A man from Elephant & Castle accused of killing a female office worker after she disturbed an attempted burglary has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of her murder.
Matthew Fagan, a 33-year-old American living in Gaywood Street near Elephant & Castle, killed 28-year-old Catherine Marlow, an accountant from New Zealand who had been living and working in Lambeth since 2004, at her office on South Lambeth Road in January 2007.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation to serve a minimum of 26 years.
At around 9am on Saturday 13 January last year, Catherine left her home in Wilkinson Street SW8 and went to her office on South Lambeth Road. She had just returned home from a holiday and was keen to clear a resulting backlog of work.
On the same day Fagan – who had been sacked from the same company, Research Now, nine months earlier and had in the meantime accumulated severe debt – was also making his way to the premises, with the intention of stealing computers from his ex-employer.
Catherine worked at the office all morning, keeping in contact with friends via the Internet and phone throughout the day. Her last known contact with a friend was at 1.36pm.
Concern for her wellbeing began when she failed to keep an appointment to meet that friend at nearby shops at 2pm, and after several failed attempts to contact her throughout that afternoon and evening, a worried group of friends and work colleagues visited the office at approximately 9pm to look for her. They discovered her body dumped in a shower cubicle in the building. She had been strangled with her own scarf.
Fagan was identified as a suspect following painstaking forensic examinations of the scene of the attack and of her handbag, which had been taken from the scene and later recovered following media appeals.
"Cathy's love of travel led her from New Zealand to London, a city she loved," says DCI Damian Allain. "Her diligence and hard-working nature led her to be at her office on that Saturday; bad luck led her to cross paths with her killer.
"Matthew Fagan displayed extreme callousness in his actions. Having killed Cathy, he still went on to steal several laptop computers and Cathy's handbag, which he dumped nearby.
"I would like to praise Cathy's family and friends for the strength and dignity they have shown throughout the investigation and trial.
"I would also like to reassure visitors, office workers and residents that this type of attack is extremely rare."
Bernie Marlow, Catherine's father, gave the following statement on behalf of the family:
"It's been nearly two years since this painful and very sad tragedy began for our family and friends.
"We were allowed to bring Catherine's body back to New Zealand eight weeks after she was murdered. To have her home, finally resting, with dignity and peace in the Hawks Bay, was a major step forward in our grieving process.
"Today's verdict will bring some closure in seeing that justice has been served. However, it won't bring our Catherine back. She lives in our hearts and minds every day. We lost our Catherine. She has gone forever and that will never change.
"We want to thank the Metropolitan Police, DCI Damian Allain and his team, for the wonderful job they have done.
"We are so fortunate to be a close family and this has only strengthened our love for each other. We have been supported and cared for unconditionally by our extended family and friends. It has been a huge comfort to us.
"We are a private family and we would now respectfully ask that you allow us to continue our grieving process in private."