Bank worker and father 'murdered for sheer greed'

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The Independent Online
A RETIRED bank messenger was shot and his daughter tortured and strangled as part of a 'master plan' to steal a car, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Matthew Manwaring, 62, and Alison, 24, from Barking, east London, were killed because of 'sheer greed'. Michael Stuart-Moore QC, for the prosecution, said the killer dismembered their bodies in the bathroom and then spent the weekend at Alton Towers, the amusement park.

Benjamin Laing, 25, a driver of East Ham, east London, denies murdering the Manwarings between 23 April and 3 May 1992.

Mr Stuart-Moore told the jury Mr Laing tricked his way into Mr Manwaring's home on 23 April by posing as a prospective buyer for his son's red Ford Escort.

'Laing had set out to find someone with a suitable car. . . he then determined to kill Mr Manwaring. He did so in the front room by shooting him at point-blank range.' An hour later when Ms Manwaring, a bank clerk, returned home from visiting her fiance, neighbours heard a loud bang and a woman scream. Mr Laing allegedly handcuffed Ms Manwaring and then sexually abused and tortured her, forcing her to sign a receipt to a Mr Sinclair for the Escort, several blank cheques and to reveal banking information. 'She was forced to reveal some very personal things about herself and her life to her tormentor. It may be she told him in order to save her life,' Mr Stuart-Moore said.

After dismembering both bodies with a Stanley knife, Mr Laing washed away the blood and crudely repaired a smashed door. He left a note to Ms Manwaring's fiance, written with her pen, saying: 'I have to go away with father for a few days.' Mr Stuart-Moore said: 'He had all night to do his dirty work. He put the bodies in 10 bags and drove them from the scene.'

After selling the car and burying the bodies in his girlfriend's garden, Mr Laing went to the police and admitted buying the Escort. But he said when he left the Manwaring's home they were in 'good health'. Mr Stuart-Moore said: 'When word reached Mr Laing that the police were investigating his first thought was damage limitation.'

While Mr Laing was on remand in prison, he heard that the police were digging up his girlfriend's garden. 'Within minutes Mr Laing was doing another damage limitation exercise; he phoned the police and requested another interview,' Mr Stuart-Moore said.

Mr Laing told the police that he had been framed by a group of Fijian freedom fighters because he 'knew too much about their organisation'. Mr Stuart-Moore said: 'Our case is there is no evidence that anyone apart from Laing killed the Manwarings.'

In Mr Laing's house police found notebooks describing 'the essential ingredients of a masterplan for this murder'.

Initially Mr Laing thought of making the deaths look like suicide, but then decided to make it seem that they had gone away because he needed time to sell the car and withdraw money from Ms Manwaring's bank account.

The trial continues today.