Student last seen alive in Ilford cried at church on the day she went missing, a court heard

Joy Morgan. Photo: Herts Police

Joy Morgan. Photo: Herts Police - Credit: Archant

A student who was last seen alive in Ilford cried at a church event on the day she went missing

Joy Morgan attended the Israel United in Christ church on December 26, Reading Crown Court heard.

She has not been seen since and fellow worshipper Shohfah-El Israel, 40, is on trial for her murder.

The 20-year-old had previously told church member Laurine Leach that she had not started a university assignment which was due soon and that she was unhappy in her student house share, the court heard.

But the witness, who changed her name by deed poll to Lydia Israel, said she did not ask Ms Morgan what the cause of her upset was.

The witness, who agreed with a suggestion that she was something of a mother figure to Ms Morgan, said: "She started to cry and I didn't want to draw any attention to her at that point because I didn't want her to be embarrassed.

"She didn't cry for long because I kind of respectfully just didn't want anybody else to see that she was crying so I kind of dampened it down."

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Another church member Trine Samba, known as Sister Yahzel, was also at the event, which included a dinner and games, and said Ms Morgan had seemed "really down".

She told the court: "Throughout the day she was quite isolated. She kept herself to herself."

Ms Morgan was not participating in the games with the others at the church in Ilford so Sister Yahzel said she approached her to ask what was wrong.

The witness told the court Ms Morgan asked her: "Do you ever feel like what if?"

Sister Yahzel added: "And I was waiting for her to say something but she didn't. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds. I didn't want to pry."

Sister Yahzel described Ms Morgan as a "serious person" and said she was surprised when it appeared she had left the church, which the court has heard she saw as a family.

The student's number was removed from a church Telegram message group on December 28, two days after she was last seen.

Sister Yahzel said she had messaged her immediately and that there was an indication on the phone screen that Ms Morgan appeared to be typing, but no message ever came through.

Telling of her shock at the apparent departure, she said: "I was concerned because it's just not like her. She's always at the church."

Sister Lydia said Ms Morgan leaving the church was "unexpected" but that people had the right to do so for their own reasons.

She said: "When someone has decided to leave of their own accord there is nothing more to say or do. Nobody disrespects anybody's decision."

Sister Lydia described the defendant and his wife as being like a son and daughter to her and said she had stayed with them at their addresses in Luton and Cricklewood and they had stayed at her home in Harlesden.

Israel, who she said has "quite a few degrees" including law, is not a violent person, she told the court.

She said: "I have never seen him act violently towards his wife in my presence or at any time."

While Israel initially told police he dropped Ms Morgan off in Hatfield after the church event on December 26, he later told officers he had in fact brought her back to his flat in Cricklewood where she stayed on the sofa for two nights.

He claimed he dropped her back in Hatfield on the evening of December 28 and that that was the last time he saw her, the trial has heard.

Her body has not been recovered, nor her phone, and there is no useful forensic evidence to be presented in the case, the jury has been told.

But the prosecution, describing him as a "thoroughly dishonest and manipulative man", alleges Israel killed the student and removed her from the Telegram chat to cover his tracks.

Ms Morgan, who was studying midwifery at the University of Hertfordshire, was reported to police as missing by her mother on February 7 and Israel was arrested two days later.

He denies killing her between December 26 and December 30 2018.