Short life span of CCTV hampered search for missing student last seen in Ilford, court hears

Joy Morgan. Photo: Herts Police

Joy Morgan. Photo: Herts Police - Credit: Archant

Police were unable to fully corroborate potential sightings of a missing student, believed to have been murdered, due to the short life span of CCTV footage, a court heard.

Joy Morgan was 20 years old when she disappeared after attending a celebration at the Israel United in Christ church in Ilford, east London, on Boxing Day last year.

Shohfah-El Israel, 40, from Cricklewood, North London, is on trial for her alleged murder at Reading Crown Court.

Ms Morgan, a midwifery student at the University of Hertfordshire, has not been seen or heard from in almost seven months, and a body has never been recovered, the jury has been told.

Her mother, Carol Morgan, reported her missing to the police on February 7 this year and Israel was arrested two days later.

On Monday, jurors were presented with facts relating to the trial that have been agreed between the prosecution and defence.

These detailed a number of "potential sightings" of Ms Morgan since her disappearance.

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This included a report of a possible sighting of the student outside Golders Green Tube station in London on January 28 this year.

Jurors were informed that footage from cameras outside the station is only kept for 14 days, and cameras covering the station, for 30 days.

By the time police inquired about footage on April 1 there was none available, the agreed facts document stated.

When police scoped the New Cross Road area on February 15, following a possible sighting of Ms Morgan at a bus stop four days before, no footage was obtained, the jury were told.

There was a report of a potential sighting of Ms Morgan at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on February 16, but when police inquired about CCTV on April 1 they were told footage is only kept for 30 days.

A Great Western Railway guard claimed to have possibly seen Ms Morgan at North Camp railway station in Surrey on February 24.

CCTV from that day was obtained, but the camera on Platform 2, were Ms Morgan was reported to have been seen, was not working.

Giving evidence on Monday, Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, was asked by prosecutor Mark Fenhalls QC how police generally conduct inquiries around CCTV.

Ms Jenkins explained that officers try to find "every possible source of CCTV" to find a missing person and corroborate any sightings.

She told the court: "Unfortunately because of the time from the last sighting of Joy to the date that she was reported missing there was a six week gap."

Ms Jenkins added: "Most CCTV only remains for 30 days maximum."

Both Israel and Ms Morgan, regularly attended the Israel United in Christ church - which, the court heard, has rules including a ban on pre-marital sex and women not being in the company of men other than their husbands.

The court heard that Israel initially told police he dropped Ms Morgan off in Hatfield after the church event on December 26, but 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 was the last time he saw her, the trial has heard.

The jury was also told that Ms Morgan, as a single female, could not have travelled alone in the car with Israel according to church rules.

The prosecution, describing Israel as a "thoroughly dishonest and manipulative man", alleges Israel killed the student and removed her from a church Telegram message group to cover his tracks.

Israel denies killing Ms Morgan between December 26 and December 30 2018.

He is due to give evidence when the trial resumes at 10am on Tuesday.