Joy Morgan

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PA Media

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Joy Morgan was a second year midwifery student at the University of Hertfordshire

A missing student was murdered by a “dishonest and manipulative man” who went to the same church as her, a court heard.

Joy Morgan, 20, from Hatfield, was last seen on 26 December, but her body has never been found.

Reading Crown Court heard the Israel United in Christ Church in Ilford, east London, was “the centrepiece” of her life.

Shohfah-El Israel, 40, denies murdering her.

Prosecutor Mark Fenhalls QC said the trial was “unlike many murder cases”.

He told jurors: “No friend, fellow student or family member has seen her.

“Her body is missing, but we say that all the available evidence will make you sure she is dead and that Israel is responsible.”

The court heard Mr Israel, from Cricklewood, and his wife at the time, Chindu Nwankwo, who was also a member of the church, had “befriended” Ms Morgan.

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Hertfordshire Constabulary

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Ms Morgan was last seen dancing at a church celebration in Ilford on 26 December

Mr Fenhalls said: “She was a mainstay of the congregation, worshipping regularly and helping run the children’s group.

“She has not been seen there since Boxing Day last year.

“On 28 December her number was removed from a church social media chat group.

“There is no good reason why she wanted to leave her only known friends and the church.

“Israel must have been responsible in order to cover for her disappearance.”

Ms Morgan, described in court as a “positive young woman who had everything to live for”, was reported missing on 7 February when her flatmates became concerned.

No-one from the church reported her missing, Mr Fenhalls told jurors.

Mr Israel, of Fordwych Road, was arrested on the M25 near St Albans two days later.

He was questioned for three days and when his car was searched police found Ms Morgan’s house keys.

The defendant told police he had driven Ms Morgan to her home in Hatfield on 26 December but phone records suggested they were in Cricklewood, where he lived, jurors heard.

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Hertfordshire Constabulary

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Ms Morgan’s house keys were found in Mr Israel’s car when it was searched in February, the court heard

Mr Fenhalls said: “His account completely changed and he said that Joy did go to Cricklewood with him in the early hours of 27 December, but that she slept on the sofa.

“He is one of those people who lies whenever he thinks he can get away with it.

“Only when presented with a new piece of evidence does he come up with a fresh explanation.

“He is, we say, a thoroughly dishonest and manipulative man.”

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Hertfordshire Constabulary

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Joy Morgan’s mother Carol Morgan was in court along with members of the Israel United in Christ Church

The prosecutor added: “He fabricates accounts and lies because he has no answer”.

He told the court the church, which derives its teachings from Judaism, has 150 members and “a very particular and clear social hierarchy”, he said.

“The women have no ranks and are referred to as ‘sisters’. The women are required to call the men ‘sir’,” he added.

The trial continues.

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