In a widely followed case, a British solicitor has been jailed for life for arranging the contract killing of his NRI business partner to claim 1.5 million pounds insurance to pay off his debts.
John Cort, a solicitor in the east Midlands town of Leicester, hired Brain Farrell, a hit-man from Bayswater in west London, to kill 51-year-old Vina Patel.
The body of Patel was found at the bottom of the stairs at the office of Cort and Co solicitors on 15 January 2009. Cort tried to make the death look like an accident.
Cort and Patel were business partners in the company.
54-year-old Cort and Farrell, 37, were found guilty of killing Patel and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Nottingham Crown Court yesterday sentenced Cort to a life term with a minimum term of 29 years while Farrell has been jailed for a minimum term of 27 years.
Justice Linda Dobbs at Nottingham crown court ruled that the murder was “premeditated, calculated and ruthless”.
“You deprived the family and friends of Vina Patel of a cherished person. That you, Mr Cort, were able to have murdered a close friend of 30 years, erstwhile lover of 20 years and partner prepared to help you with your divorce, reveals your true character. You are a controlling person who will stop at nothing to achieve your aims. You were the driving force behind the murder,” Dobbs said.
Patel suffered a broken neck as well as other injuries. The court evidence suggested she had either fallen because she was being attacked or had been attacked then her body arranged to make it look like an accident.
Surendra Patel, the husband of the deceased, said after the verdict: “We wanted justice for Vina, this is it. The man (Cort) is completely callous, there was no reaction at all. I think he is the devil. If you ever want to meet the devil, he is it.”
The court was told that Cort “lived a life he simply could not afford” and had 171,000 pounds of debt.
Weeks before Patel’s death, Cort had persuaded her they should increase their life assurance cover from 500,000 to 1.5 million pounds, claiming he had a serious illness.
The life insurance policy had been taken out by Cort and Patel to protect the company in case of the death of either partner.
Besides, more than 650,000 pounds went missing from the company’s client account, which should have been paid to customers or mortgage lenders.
The company was investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after Cort’s arrest.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Redfern said although Patel’s death originally looked like an accident, thorough examination of the scene and an expert post-mortem examination led to an investigation which identified Cort and Farrell as those responsible for her death.