THE jury have now retired to consider all the evidence in the Fernhurst murder trial.
They retired yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 25) leaving seven defendants waiting for the verdict.
Two of the accused - Harvey Munford, 23, and Zack Cowdrey, 23, have pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but deny murder. Four defendants - Simon Penton, 43, Kerry Rudder, 43, John Bartholomew, 72, and Damian Krafft, 27, deny murder.
Mr Griffiths was found by firefighters at his home at 35 Old Glebe on January 24 last year. The 59-year-old jewellery maker and antiques dealer had been seriously assaulted and his body was found hog-tied behind his front door.
Cowdrey and Munford were scouring Mr Griffiths’s house when he returned home late on January 23. They say Mr Griffiths lunged at Munford, who was trying to open a safe full of gold and other valuables.
Cowdrey told the court he put his arm around Mr Griffiths’s neck, in a ‘head-lock’, but denies strangling him.
The pair were in the house for around two hours, working in darkness before Mr Griffiths returned home. They also used a stepladder - later found still in place by firefighters - to get into the loft, where they found silverware.
Cowdrey said it was his idea to tie Michael up, and says they propped him up in the hall ‘so he was more comfortable’.
He said the death was a ‘freak accident, not torture and murder.’ When originally questioned by police, he denied any involvement but later changed his plea to guilty after his co-defendants became ‘fed-up with him’ and threatened to tell the court the truth.
Rebecca Rogers, 39, has been charged with perverting the course of justice, which she denies, after driving Cowdrey and Munford back to Old Glebe to light the fire which destroyed Michael Griffiths’s home, with his body still inside.
The court heard how she had known the pair for some time, referring to them as ‘naughty boys’. She called upon Munford for cocaine, which she used regularly, and the judge said she was ‘drinking excessively’.
Her defence claim she drove the pair to Fernhurst, under the pretence of helping a friend. She told police the journey had been ‘normal’ except they had ‘taken some cannabis’.
After Cowdrey and Munford set the fire, the trio left Old Glebe and Rogers filled her black Lexus 4x4 up with petrol at Sainsburys in Chichester.
Kerry Rudder and John Bartholomew did not give evidence in court.
Summing up the case against Munford, judge Michael Lawson QC said he was already a professional burglar at the age of 23, and had been ‘forced to use violence on Michael Griffiths because he wouldn’t get off him’.
The court heard how Munford visited Mr Griffiths’s home several times in the run-up to January 24, going round the back of his house and watching him through a window.
Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Pool End Close, Shepperton, denies conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, has admitted conspiracy to burgle homes in Loxwood, Poynings and a home near Godalming as well as Mr Griffiths’ home, but denies murder and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.
Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, denies murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle a home in Loxwood.
Damian Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, denies murder and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.
Zack Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines, denies murder, but pleads guilty to manslaughter, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’s home.
John Bartholomew, 72, of Cross Street, Portsmouth, denies murder and conspiracy to commit burglaries in Loxwood, Fernhurst and Poynings.
Harvey Munford, 23, of Monks Way, Staines, has admitted manslaughter, conspiracy to burgle homes in Loxwood, Poynings and Godalming, conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’s home, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He denies murder.