ARTHUR BRUMHILL TRIAL: Final speeches heard from prosecution and defence in Northampton pet shop murder trial

Stuart Jenkins, of Ossett, Yorkshire at Northampton Crown Court.
Stuart Jenkins, of Ossett, Yorkshire at Northampton Crown Court.

A jury is to be sent out to decide whether a former soldier who “served his country with distinction” murdered Northampton pet shop worker Arthur Brumhill in 1993, when he was aged just 17.

Yesterday the seven women and five men who will decide 41-year-old Stuart Jenkins’ fate heard closing speeches from the prosecution and defence.

The case against him the hinges around the fact his fingerprints were found on a discarded polythene bag, the straw contents of which had been emptied onto Mr Brumhill’s body after the attack at Paul Denton Pet and Garden Supplies in Wellingborough Road, in January 21, 1993.

James House QC for the prosecution, also detailed how Jenkins had allegedly made two admissions, firstly to a 13-year-old friend in the early 1990s and then later to an acquaintance around three years later, stating that he was responsible for the death of the 76-year-old.

Mr House QC, said these were “unassailable facts” that could not be disputed by Jenkins.

“These are things that cannot be tainted by the passing of time of the vagaries of memories,” he said.

Lee Middleton, a fellow shop worker who gave evidence last week, was initially arrested on suspicion of murder in 1993, because his prints were also found on the crucial bag of straw ripped open. He was and has never been charged.

But Mr House said that early fingerprint evidence had been superseded by the recent discovery of four of Jenkins’ prints at the point the polythene bag was ripped. The prints were discovered when the “cold case” was reopened in around 2015.

Mr House said: “Despite what the defence suggests, evidence has existed all along to suggest the killer did open the bag.

“Imagine if technology had’ve been good enough in 1994, this trial would have taken place then and not now.”

He went on to say that the killer would have known the till cash float was stored in a rear toilet, as it was taken the night of the murder. He pointed to the fact Jenkins worked there for four weeks on a work placement 10 weeks prior to the killing.

He also pointed to forensic expert Adrian Downing’s, evidence given to the court on Monday afternoon, in which the scientist said there could be no other explanation other than Jenkins having opened the bag.

Closing his speech, the prosecutor said that former soldier Jenkins, who now lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire with his family, had served his country with “distinction.”

But he said: “He may well regret this, I am sure he does.

“It might have been a moment of madness.

“But the evidence makes plain, it was Stuart Jenkins’ moment of madness.”

DEFENCE: ‘Prosecution case is flimsy’

Defending for Stuart Jenkins, William Harbidge QC said the prosecution case was “flimsy” as the jury could never be sure others were not responsible for Arthur Brumhill’s death.

In his closing speech the barrister sought to dismiss the finger print evidence against Jenkins - suggesting the defendant could have easily placed his hands on the bag when he worked in the pet shop.

But he also pointed to evidence that there was another robbery in the Wellingborough Road area a short distance away from the murder scene that same night. Witnesses saw two boys running in separate directions at around 10.30pm that night and another suspicious-looking man wearing a high visibility jacket seen in the area, could all be classed as suspects too he said.

A man in a yellow tracksuit was seen in the area the next morning throwing away an object roughly 18 inches in length.

Mr Harbidge QC, said: “Could it have been one of those people?

“If it could, then you cannot be sure Stuart Jenkins did this.”

The barrister questioned the assertion that Jenkins had a set of keys cut for the store. He also said that Jenkins would have known Arthur Brumhill worked late and would never have attempted a robbery at that time.

The prosecution case hinges on the fact four of Jenkins’ fingerprints were lifted from a ripped bag of straw discarded at the scene.

The prints are, the prosecution say, proof Jenkins ripped open the bag and used the contents to cover Arthur Brumhill’s body. Two of the four prints were impressions of Jenkins’ middle finger.

But Mr Harbidge QC, said: “We suggest that they can’t be sure that from the two fingerprints you have, this rip was caused by the defendant.

“Even if you were sure it was - it doesn’t prove that he ripped the bag on the night in question.

“You can’t age a finger print or rip.

“It doesn’t prove he killed Mr Brumhill.”

He also pointed to the fact the original police investigation team did not gather any evidence from the “barn” area of the pet shop, where around 10 or 12 bags of staw were always kept in storage.

Mr Harbidge QC, said; “He (Jenkins) had every reason to handle that bag while at the pet shop. He would have filled the bags with straw. Some of the bags in the barn may not have been taken off the shelves.

“How many bags on the barn have Mr Jenkins’ fingerprints on them? We just don’t know.”

Key points:

*It is agreed Arthur Brumhill’s murderer was in the store to steal money - as the till float was taken from a rear toilet. The prosecution suggested the killer must have known where this was kept.

*There was no forced entry to the pet shop and the prosecution say Jenkins could have had a key cut. He denies this.

*Whoever killed Arthur Brumhill covered his body with straw. The amount of straw found on Mr Brumhill’s body, 900 grammes, was roughly the same weight as a full, unopened bag of straw straight from the wholesalers.

*Four of Jenkins’ fingerprints were lifted from a ripped bag of straw found at the scene. However seven other “unidentified” prints were also found.

*Crime logs show another burglary took place the same night on Wellingborough Road at a memorial shop at number 170. Witnesses described seeing a man in a high visibility jacket lurking in the area around 10.30pm that night.

*Arthur Brumhill was struck repeatedly with a blunt object. Two tyre levers were kept at the shop though one was missing the morning after the murder.

The pathologist who carried out the post-mortem said the curvature of the head wounds matched that of the remaining tyre lever gathered in evidence.

*The murder weapon was never recovered.

*One witness, Deborah Osborne, described seeing Arthur Brumhill on the night on January 21, counting money “overtly” in the front window of the store after the store closed. This was one of the last sightings of the 76-year-old.

*A witness - a Mr Taylor - saw a male - aged between 15 and 20 with “mousey-brown” hair enter the shop after closing time. He was let in by Mr Brumhill.

*Another witness described seeing two boys running along Monks Road, opposite Paul Denton Pet and Garden Supplies at around 10.50pm.

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