Jury out again in solicitor murder trial

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The Independent Online

A jury retired today for its second day of deliberations in the case of a solicitor accused of organising the contract killing of his business partner to get a life assurance payout.

Vina Patel was found dead in her office at Cort and Co in Blackbird Road, Leicester, on January 15, 2009.

John Cort, of Rutland Street, Leicester, is accused of hiring Brian Farrell, of Queensborough Terrace, west London, to kill Mrs Patel. Both men deny murder.

During the trial at Nottingham Crown Court, which started last month, the court heard Cort had spiralled into debt, leading to a "murky financial motive" for Mrs Patel's murder.

Prosecutor Timothy Spencer said the 54-year-old, who was £171,000 in debt, persuaded Mrs Patel to increase their life assurance policy from £500,000 to £1.5 million.

He said Cort arranged for Trinidad-born Farrell, a former storeman at Harrods, to come to Leicester to carry out the killing.

Mrs Patel was found at the foot of a staircase in the offices on January 15 last year by her husband and daughter after she did not turn up to pick the latter up from work.

The 51-year-old mother-of-two had suffered a broken neck and Mr Spencer said evidence suggested she had either fallen because she was being attacked or had been attacked then her body arranged to make it look like an accident.

DNA found on her was a "billion times more likely to have come from Brian Farrell than from someone unrelated", the court heard.

Mobile phone evidence showed Farrell, 37, travelled to Leicester four days before the death in what the prosecution claim was a "dry run" for the killing.

The court heard divorcee Cort "lived a life he simply could not afford", renting a penthouse apartment in Leicester as well as two different flats in London for "girlfriends". He ate regularly in top restaurants and stayed in the capital's top hotels.

But Cort said he had been having an affair with Mrs Patel lasting 20 years.

Asked by his barrister Frances Oldham QC about his extravagant lifestyle, he said: "The sort of clients I have would not appreciate being taken to McDonald's. There's no law against going to these restaurants."

He said the first he knew of Mrs Patel's death was when he arrived at his office to be refused entry by police.