Date: 12 Jul 2016
Steve Berry was found dead in his kitchen by a 46-year-old neighbour on the afternoon of 12 July 2016.
He had been beaten to death. His neighbour, who had lived on the ground floor flat opposite said that he found Steve Berry in his kitchen after passing his door which was open and noticing a strange smell.
A 30-year-old man was tried twice for his murder but acquitted. The judge refused a third trial.
It was claimed that he had murdered him sometime between 10 and 12 July 2016.
His trial in January 2017 failed to reach a verdict whilst the jury again failed to reach a verdict at a retrial in January 2018.
It was initially thought that the 46-year-old neighbour that had found Steve Berry dead in his flat was the main suspect in his murder and he was initially arrested on suspicion of murder.
However, he was released after the palm and fingerprints of the 30-year-old man were found all over the oven in Steve Berry's kitchen. The 30-year-old man had claimed that he had never been in Steve Berry's flat.
Steve Berry was a heavy drinker and the pathologist said that his cause of death was a combination of haemorrhage and head injury from multiple blunt impacts and penetrating knife injuries to his head and face. The pathologist noted that Steve Berry had severe head injuries including a fractured skull and brain damage and that he also had stab wounds to his upper chest and defensive injuries to both hands.
The pathologist added that food tins, a Stanley knife or the broken handle of a milk pan could have been used as weapons on him.
Steve Berry was described as having had a drinking problem and as being an alcoholic and in poor health. However, it was noted that despite his unkempt appearance and untidy flat, he had been fairly rich after having recently received an inheritance from a relative.
It was noted that Steve Berry had been seeing a prostitute regularly and had been paying her for sex and that she had taken about £30,000 from him over some time. It was heard that she would visit him and come away with cash. A man that had been her boyfriend for about six years said that he would drive her to Steve Berry's flat when he had lived in Brompton and wait outside for her to come out. He said that his girlfriend would often have Steve Berry's bank card and would go to a cashpoint and withdraw up to £1,000 a week with it. He said that they had been doing that around 2013, with the last time that they went to his flat in Brompton being around August 2013.
However, the boyfriend of the prostitute said that they both new the 30-year-old man who was tried twice for the murder, as he used to bring them 'weed' when they were living in Penfold Close near to Steve Berry's flat in Brompton.
At the trial it was noted that it was known that Steve Berry had been murdered sometime between the 10 and 12 July 2016 and it was heard that following lengthy police interviews with the 30-year-old man, that he had lied about where he had been on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was noted that the 30-year-old man later admitted that he had told untruths to the police about where he had been over that time.
The court heard that the only only item of evidence that pointed overwhelmingly to the 30-year-old man being involved in the murder were his finger prints which were found on the low down on the cooker, less than two feet from the floor, close to where Steve Berry's dead body was found. The jury heard that 'There were distinct and clear fingerprints and palm prints on the door of the oven'.
It was noted that Steve Berry's daughter-in-law had cleaned the oven when it was first installed two years earlier and so it was determined that they must have been put there after that. As such, the court heard that the 30-year-old man 'was undoubtedly in the flat and was in a position quite low down very close to where the lifeless body of Mr Berry was found'.
The 30-year-old man denied ever having been into Steve Berry's flat when he was first arrested, and later said that he could think of no explanation as to how they had got on the oven. He also said that he didn't know Steve Berry.
After the jury failed to reach a verdict at the retrial, the judge refused to hold a third trial, stating, 'I am satisfied so I am sure it is not in the interests of justice for there to be a third trial in this particular case. I am satisfied it would be unjust and oppressive for this defendant to stand trial for a third time. Thus, I regret to say, I am not prepared to accede to the Crown’s position'. The judge gave the prosecution 24 hours to challenge his decision in the Court of Appeal in London, but the prosecution said, 'The Crown does not intend to take this matter any further. I, therefore, offer no evidence', after which a formal 'not guilty' verdict was returned against the 30-year-old man who had, up until that point, spent 18 months on remand.
The judge noted that various people had been found to have been preying on Steve Berry and that although it was a brutal murder, no weapon or blood stained clothing other than Steve Berry's was ever found, and that neither was there any known motive, concluding that the whole case against the 30-year-old man was based on wholly circumstantial evidence and noted that the stance of the 30-year-old man had been the same from start to finish, that he had never been to Steve Berry's flat.
The judge went on to note that the prosecution had said that the case against the 30-year-old man was very powerful, but added, 'It goes without saying that the guilty should be convicted. There is a need for violent crime to be deterred. This was as serious case of murder. It seems to me the real difficulty in this case rests with the nature of the evidence that has been presented by the Crown before the jury on two separate occasions. It is said there will be no fresh evidence. The Crown’s case has always been that the prints were left there at the time of the murder, and that they belonged to the defendant, and that he possessed the murderous intent at the time he went into that flat. The evidence has been considered by two juries over very many hours indeed. It is right to say the Crown has asserted this defendant has not given an explanation as to how his prints came to be on that particular oven. That was clear to the first jury and the second jury'.
The 30-year-old man was then released.
Steve Berry was a grandfather.