12th July 2002 bears conspicuous similarities to two other murders: the murder of Elisa Claps, who was killed in Italy on the 12th of September 1993, and the murder of Heather Barnett who was killed in Bournemouth on the 12th of November 2002. Danilo Restivo was convicted at Winchester Crown Court on the 30th of June 2011 for murdering Heather Barnett, but he was also a suspect in the murder of Elisa Claps. The prosecution told the jury about the similarities between the murders of Heather Barnett and Elisa Claps and Restivo was given a whole life sentence without parole.
The general circumstances of all three murders are
significantly similar: apart from the fact that each victim was a female and was savagely
attacked from behind, all three women were murdered in or close to their homes while
Restivo lived in their immediate vicinity. Oki Shin, Elisa Claps
and Heather Barnett were also remarkably all murdered on the 12th
day of the month. This common date between their murders is not mere coincidence.
He was found to have with him a knife, scissors
and a balaclava which were common elements in the method of killing used on the
three victims; and it is safe to conclude that had the police not arrested Restivo on 12th
May 2004, another victim could well have paid with their life on that very day.
This exact type of knife was found in Restivo's bag
when he was arrested. When questioned about why he had the knife, Restivo told police that
he found it in Throop Park, but when his house was later searched, a set of kitchen knives
were found to be identical to the knife he had with him.
Danilo Restivo has admitted having a hair fetish and girls living in his local area had complained to the police about a man surreptitiously cutting their hair with scissors.
Mr Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting Restivo for the murder of Heather Barnett, drew comparisons with the murder of Elisa Clapps when he said: "The presence of cut hair after death in both cases... is strikingly similar and is akin to a hallmark."
There is no rational explanation for the presence of the fresh clump of hair found close to Oki Shin's body other than the fact that it is indeed a hallmark or 'calling-card' of Danilo Restivo.
Before Oki Shin died, she managed to tell a doctor that her attacker was "wearing a mask. Restivo had a balaclava [picture] with him when he was arrested. Oki Shin was an English language student and had only a basic knowledge of English, so she would have been unlikely to have known the word balaclava.
In addition to all these factors is the evidence the residents of the
street gave. They heard Oki Shin's attacker speaking in a foreign accent. Restivo ties in
with this description, but Omar does not. Omar speaks with a plain English accent, while
Restivo has a thick foreign accent. None of the residents heard 'three men runnning back
to the car'.
It is plain to see that a grave miscarriage of justice has yet again
been allowed to occur by the police and the CPS.
Images used on this page
Danilo Restivo's knife | Danilo Restivo's balaclava | Clump of hair from crime scene
The image of missing student Erika Ansermin was found on Restivo's computer.
Her body has not yet been found.
Forensic investigations in this case are being funded by The Sherlock Holmes Museum. [Link]