THE wife and daughter of missing Wealdstone pensioner Don Banfield have had their murder convictions overturned on appeal.
Shirley Banfield, 65, and Lynette Banfield, 42, were sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey in the spring of 2012 after being found guilty of killing the former betting shop manager, of Locket Road, Harrow, who disappeared without trace in 2001.
But yesterday three judges sitting at the Criminal Appeal Court quashed the murder conviction and agreed the pair, of Ashford Road, Canterbury, Kent, had "no case to answer".
William Clegg QC, for Shirley Banfield, told the court it had not even been shown Mr Banfield was in fact dead. He said: “The evidence proved that Don Banfield disappeared over the weekend of May 12 and 13 2001.
"The Crown did not suggest when, where or how he was killed, who was present, the mechanism of death or what happened to the body.
“Two hundred thousand people disappear each year, and 2,000 of those are not heard from again. Don Banfield could have been one of those 2,000.”
Overturning the women's murder convictions, Lady Justice Rafferty said: "This was an alleged joint enterprise murder with no body, no suggested mechanism of death, no identified day when the murder was said to have occurred, no time and no place and no suggestion of what happened to the body."
Mr Clegg accepted the likelihood was that "one or other" of the women had killed father-of-six Mr Banfield but Lady Rafferty said there was simply no evidence on which any rational jury could conclude that they had acted together to commit murder. Crown lawyers argued the woman had both the opportunity and motive for murder, but the judge emphasized: "Suspicion without more does not equate to proof". She continued: "The submission of no case to answer should have been allowed. These appeals will be allowed and both convictions will be quashed.
"For the most evident of reasons there could be no question of a retrial."
At the original trial, mother and daughter admitted conspiracy to defraud, forgery, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and Shirley Banfield also admitted dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit, and both received a prison sentence of two years and six months which has now been served.