Case No: 2004/831/MTS
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEENS BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 17 March 2008
THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE PITCHERS- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
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I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.
The Hon. Mr. Justice Pitchers
Mr Justice Pitchers:
1. On 14 November 2003, the Defendant, then aged 43, was convicted of murder by a jury at the Crown Court at Bristol before me. I sentenced him to life imprisonment.
2. After passing the sentence referred to above, but before the commencement of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, I made a report to the Home Secretary, in accordance with the practice then in operation, recommending the proper length of term that ought to be served for the purposes of retribution and general deterrence. I stated my view that the proper length of detention for these purposes was 16 years.
3. The Act came into force on 18 December 2003. By then, the Lord Chief Justice had not expressed a view on the length of detention for the purposes of retribution and deterrence nor had the Home Secretary notified the Defendant either of the minimum period which he thought he should serve before his release on licence or that he did not intend that he should ever be released on licence. Accordingly, the Home Secretary referred his case to the High Court under para. 6 of Schedule 22 to the Act for the making of an order under sections 269(2) or 269(4) of the Act.
4. The Defendant married Linda Razzell in 1983. They lived just outside Swindon where the Defendant worked for Allied Dunbar. They had four children, born in 1981, 1990, 1992 and 1996. In 1999, Mrs Razzell had a brief affair which she confessed to the Defendant.
Thereafter the marriage became unhappy and the Defendant began a new relationship. Divorce proceedings were commenced by Mrs Razzell in 2000. The Defendant moved out of the family home in September 2000, leaving his wife and the four children. The Defendant went to live in rented accommodation in Swindon. Her case would have been that he was violent to her during the final years of the marriage but on the two occasions when allegations came to court, he was acquitted. Those incidents must thus be disregarded in fixing the length of the specified period. In 2001, Mrs Razzell began a relationship with Greg Worrall who moved to live near to her.
5. Mrs Razzell claimed financial orders in the divorce proceedings. The Defendant was ordered to pay £650 per month in child support. In December 2001, he was made redundant. He did not disclose the amount or whereabouts of his lump sum. There was a preliminary hearing before a District Judge on 14 March 2002 during which the judge indicated his view of the likely outcome of the financial proceedings. This was unfavourable to the Defendant. The next day, solicitors representing Mrs Razzell obtained an order freezing the Defendant’s bank account. The papers relating to this order were served on the Defendant on 16 March.
6. The position thus was that the Defendant realised he was likely to lose his share of the equity in the matrimonial home and a proportion of his lump sum. This would have had a greater impact on him that on most men because the evidence in the case showed that he placed an exceptionally high importance on money and would have been extremely resentful that his wife seemed to be getting the better of him in this area.
7. On the morning of 19 March, Linda Razzell set out for work in Swindon as usual. She was seen to park her car in its normal place and begin her walk to work down an alley between two residential streets. She did not reach her place of work and has never been seen again dead or alive. Her body remains undiscovered. Her mobile phone was later found lying halfway down the alley. The prosecution invited the jury to draw the inference that the Defendant had lain in wait for her, bundled her into the car he was driving and, having killed her, disposed of the body somewhere in the countryside round Swindon.
8. As the police search continued during the next few days, the Defendant was seen several times and made a long witness statement. He was arrested and interviewed and released. Later, Mrs Razzell’s blood was found in the boot of the car that he was borrowing that day. The pattern of blood stains was consistent with a bleeding or bloodied body being in the boot. He was arrested again. He said, as he did at the trial that he had been for a long walk during the morning of 19 March and had been driving in the area of Swindon during the afternoon and evening before returning the car to the friend from whom he had borrowed it.
9. At trial, the inference that Mrs Razzell was dead was overwhelming. She was devoted mother who had made no contact whatsoever with her children since she was last seen. She had made no preparations to disappear. After some years of unhappiness, she was in a happy new relationship and was making good progress in the financial part of the divorce. Exhaustive enquiries by the police had revealed no trace of her. The jury rejected as inaccurate several suggested sightings of her.
10. Easily the most important evidence that the Defendant had killed his wife was the blood in the boot. Since he had borrowed the car only on that day, it was very difficult to see how Mrs Razzell’s blood could have got there other than as the prosecution suggested. There was a large number of small pieces of evidence which provided support for this central part of the case and tended to disprove his alibi but by themselves they would not have proved guilt. It is unnecessary to set them out here. The jury were sure that he had killed her
11. Because the defence was a complete denial and because no body has been found, more than the usual number of issues can only be decided by inference. Having heard the evidence, I would draw the following conclusions:
i) As the prosecution alleged, the Defendant had lain in wait for his wife in the alley. He knew where she parked. He would have known that she would not recognise the car as the one he was driving. The place where the mobile phone was found was the least public part of her short walk to work.
ii) It is impossible to say how he killed her.
iii) The offence was planned albeit probably not long before. The Defendant was an obsessive planner. For example, the papers in the case showed him making careful notes in relation to meetings and a series of ‘What if’ flowcharts concerning the possible outcomes of his wife’s disappearance. The arrangement to swap cars with his friend for the day (an innocent arrangement in itself) was only made for certain on the previous day. He would have realised that this gave him the opportunity to approach his wife without arousing her suspicions. Because of what she regarded as his past attacks on her, she would have taken immediate avoiding action had she seen his car.
iv) The body was disposed of somewhere near Swindon later that day. Once his alibi was rejected, his movements between 8.30 am and lunchtime are unaccounted for. There was also time during the afternoon although many of his movements then could be confirmed.
v) His motive was partly money and partly anger that his wife was getting the better of him. The sums involved were not large but they meant a great deal to him. He came across as an extremely unemotional man who looked first at the financial consequences of his actions.
12. The aggravating factors in the case were:
i) a planned killing carried out in cold blood;
ii) a clear intention to kill rather than cause grievous bodily harm;
iii) the complete absence of circumstances which might have driven a man to a desperate act of violence;
iv) deliberately depriving four young children of their devoted mother;
v) concealment of the body.
13. There were no mitigating factors.
14. I have read and considered representations on behalf of the Defendant. I have also read and considered representations from the family of the deceased.
15. Were the minimum term to be set in accordance with Schedule 21 of the Act, the starting point would have been 15 years as a minimum term. The aggravating features would have resulted, in my judgment, in an increase in that term. I indicated in my report to the Lord Chief Justice that had I not been applying the Practice Direction  1 WLR 2870, I would have recommended a specified term of 18 years. That remains my view. However, the term specified now must not be longer than would have been specified at the time of the offence. Accordingly, I specify a minimum term of 16 years. I must also give credit for the time served on remand prior to sentence: 2 months 2 days. I therefore order that the the early release provisions in sections 28(5) to (8) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 apply to this Defendant as soon as he has served 15 years 9 months 28 days.http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/cms/144_13559.htm