'Prolific burglar' from Lewisham on trial at Old Bailey for murder of elderly siblings in 1993
A "prolific burglar" has gone on trial for the murders of an elderly brother and sister during a violent break-in nearly 30 years ago.
Danville Neil, 65, of Lewisham, is accused of killing Anne Castle, 74, and her Second World War veteran brother William Bryan, 71, in their Bethnal Green home in August 1993.
The siblings died after being beaten and restrained as their home was ransacked and jewellery stolen, the Old Bailey was told.
A breakthrough in the case came after the defendant’s DNA was found on a strap used to tie Mr Bryan’s hands during the burglary, prosecutor Alison Morgan KC told the court.
Jurors heard that the the pair had lived together in a flat in Bethnal Green, east London, since Mr Bryan was invalided out of the Army in 1945, with Mrs Castle being widowed in 1987.
She said Neil would suggest an "innocent explanation" for his DNA being on the strap – that the victim had bought a pair of binoculars, with the strap attached, from him at a car boot sale.
Opening the case on Wednesday, Ms Morgan told the jury: "Anne Castle suffered a heart attack. William Bryan was beaten and smothered, which caused him to go into cardiac arrest.
"The prosecution’s case is that it was Danville Neil who entered their address that night to commit a violent burglary, during the course of which he murdered Anne Castle and William Bryan.
"It took nearly 30 years for Danville Neil to be identified as the person responsible for these events. In 1993, he was a prolific burglar. A sample of his DNA was on the national database as a result of his previous convictions.
"Over the years, the investigation into the deaths remained open and in that time, in those 30 years, there have been many developments in forensic techniques.
"Eventually, a strap that had been used to tie the hands of William Bryan during the attack was submitted for further analysis using the more discerning DNA techniques that were then available.
"That process led to a significant DNA match for this defendant being found on the strap, underneath a knot."
Rings had been pulled from Mrs Castle’s fingers, jurors were told.
Photographs were used to identify them as two wedding rings and two diamond rings.
Mr Bryan’s hands were tied with black cord and his feet bound with a brown cloth belt from his dressing gown.
Ms Morgan said a hammer and a screwdriver were recovered from the crime scene.
Ms Morgan said Neil denied going to the address where the victims died.
Mr Bryan’s great nephew, Simon Savvas, said he never knew him to go to car boot sales and he would buy his gadgets new, jurors heard.
Mr Savvas said: "Uncle Billy loved a gadget – he had binoculars in the flat and I think he had at least two sets.
"I remember him using the binoculars on one occasion in particular – he was looking out of the kitchen window across to the garages in Clare Street.
"I don’t know what he was looking at but there was a vegetable stall there and he may have been looking to see what was on it."
Neil, of Sandrock Road, Lewisham, south-east London, denies two counts of murder.
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