For those who loved Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the past 12 months have been traumatic for more reasons than the horrific deaths of the sisters.
Apart from the trial of the murderer of women, two police officers have been charged with misconduct in the public office for photographs taken at the place where the remains of the two sisters lay.
With Danyal Hussein’s conviction Tuesday for the murder of the sisters last year as part of a deal he is said to have made with an alleged “demon”, there is now an identified killer who will be sentenced for his crimes.
However, over the course of four weeks of hearings at the Old Bailey, reminders of how slowly police initially reacted to concerns about the sisters’ well-being after their friends were unable to reach them after a party on June 5, 2020 they will not have disappeared. unnoticed by your friends and family
Adam Stone, Nicole Smallman’s boyfriend, told at trial how he had discovered their bodies in the bushes in Fryent Country Park, northwest London, on June 7, after he and others began their search. This search was a case of friends and family “doing the investigation that the police are paid for,” said Mina Smallman, the sisters’ mother, in an interview with the BBC before the trial.
Stone would not have been the one who discovered their bodies had police deployed earlier and searched the park where the sisters had gathered with friends hours before Hussein killed them, a high-ranking investigating officer said at the trial.
Within minutes of Stone’s arrival at the park, where he was joined by his parents and another friend of the sisters, they had found what turned out to be the weapon, a knife that would become the focus of initial police investigations.
Meanwhile, blood samples found at the scene produced male DNA, labeled “Unknown,” which was not in any police databases. However, a breakthrough came when on June 30 last year a “family” DNA link was established with someone whose DNA was in the database.
Investigators found that the teenager was a member of the same family and that his father lived near the park.
“One of my officers went out to do some research on knife block purchases and said, ‘I got him buying knives at Asda a couple days before,’” said DCI Simon Harding, who led the investigation.
Closed-circuit television was recovered covering Hussein’s Wembley address and showing a man returning around 4 a.m. the morning of the killings.
“This was very, very fast. In an hour and a half we had it all, ”Harding said of a concentration of resources that led to Hussein being arrested at his mother’s home in south-east London early on July 1.
While in custody, Hussein refused to give a blood sample, but his decision to allow a swab taken from the inside of his cheek was to prove his undoing. Police investigators told the trial how he had reacted with surprise when told that the police had been able to obtain a DNA match to the bloodstains at the crime scene despite his refusal to provide blood.
The scope of that coincidence, in evidentiary terms, was devastating. In fact, blood from the crime scene was a billion times more likely to come from him than from anyone else, forensic expert Saran Khera said at trial.
A note signed in blood, later found in Hussein’s bedroom and in which he struck a deal with a demon named “Lucifuge Rofocale” to “sacrifice” women in exchange for winning the lottery, provided another one billion DNA match. to one. .
“Given the weight of the evidence against him, only someone who truly believes that a deal with a demon will work could refuse to accept any aspect of the case against him,” Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC told jurors.
In defending a client who refused to testify in his own defense, a decision the judge said jurors would have to decide for themselves whether they felt was against him in any way, Hussein’s defense attorney came down to urging the jury to consider the police. case as a “leaky ship” with holes in it.
Riel Karmy-Jones QC insisted that there were problems with some of the evidence as it was initially presented. The police, he said, called the case a “coup de grace” after identifying Hussein as a suspect and later closed other avenues of investigation.
While urging the jury not to get carried away by “pain or anger,” he also urged jurors not to try Hussein, who told police he had autism, for his behavior in court, which she described as “strange”.
That behavior seemed to extend to repeatedly trying to make eye contact with Mina Smallman. Together with her husband, Chris, Nicole’s father, sat before much of the evidence in a trial that included detailed testimony of the multiple injuries suffered by the women.
But the women themselves, or rather their memories, were also present in the invocation of their zeal for life and the happy circumstances in which they and their friends met in Fryent Country Park, a place chosen for its views over London. .
“It was a beautiful afternoon, an incredible view, an incredible sunset. We were all taking photos making observations in the sky at night, ”Nina Esmat, one of the last to leave at around 11:45 pm, had told the trial while the sisters stayed.
“I had the impression that they weren’t going to stay long. It felt like a safe space. “