MPS uses new DNA techniques to solve 1994 murder and put killer behind bars

A man who brutally murdered a woman 30 years ago is facing a life sentence after the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) forensics team used new DNA techniques on a single hair left at the scene to prove he was the killer.

Feb 15, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Sandip Patel pictured in 1994

The force said the “innovative work” on a hair found on a ring worn by Marina Koppel, stabbed at least 140 times at her Westminster flat in 1994, has finally brought to justice Sandip Patel.

Patel, 51, of Finchley Road, NW8, was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey on Thursday (February 15).

He will appear for sentencing at the same court on Friday, February 16.

Operational forensic manager Dan Chester, the MPS’s forensic lead for cold case homicide investigations, said “Unsolved historic murders can be among some of the most complex and challenging cases for police to solve. However, today’s result provides an example where forensic science, newer technologies and collaborative working practices have had a positive impact in bringing a brutal killer to justice.

“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.

“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.”

Ms Koppel, who was 39 at the time of her death, lived and worked in her Westminster 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,” said the MPS. “She was also 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 Monday, 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, his worst fears were confirmed when he found Marina’s body unresponsive and covered in blood.

“He alerted police immediately who conducted an in-depth 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 and so the presence of his fingerprints was not considered significant evidence, and for many years the case went unsolved.”

In 2008 further items were examined, among them a ring which had a hair attached. Fast forward to 2022, and the sensitive techniques available allowed for a DNA profile to be obtained from the hair on the ring, said the MPS. It was at this stage that the hair was linked to Patel, whose DNA was now on the database after he committed actual bodily harm in 2012. The case was taken on by Specialist Crime detectives who continued to gather evidence.

Patel was arrested on January 19, 2023, on suspicion of Ms Koppel’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 Ms Koppel, stolen at the time from her flat, was used at a cash point just half a mile from his home shortly after the murder, was enough to convince the jury of his guilt.

“Ms Koppel’s family members were left distraught after her death and, sadly, her husband died in 2005 before he saw her killer brought to justice,” said the MPS.

Her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Mary and Martin Koppel, paid tribute to Ms Koppel with the following words: “Marina Koppel, our sister-in-law, was an extremely bright, highly intelligent and charismatic person, who saw good in her family and all people she met.

“She wanted to give them everything they needed, especially her two children and nephew who grew up in Columbia.

“Her family and friends would have been in a much better place because of her abundance of energy for life had she not died.

“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.”

Detective Superintendent Katherine Goodwin, head of the Specialist Casework team for Central Specialist Crime, said: “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.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with Marina’s family and friends and we hope that today’s verdict will bring some closure for them.

“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.”

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