British court sentences Indian-origin man to life imprisonment for murdering sex worker 30 years ago

A British court has sentenced an Indian-origin man to life imprisonment in London for murdering a woman 30 years ago.

Metropolitan Police said Met scientists used new DNA techniques on a single hair left at the scene to prove he was the killer.

The Indian-origin man was identified as Sandip Patel.

“The innovative work on a hair found on a ring worn by Marina Koppel, stabbed at least 140 times at her Westminster flat in 1994, has finally brought to justice Sandip Patel,” police said in a statement.

Patel, 51, of Queens Court, Finchley Road, NW8 was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey on Thursday (February 15, 2024).

British court sentences Indian-origin man for murder committed 30 years ago. Photo Courtesy: Metropolitan Police website

Operational Forensic Manager Dan Chester is the Met’s Forensic Lead for Cold Case Homicide Investigations. He said: “Unsolved historic murders can be among some of the most complex and challenging cases for police to solve. However, today’s result provides an example where forensic science, newer technologies and collaborative working practices have had a positive impact in bringing a brutal killer to justice.

“This was a great team effort with the forensic scientists, fingerprint experts, the forensic manager and the investigating team all playing their part in solving Marina’s murder.

“Forensic techniques and technologies are constantly evolving, and the police will continue to review serious unsolved cases and, where possible, pursue new opportunities to enable both the prosecution of those responsible and to exonerate the innocent. This includes cases specifically related to violence against women.”

Who was the victim?

Marina, who was 39 years old at the time of her death, lived and worked in her Westminster flat during the week and spent time with her husband in Northampton during the weekend.

It was an unconventional relationship as Marina worked as a masseuse and occasional sex worker, but the two were happily married.

She was also a loving mother and worked hard to send money home to her family in Columbia, including her two children who were being cared for by her family there.

On 8 August 1994, Marina’s husband became worried when he could not get hold of her for some time and so travelled to her flat to check she was ok.

When he arrived at the flat, his worst fears were confirmed when he found Marina’s body unresponsive and covered in blood.

He alerted police immediately who conducted an in-depth analysis of the crime scene gathering crucial evidence, including the ring she was wearing.

How Patel was arrested?

During their search, they also found a plastic shopping bag which had Patel’s fingerprints on it.

However, Patel, who was 21 at the time, worked in the shop where the bag had come from and so the presence of his fingerprints was not considered significant evidence, and for many years the case went unsolved.

In 2008, further items were examined, among them was a ring which had a hair attached. Fast forward to 2022, and the sensitive techniques available allowed for a DNA profile to be obtained from the hair on the ring. It was at this stage that the hair was linked to Patel, whose DNA was now on the database after he committed actual bodily harm in 2012. The case was taken on by Specialist Crime detectives who continued to gather evidence.

Patel was arrested on 19 January 2023 on suspicion of Marina’s murder. Fingerprint experts then also matched his footprints to some bloodstained bare footprints that were found at the crime scene.

This, alongside the DNA on the hair, the fingerprints on the plastic bag and the fact that a bank card belonging to Marina, stolen at the time from her flat, was used at a cash point just half a mile from his home shortly after the murder, was enough to convince the jury of his guilt.

Marina’s family members were left distraught after her death and, sadly, her husband died in 2005 before he saw her killer brought to justice.