Danville Neil: DNA evidence sees man convicted of siblings’ murder – BBC

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Image caption,

Anne Castle and William Bryan were killed during a break-in at their east London home

A “prolific burglar” has been found guilty of murdering elderly siblings nearly 30 years ago.

Danville Neil, now 65, killed Anne Castle, 74, and her brother William Bryan, 71, during a break-in at their flat in Bethnal Green, east London, in August 1993.

The Old Bailey heard the siblings were beaten as their home was ransacked.

Neil, from Lewisham, will be sentenced next Friday.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC previously told the court the defendant’s DNA had been found on a strap he used during the burglary to tie the hands of World War Two veteran Mr Bryan.

She told jurors that nearly three decades after the killings, tests were carried out that showed the strap had Neil’s DNA on it. His DNA was on the national database due to his previous convictions.

During the trial, the jury heard that Mr Bryan had been beaten and smothered, causing him to go into cardiac arrest, and widowed Mrs Castle had suffered a heart attack.

Mr Bryan was found by police lying on the floor with his hands and feet bound. Mrs Castle, whose rings had been pulled off her fingers, was slumped in an armchair.

Image source, Metropolitan Police
Image caption,

Danville Neil was a violent burglar with a string of convictions, the Old Bailey heard

The court heard Neil had about 15 burglary convictions for crimes he committed between 1973 and 1998.

In 1984, he carried out two home invasions in three months in which the occupants were physically assaulted.

‘Your kid’s dead’

In a precursor to the murders, a couple were beaten with an iron bar and the wife was also smothered with a pillow. This happened as their three children slept in their home in Penge, south London.

The husband’s hands were tied up with a belt and Neil attempted to pull the wife’s ring from her finger.

Although the children were not harmed, Neil told the couple: “Your kid’s dead, right – we’ve killed your little girl, got it. Tell us where the money is or we’ll smash your heads in.”

Image source, Metropolitan Police
Image caption,

Neil’s DNA was found on a strap he used during the burglary in Bethnal Green

Two months later, Neil assaulted a woman after breaking into her home in Norbury, south London, before making off with a music centre and £15 in cash.

He was jailed for the two violent burglaries and released on licence in August 1992, a year before the double murders.

During his trial, Neil had accepted his DNA was found at the scene of the killings, but denied he had been there or knew the victims.

He said there was an innocent explanation for the forensic link, which was that he had sold Mr Bryan binoculars at a car boot sale and it was the strap from these binoculars that was used by someone else to bind him.

However, Mrs Castle’s grandson recalled how his great-uncle had been keen on gadgets and owned two sets of binoculars he would have bought new.

‘Put everyone before herself’

Mrs Castle’s daughters, Janice and Cynthia, said: “Our mother was the most wonderful, loving and caring mother and grandmother who was thoughtful in every way.

“She always put everyone before herself and was a great pillar of the community – well loved and respected by all who knew her.

“When her brother Billy became ill after the war, our parents brought him to live with us and they both cared and looked after him with the greatest of attention.

“He remained living with Mum until that dreadful day. The fear they must have experienced will never leave us. Uncle Billy was a kind-hearted, thoughtful and generous uncle to all the family, always happy and so grateful for how he had been looked after.”

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the court she was “in no doubt” that Neil, who will receive a life sentence, faced a “considerable” minimum term.

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