DID CAGEFIGHTER AND £53M HEIST MASTERMIND LEE MURRAY KILL A WOMAN?

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By Chris Summers                                                                   2 April 2024

Cagefighter Lee “Lightning” Murray and I go way back.

I should point out, that I have never actually met the guy.

But I have followed his criminal career since February 2006, when he masterminded the £53 million Securitas heist, which remains the biggest cash robbery in British history.

During the subsequent Old Bailey trial Murray was identified as Stopwatch, the masked figure (pictured below) who organised the robbery like clockwork and made sure the gang were in and out within 66 minutes, even if it meant leaving behind another £153 million in cash.

Murray was described during the trial by prosecutor David Jeremy as being a “flamboyant figure, a bit of an extrovert with his yellow Ferrari and page-three girls.”

Last year I appeared as a talking head in an American documentary about Murray called Catching Lightning. (see link below this article)

But the film did not mention the big stain on Murray’s criminal career that undermines his status as a glamorous, lovable rogue – the murder of a young woman.

Last week saw the end of an inquest – which I again covered – which heard Murray named as a prime suspect in the shooting of 25-year-old Sabina Rizvi in March 2003.

It’s a fact which I have known for 17 years.

In November 2007 – when I was working for the BBC – I interviewed Sabina’s mother, Iffat.

She told me then: “This pain is never going to leave me. This pain is going to go on until the day I leave this world. I’m not the same person as I was when Sabina was alive. I am in pain all the time.”

She also told me Murray was suspected of having been one of the gunmen who killed her daughter.

But I could not publish his name in my article (link below) because Kent Police were still hoping to extradite Murray from Morocco – where he fled after the heist – and several of his accomplices were on trial at the Old Bailey at the time.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6939273.stm

In January 2008 five of them – Lea Rusha, Stuart Royle, Roger Coutts, Jetmir Bucpapa and Ermir Hysenaj – were jailed for their roles in the robbery.

Giving evidence, Coutts had said: “Lee Murray has security firms, he runs doormen, he has flash cars and he is a well known drug dealer, everyone knows it. He’s a gangster.”

The following year another robber-cagefighter, Paul Allen, who had fled to Morocco with Murray but was extradited back to the UK, was jailed for 18 years.

Murray – whose full name is Lee Brahim Murray-Lamrani – was the son of a Moroccan father.

Paul Allen said of Murray’s father: “He was an absolute lunatic of a man. He used to beat the living daylights out of Lee as a child.”

Murray and Allen had bought a plush villa in the swanky Souissi district of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, and spent almost £700,000 refurbishing it.

“Lightning” put in some less than tasteful decorations – a statue of himself and a mural of his cagefighting debut in Las Vegas.

Murray avoided extradition by claiming to be a Moroccan national but although it seemed like a clever ruse at the time, it turned out to be a serious mistake.

He was later jailed in Morocco for the Securitas robbery and, in 2010, given a 25 year sentence – more porridge than he would have been given if convicted of the crime in Britain.

Fast forward to 2019 and Sabina Rizvi’s family finally succeeded in persuading the legal establishment to allow a coroner to complete the inquest into her death.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic intervened and the inquest was delayed for another five years.

Finally, in March 2024, the inquest got under way in Court 1 of the Old Bailey, the same building where Murray’s friend, Paul Asbury, was jailed for life for his role in Sabina’s murder 20 years earlier.

Asbury, a south London drug dealer, actually turned up in the witness box at the inquest and answered questions about Sabina’s death.

He had pleaded not guilty at his trial in 2004 but 20 years later Asbury admitted he was responsible for Sabina’s death, but insisted the target had been her boyfriend, Mark “Bucky” Williams.

Sabina had been in a relationship with Williams for about six months. She had been on holiday to Jamaica with him and had two tattoos of his name on her.

Williams was a drug dealer who, along with his notorious friend Andrew “Sparks” Wanogho, was seeking to muscle in on Asbury and Murray’s turf in the Thamesmead, Crayford and Bexleyheath area.

Asbury told the inquest jury: “I did not know Sabina Rizvi. I did not see Sabina Rizvi. She had no part in the plan to attack Mark Williams. She was caught up in the middle.”

At the centre of Sabina’s murder was an Audi TT car which she claimed to have bought legitimately from Asbury for £15,000 a week before her death.

Cutting a very long story short – it later emerged the car had been stolen at gunpoint by Williams and another man, and then gifted to Sabina.

Asbury reported the car as stolen and Sabina and Williams arrived at Bexleyheath police station on the evening of 19 March 2003.

Williams was wearing a bulletproof vest.

When the police asked him why he was wearing it he said he was under “permanent threat” because he “ran with” Wanogho, who was on the run for murder.

Williams told police if Wanogho’s enemies could not find him they might shoot him instead.

In July 2002 Wanogho (who I have also written about before – see link below) had gunned down Damian Cope outside Browns nightclub in central London. Wanogho’s murder trial collapsed in 2004 after two terrified witnesses refused to testify.

But Wanogho (pictured above) would eventually be gunned down in 2006 after being lured into a honey-trap in Brockley, south London.

Delphon Nicholas, one of the men jailed for Wanogho’s murder, said of him: “Everybody fell out with Andrew. He would fall out in an empty room.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7605761.stm

Williams too had plenty of enemies.

He told Detective Constable Florio: “I am at war with the gypsies,” apparently a reference to Asbury and his associates.

While Williams derided them – telling Florio “they think they’re gangsters…they are pussies,” he was clearly concerned when the police confiscated his bulletproof vest and then released him around 2am on 20 March 2003.

While he may have expected a violent response in the next few days or weeks, Williams had no idea Asbury and his accomplices were planning immediate retribution, having learned he was in Bexleyheath police station.

