Joy Morgan

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PA Media

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Joy Morgan regularly attended the Israel United in Christ Church in Ilford, east London

A midwifery student who has been missing since Boxing Day was murdered by a man who went to the same church in east London, a court heard.

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

Jurors heard she attended the Israel United in Christ Church, in Ilford, along with Shohfah-El Israel – the man accused of killing her.

Mr Israel, 40, denies murder, and is on trial at Reading Crown Court.

Opening the case, 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.”

‘Clear social hierarchy’

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

Mr Fenhalls said the church’s teachings derive from Judaism.

It 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’.”

Nobody from the church reported Ms Morgan missing, Mr Fenhalls told jurors.

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Hertfordshire Constabulary

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

Ms Morgan was a second year student at the University of Hertfordshire.

She was described by Mr Fenhalls as a “positive young woman who had everything to live for”.

He told jurors that the church was “the centrepiece” of her life.

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.”

‘Thoroughly dishonest’

Ms Morgan was first reported missing on 7 February after her flatmates became concerned.

Mr Israel became a suspect in the missing persons case and was arrested on the M25 near St Albans on 9 February.

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

Mr Fenhalls said Mr Israel’s first account was that he had driven Ms Morgan to her home in Hatfield on 26 December, when he dropped her off.

However, jurors heard that data from Mr Israel and Ms Morgan’s phones “suggested” they were in Cricklewood, where he lived.

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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.”

The trial continues.

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