Woman 'was hired for hospital killing': Victim's colleagues paid student assassin pounds 7,000, court told

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A WOMAN armed with a pistol walked unchallenged around a London hospital 24 hours before she returned to carry out a pounds 7,000 contract killing of a patient, a court was told yesterday.

Te Rangimaria Ngarimu, a 27- year-old Maori student, abandoned her attempt to shoot Graeme Woodhatch, a businessman, at the Royal Free Hospital after going to the wrong ward on the wrong floor.

She returned the next day and murdered Mr Woodhatch, 38, by firing four shots from about three feet as he used the hospital's public telephone, the Old Bailey heard.

Ngarimu has admitted the murder but the Old Bailey was told that she was part of a plot to murder Mr Woodhatch.

Paul Tubbs, 35, of Enfield, north London, and Deith Bridges, 22, of Chapeltown, Leeds, are jointly charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Woodhatch, a roofing contractor, in May 1992. Each faces one joint charge and one separate charge of perverting the course of justice by disposing of the gun used in the murder. The men deny all charges.

The court was told that Ngarimu escaped to New Zealand but returned to England because of a guilty conscience when she learnt others had been charged in connection with the murder. Nicholas Atkinson QC, for the prosecution, said Mr Bridges provided the gun and Mr Tubbs was the paymaster in a plot to kill Mr Woodhatch.

'Miss Ngarimu pulled the trigger but she did not act alone,' Mr Atkinson said.

'She was a hired killer and part of a conspiracy. She did not have an argument with Graeme Woodhatch but the same cannot be said of the two defendants.

'After the murder the defendants were concerned with the disposal of the gun and both ensured that they had alibis for the time of the killing.'

The jury heard that Mr Tubbs had worked as a partner with Mr Woodhatch in a London roofing firm and Mr Bridges had worked for them.

Both men claimed they had been financially cheated by Mr Woodhatch and Mr Tubbs had told police his partner was involved in fraud. The day after Mr Woodhatch was questioned by police, he threatened to kill one of his staff, Emma Harrison.

A plot was hatched to kill Mr Woodhatch and Mr Bridges talked of 'eradicating' him. He hired his fellow New Zealander, Ngarimu, to carry out the murder and told her to use two shots to the head and two to the chest.

She bought a cap, gloves and tracksuit to disguise herself and on 23 May 1992 went to the hospital where Mr Woodhatch was recovering from a haemorrhoids operation. After going to the wrong ward she left.

She returned the next day and fired four bullets into Woodhatch's face, head and shoulder. The tips of the bullets had been hollowed out to cause maximum damage.

After the murder, she asked Mr Bridges to get rid of her clothes and the gun and she returned to New Zealand.

Money for the execution was sent to her in New Zealand and she told friends it was for her part in a drugs deal.

She was interviewed by detectives in August 1993 and was told she could await extradition but returned to England because the fact that two men had been charged in connection with the killing was on her conscience. She arrived in England days before Mr Tubbs and Mr Bridges were to stand trial and their case was adjourned until her trial took place.

The trial was adjourned until today.