Couple jailed for life for ‘wicked’ missing body murder in Highbury

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

A couple have been jailed for life for murdering a widower whose body was hidden and never to be found in a “wicked” act of deceit.

Frank McKeever, 62, disappeared after visiting his stepdaughter Surie Suksiri at her home in Highbury, north London, on the evening of August 28 2021.

While he was there, he was photographed in a “humiliating” position and forced to make a filmed confession to assaulting Suksiri when she was a child, saying he “deserved to be punished”.

He was then subjected to a “painful” and “protracted” death before his body was dumped in a remote location, the Old Bailey was told.

On Monday, Suksiri, 32, and her now ex-boyfriend, Juned Sheikh, 48, were jailed for life after being found guilty of Mr McKeever’s murder and preventing his lawful burial.

Sheikh, who had 16 previous convictions, including for violence and robbery, was given a minimum term of 24 years, with Suksiri told she will spend at least 18 years in prison.

Judge Anthony Bate said: “Frank McKeever went willingly to visit the defendants. He expected them to welcome him as before and be treated with the respect that any guest deserves. Events took a sinister turn in that confined residential setting.”

After killing Mr McKeever, the defendants lied about what happened and hid his body in a “wicked and sustained deceit”.

The judge said it was a “serious affront to public standards of decency” and means the family cannot lay him to rest.

Earlier, the victim’s older brother, Dominic McKeever, said the trial was “lengthy and harrowing” and the family has been denied the chance to give “happy-go-lucky” Mr McKeever the “loving farewell” he deserves.

Reading his statement in court, he said: “In the summer of 2021, Frank embarked on a new, positive chapter in his life. He was busy making plans to move house, enjoying exploring London with his new freedom pass and had reconnected with us, his siblings, much to our happiness.

“Frank had a lot to live for. This bright future has been cruelly and casually taken away from him and from us.”

The family was “heartened”  at confirmation from police that there is no evidence the allegations of abuse against Mr McKeever are true.

But it only added to the pain and “indignity” of his death, with his brother adding: “At times it felt as if Frank was on trial.”

In mitigation, Allison Hunter KC said Suksiri was vulnerable and had a low IQ and alcohol addition.

She said Sukiri had no desire to cause further suffering to Mr McKeever’s loved ones and would tell authorities where his body is if she could.

Prosecutor Katherine Patterson told the court the victim’s video confession was “staged”.

She said: “We still do not know the precise cause of Mr McKeever’s death. However, we invite the court to be sure that he was subjected to significant and sustained violence and suffered a painful, protracted and humiliating death.”

Previously, the court was told Suksiri sent a 47-second video on WhatsApp to Sheikh’s sister about an hour after Mr McKeever arrived at her home on the night of his murder.

In it, Suksiri said “start” off-camera before Mr McKeever spoke on camera in a “flat tone” and admitted assaulting her when she was six.

After the video was made, the defendants killed Mr McKeever, disposing of his body a few days later, the court was told.

Giving evidence, Suksiri denied harming her stepfather and blamed her partner for injuring him with repeated elbow blows.

After she realised he was dead, she admitted dumping Mr McKeever’s body but could only remember it was beside a motorway because Sheikh had driven them to the spot.

She told jurors they dragged the body out of the car and Sheikh covered it with branches.

Sheikh refused to answer questions after his arrest and chose not to give evidence during the trial.

Mr McKeever’s disappearance was noticed because he was due to complete a house-swap with a couple, who reported him missing after contact stopped.

Suksiri claimed not to have spoken to her stepfather for 20 years.

But on September 2 she pawned three of his rings for £200, jurors were heard.

Her sister-in-law raised concerns with social services, who contacted police after Suksiri told her about the recorded confession and sent her the video on WhatsApp.

The court was played conversations Suksiri had with an undercover police officer last year after being released under investigation.

They detailed a clear confession to the murder with Sheikh, the prosecution said.

Suksiri and Sheikh, from Camberwell in south London, denied the charges against them.

After their convictions earlier in November, Sheikh reacted angrily and told jurors to “rot in hell”.