Asbury and others were in a red Vauxhall Astra keeping surveillance on the police station while the gunmen were in a Ford Mondeo nearby.

Sabina was driving Williams back to his home in Erith when their Nissan Bluebird was fired on by two gunmen in the Mondeo, which pulled up next to them just moments after they left the police station.

Three bullets hit Sabina – the fatal one, in the neck, and two others in her left arm and left thigh – and other shots struck Williams, who survived.

Detectives visited him in the intensive care unit and, unable to speak, he communicated with them with written notes.

Asbury told the inquest jury he was in the Astra, on the night of Sabina’s murder but he said he was in contact with the gunmen moments before the shooting.

He refused to identify them but said one of them was now dead and the other “is in another country”.

Asbury said: “I have not spoken to them since that night when I said that Mark Williams was in the passenger seat of the car.”

The inquest jury was told Williams remained “too unwell” to give evidence but they heard about statements he had made to the police during the original investigation.

He said Asbury and another man he called Mouse – later identified by police as Moushy Sargent – had threatened him.

The inquest was told about police intelligence which identified Murray, Sargent and a third man, Tommy Brown, as possibly being involved in the shooting.

Mark Horner, who had been a detective constable at Bexleyheath at the time of Sabina’s murder, was asked by Rajiv Menon KC, counsel for the Rizvi family, if he was aware of Murray’s “reputation” at the time.

Mr Menon said: “Lee Murray had a fearsome reputation on the streets of south London, didn’t he?”

Mr Horner replied: “In terms of cagefighting?”

Mr Menon said: “No, on the streets. Did you not know that?”

Mr Horner said he had difficulty recalling what he knew about Murray in March 2003.

The inquest jury also heard Murray was questioned about the shooting of a doorman – who survived – outside the Rat & Parrot in Bexleyheath in December 2002.

The jury also heard there was police intelligence Murray was gradually driving to move away from drug dealing and prioritise his cagefighting career.

Murray’s cagefighting career had begun in December 1999 and he amassed a number of wins, culminating in victory over an American, Jorge Rivera, at UFC 46 in Las Vegas in January 2004.

In 2002 Murray had also knocked out world champion Tito Ortiz during a street brawl outside a London nightclub.

The pinnacle of Murray’s cagefighting career was in September 2004 when he lost, but performed well, in a fight with Brazil’s Anderson Silva, one of the biggest names in the sport.

But his career in the octagon petered out in 2005.

Firstly Murray was convicted of grievous bodily harm during a road rage attack, which meant he could not get a visa to fight in the United States.

Then, in September 2005, he was stabbed during a brawl outside the Funky Buddha nightclub in London where reality TV star Lauren Pope was hosting a birthday party.

With Asbury having picked up the tab for the Sabina Rizvi murder, the Metropolitan Police showed no appetite for coming after Murray.

So with his cagefighting career in tatters, Murray turned back to his number one love: crime.

This time he was aiming for the big one.

And in the Securitas heist he hit the jackpot.

But will he ever face justice for his role in the death of Sabina, a young woman who had unfortunately fallen in love with a gangster?

Cathryn McGahey, counsel to the Sabina Rizvi inquest, asked Detective Superintendent Francis De Juan, from the Metropolitan Police’s inquiry and review support command, “If further information was to come to light now, would the police reopen the case?”

Mr De Juan replied: “Then the case would progress, yes.”

But in the final days of the inquest the Metropolitan Police’s lawyers urged the coroner to direct the jury to reach a conclusion of unlawful killing, rather than giving them the option of a narrative verdict.

In their legal submissions (pictured) they came close to blaming Sabina for her own death.

One passage says: “Whatever her involvement in the theft of the Audi…Sabina was prepared to lie to the police and to her PACE representative (a solicitor) and her mother and commit criminal offences to support her efforts and those of her partner Mark Williams to retain the Audi.”

It goes on: “Sabina was aware of the threats made to Mark Williams’ life and her life by Paul Asbury and his associates.”

But it says Sabina did not disclose these threats to the police and had “repetitively lied in interview to distance herself and Mark Williams from the robbery.”

The Met’s legal submissions point out Sabina never voiced any concerns to solicitor Keith Snow about her safety or that of Williams.

They added: “Instead the tenor of that interview was to the opposite effect, that Sabina wanted ‘to look good and sexy in this car, summer’s coming, it’s a convertible…it’s my dream car’.”

The inquest ended on March 26 when the coroner, Judge Angela Rafferty KC, ruled there was no police corruption, accepted the Metropolitan Police’s urgings and removed the opportunity for the jury to give a narrative verdict.

After the jury formally returned a verdict of unlawful killing on Sabina, her mother Iffat spoke outside the Old Bailey and said: “After waiting 21 years since Sabina’s murder for an inquest to provide some answers about what really happened on the night she died, we are hugely disappointed that the coroner has prevented the jury from returning any conclusion on the facts.”

She added: “We are deeply disappointed that at the end of the evidence the coroner ruled that Article 2, the right to life, was not engaged, and that the jury were not able to comment on what happened to Sabina. We feel they have been gagged and this continues to reflect the systemic injustice we have faced since Sabina’s murder.”

After the inquest the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said they had conducted a full investigation and found no evidence of misconduct.

But they said: “We found that an experienced custody sergeant should have provided better supervision to a probationary police constable, who was monitoring Mr Williams while he was detained…which resulted in Mr Williams making a call while detained resulting, it is believed, in a message being passed on to Paul Asbury.”

As for Lee Murray, it remains to be seen whether he will ever face trial in Britain – or indeed Morocco – over Sabina’s murder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq6hBgDIZS4

 

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