Inquest into murdered nursing student fails to establish cause of death

Joy Morgan. Photo: Herts Police

An inquest into the murder of Joy Morgan has failed to establish a cause of death but police believe the married father who killed her may have drugged her. - Credit: Archant

Mystery still surrounds the murder of a midwifery student by a fellow member of her Ilford church after an inquest failed to identify the medical cause of death.

The body of 20-year-old Joy Morgan was discovered in woodland in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, on October 5, 2019 – two months after Shofah-El Israel was jailed for life for her murder.

Joy had last been seen in Ilford on December 26, 2018.

Even after being jailed for life - to serve a minimum term of 17 years - Israel refused to reveal the location of her body.

A dog walker eventually found her wrapped in bin bags, bound up with gaffer tape and covered with a mound of logs in Norton Green. She was identified through DNA testing.

Police have confirmed a body found in Stevenage is Joy Morgan. Picture: Matt Margesson/Herts police

Joy was last seen in Ilford on December 26, 2018 but her body was discovered 10 months later in woodland in Stevenage. - Credit: Matt Margesson/Herts police

An inquest at Hatfield Coroner’s Court today, January 20, heard there was no blunt or sharp force trauma to the body that would indicate how she had been killed in late December 2018.

Nor was there any evidence of compression to the neck and associated bruising and pinpoint haemorrhages consistent with strangulation, or any evidence of sexual assault.

Most Read

Pathologist Charlotte Randall said there was damage to the hyoid bone in the neck, but could not rule out this being due to the body’s state of decomposition.

Samples revealed the presence of the party drug MDMA in her system, although it was impossible to determine the amount.

Det Insp Justine Jenkins said there was no evidence to indicate the devout Christian would have voluntarily or knowingly taken illegal drugs.

Ms Jenkins, of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said: “We did, however, find MDMA in Israel’s car, and it is likely that he was responsible for giving her these drugs.”

Dr Randall said the post-mortem examination could not rule out suffocation as a cause of death, potentially following milder blunt force trauma to the head that may have rendered her unconscious.

Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan said: “(The MDMA) is not something that she would have taken and one can’t exclude that she was given that and it in some way rendered her incapable or unconscious.”

Recording a conclusion of unlawful killing, he said Ms Morgan’s disappearance and the efforts to conceal her body “strongly suggest her death was caused by the actions of another person”.

She was a committed member of the Israel United in Christ Church in Ilford, running several of its childcare groups and the sewing club.

She was last seen on Boxing Day 2018 after a celebratory dinner with the congregation, after which Israel and his wife offered her a lift home.

Israel, whose birth name is Ajibola Shogbamimu, claimed he dropped her off at her student accommodation in Hatfield.

He later admitted he had spent two nights alone with the University of Hertfordshire student in his flat in Cricklewood, north-west London.

The family home he shared with his wife and children was in Luton, the court heard.

But Israel claimed his lies were due to concerns about having broken church rules banning women from being alone with men other than their husbands.

During his trial, Reading Crown Court heard that a signal from Ms Morgan’s phone, which has never been found, was detected in Israel’s car in the Stevenage area on December 28.

The keys to her accommodation were discovered in the footwell of his car after his arrest in February 2019.

In a message sent in March 2018 Israel told Ms Morgan she was an “amazing princess” and “a treasure that cannot be measured”.

Israel claimed he saw her as a daughter and she had told him she wanted to leave the church.

But in a video taken less than two weeks before she went missing, she described the church as “the best family that I’ve ever had”.

She was eventually reported missing by her mother Carol on February 7 after she was contacted by the student accommodation provider to say she had fallen behind on her rent.

After Israel’s conviction, Carol Morgan appealed to him to tell her where he had hidden the body, pleading with him to “give my baby back”.

Speaking after the inquest, she described her daughter as “an amazing person”, adding: “She’s been cremated, I haven’t decided where to put her ashes so at the moment she’s still at home with me.”