Indian-origin man jailed for life in UK for murder of sex worker 30 years ago

Sandip Patel, 51, was found guilty of the murder of Marina Koppel by stabbing her at least 140 times at her flat in the Westminster area of London in 1994.

Indian-origin man found guilty of murdering a woman 30 years ago after being connected to the brutal killing through a strand of his hair found at the crime scene. (Representational Image)

An Indian-origin man has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in London for murdering a woman 30 years ago after he was connected to the brutal killing through his strand of hair found at the crime scene.

Sandip Patel, 51, was found guilty of the murder of Marina Koppel by stabbing her at least 140 times at her flat in the Westminster area of London in 1994 and sentenced at the Old Bailey court in the city on Friday.

The Metropolitan Police said innovative work by its forensics team on his hair found on a ring worn by Koppel finally brought Patel to justice all these years later.

“This was a great team effort with the forensic scientists, fingerprint experts, the forensic manager and the investigating team all playing their part in solving Marina’s murder,” said Dan Chester, Operational Forensic Manager and the Met Police’s Forensic Lead for Cold Case Homicide Investigations.

“Forensic techniques and technologies are constantly evolving, and the police will continue to review serious unsolved cases and, where possible, pursue new opportunities to enable both the prosecution of those responsible and to exonerate the innocent. This includes cases specifically related to violence against women,” he said.

Marina, who was 39 at the time of her death, lived and worked in her flat during the week and spent time with her husband in Northampton during the weekend. It was an unconventional relationship as Marina worked as a masseuse and occasional sex worker, but the two were happily married, the court heard. She was described as a loving mother and worked hard to send money home to her family in Columbia, including her two children who were being cared for by her family there.

On August 8, 1994, Marina’s husband became worried when he could not get hold of her for some time and so travelled to her flat to check she was ok. When he arrived at the flat, he found his wife’s body unresponsive and covered in blood.

He alerted the police who conducted an analysis of the crime scene gathering crucial evidence, including the ring she was wearing. During their search, they also found a plastic shopping bag which had Patel’s fingerprints on it.

However, Patel, who was 21 at the time, worked in the shop where the bag had come from so the presence of his fingerprints was not considered significant evidence, and for many years the case went unsolved, the Met Police said.

In 2008 further items were examined, among them a ring which had a hair attached. However, it wasn’t until 2022 when sensitive techniques available allowed for a DNA profile to be obtained from the hair on the ring.

It was at this stage that the hair was linked to Patel, whose DNA was now on the database after he was charged with Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) in 2012.

The Met Police said the case was taken on by Specialist Crime detectives who continued to gather evidence.

Patel was arrested on January 19 last year on suspicion of Marina’s murder. Fingerprint experts then also matched his footprints to some bloodstained bare footprints that were found at the crime scene.

This, alongside the DNA on the hair, the fingerprints on the plastic bag and the fact that a bank card belonging to Marina, stolen at the time from her flat, was used at an ATM just half a mile from his home shortly after the murder, was enough to convince the jury of his guilt.

“We are so pleased that finally Marina’s killer has been brought to justice. It is extremely sad that her husband did not live to see this day,” said Detective Superintendent Katherine Goodwin, Head of the Specialist Casework team for Central Specialist Crime at the Met Police.

“Even though Patel has been convicted for the brutal murder of Marina, we may never know the reasons for his actions on that day. Unsolved murder cases are never closed and it is due to the developments of forensic techniques we have been able to identify the suspect for this barbaric crime,” she said.

Marina’s husband died in 2005 but her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Mary and Martin Koppel, paid tribute to her memory.

“Marina was a daughter, a sister, a mother, a loving aunt, a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law who was much loved by all of us as she loved all of us. Had Marina lived, all of the lives of her family and friends would have been enriched and further evolved. We have all suffered these many, many years because we lost Marina so early in life,” they said in a statement.

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