Wife and daughter given life sentence for murder


Shenai Raif
Tuesday 03 April 2012 15:01
The Independent is one of thousands of news outlets across the world that has been assessed by NewsGuard for credibility
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Update March 10, 2021: Shirley and Lynette Banfield’s convictions for murder were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2013. The three appeal court judges agreed that the women had no case to answer and quashed the decision of the previous jury, as well as ruling that the pair should not face a retrial.

A retired tax inspector has been jailed for life for murdering her husband who disappeared without trace 11 years ago.

Shirley Banfield, 64, enlisted the help of their daughter Lynette, 40, to dispose of bookmaker Don Banfield, 63.

Both women were given life sentences at the Old Bailey after being found guilty of murder.

Shirley was told she would serve at least 18 years and Lynette was given a 16-year minimum term.

They killed Mr Banfield, who planned to start a new life without them, in order to get his retirement nest egg.

The women were led away still keeping secret what they did with Mr Banfield's body.

Kay Hackett, Mr Banfield's sister, said in a statement to the court: "Years of not knowing where Don was and then discovering the people closest to him had done such a wicked thing was unimaginable.

"Most painful now is not knowing how he died or where his remains may be."

She begged the women to allow the rest of the family to retrieve the body and ensure Mr Banfield would be "at peace at last".

Mrs Hackett added: "Without these answers, the pain will never subside."

Mr Banfield had recently retired and planned to leave his unhappy marriage for a new life as soon as the family home was sold.

But he "signed his own death warrant" after completing the contract for the sale in May 2001, the Old Bailey heard.

It was the last time he was seen alive. His body has never been found.

A jury found both women guilty of murder by a 10-1 majority. They had kept Mr Banfield's share of the £120,000 profit from the sale of the property in Locket Road, Wealdstone, north west London.

Shirley and Lynette, of Ashford Road, Canterbury, Kent, pleaded guilty to charges involving plundering £64,000 from Mr Banfield's pension funds by pretending he was still alive.

They were jailed for 42 months each, concurrently to the life sentence, for the dishonesty and perverting justice.

Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, told the trial: "When he signed the contract for the sale, he was unwittingly signing his own death warrant."

Mr Banfield had told police his wife and daughter were trying to kill him after waking up to find himself handcuffed.

But he returned on the day he signed the sale contract to ask officers not to take any action.

The women told police Mr Banfield was a womaniser and gambler and often went off when he had money.

Police treated his disappearance as a missing person case until 2009 when the investigation was re-opened after his former employer William Hill became suspicious.

The women claimed to have seen Mr Banfield in December 2008, but later admitted lying to cover up the fraud.

The house in Locket Road was forensically examined in October 2009. The garden was dug up and the concrete floor in the garage was taken up, but there was no sign of a body.

The two women were arrested last year after inquiries in Britain, Trinidad and New York failed to find any proof that Mr Banfield was still alive.

Lynette's creative writing notebook may have held clues to her father's fate.

In different extracts, she wrote about murdering a man, killing women with a pitchfork, putting a body in a car and burying bodies in woods.

She wrote that the body had been in the car for only a matter of minutes but the smell lingered on.

"Oh, thank heavens for the scrappage scheme," she wrote.

The women's old red Ford Fiesta car was compacted as part of the Government's scrappage scheme in 2008.

Shirley, who was on long-term sick leave from the Inland Revenue, claimed her husband "did a Reggie Perrin" and faked his own death.

Mr Aylett told the jury: "At the time, Don Banfield was obviously expecting to receive a large amount of money from the sale of the house.

"He also had his pension from William Hill to live on. He had decided to set up a new life for himself on his own.

"Shirley, on the other hand, perhaps faced a rather bleaker future. She was 54 and on the verge of being abandoned without money to re-house both herself and Lynette."

The women moved to Yorkshire and then Kent to distance themselves from police, said Mr Aylett.

Shirley gave police a false description of her husband, claiming his dark hair had been dyed in a photograph and was now grey.

Mr Banfield's mother Irene died in 2004 without knowing what had become of him.

Speaking outside court, DCI Howard Groves said: "Don Banfield's family and friends have finally seen justice served. It has taken over 10 years for them to find out what happened to him.

"Shirley and Lynette Banfield convinced themselves they would never be found guilty of his murder, however today's verdict shatters that belief."

He said that staff from the Department of Work and Pensions had helped "unravel the complicated web of deceit" that the pair had created to convince others that Mr Banfield was still alive.

When asked whether police will continue to investigate where his body is, Mr Groves said: "That is a matter that we will be looking into."

He was not prepared to discuss the issue further.

Jenny Hopkins from the Crown Prosecution Service said: "Their actions were motivated by greed and they robbed a man of his life purely for monetary gain.

"Almost 11 years since Don's disappearance, his wife and daughter no doubt believed they may have got away with their crime."