THE LADY KILLERS: THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF DON BANFIELD by Matt Nicholls
Shirley Banfield and her daughter Lynette almost got away with murder when they killed their husband and father Don and made his body disappear without a trace.
The pair are believed to have smothered the 63-year-old womaniser in his bed to get their hands on his pension pot and share of the family home.
For nearly ten years they claimed his annuity, telling friends and family he had simply vanished as they pocketed more than £120,000.
The father-of-six 'signed his own death warrant' when he announced he was selling the semi-detached two-bedroom home to return to his native Trinidad.
In the run-up to his disappearance, Shirley handcuffed her husband to his bed as he slept and told him: 'I can do what I want with you.'
And two days before he went missing, Mr Banfield told police his wife and daughter were trying to kill him, but asked them not to take any further action.
Detectives believe he may have been handcuffed again to stop him struggling and smothered with a plastic bag slipped over his head.
But the location of the body and how it was disposed of remains a mystery. Police say the two women must have been helped by others - but they are unable to identify the culprits.
Detectives later recovered a notebook in which Lynnette wrote about murdering a man and putting a body in a car.
She wrote of the lingering smell in the vehicle and added 'Oh, thank heavens for the scrappage scheme.'
The women's Ford Fiesta was compacted as part of the government initiative in 2008.
Tax inspector Shirley, now 64, and Lynette, 40, were convicted of Mr Banfield's murder by majority verdict after a month-long trial at the Old Bailey.
Both were handed life sentences, with Shirley to serve a minimum of 18 years and Lynette, a former local authority housing officer, to spend at least 16 years behind bars.
Shirley also faces having to pay back the £120,000 she siphoned off from her husband's pension funds.
'WHY DON'T YOU DIE?'
Mr Banfield, was a known womaniser who had his six children by three different partners.
He fled to the UK from Trinidad in 1960 to avoid marrying one girlfriend who was the mother of his first two children.
When his first wife went home to the Caribbean for her father's funeral he refused to pay her fare back to the UK and started seeing Shirley Hagen, who was to become his second wife.
Mr Banfield was the manager of the Hampstead branch of William Hill and was himself a heavy gambler, sometimes playing poker games that went on for days.
He wagered money borrowed against the family home and his second marriage was punctuated by explosive rows, with Lynette always taking her mother's side.
Shortly before his disappearance in May 2001, Mr Banfield told friends he had been hit over the head as he slept and Lynette had tried to spray furniture polish into his eyes.
On another occasion, his wife produced a knife, while she and Lynette taunted him, shouting: 'Why don't you die?'
Mr Banfield also believed his food was being poisoned and his post intercepted after finding a stash of letters addressed to him hidden behind the sofa.
He had told his son Kevin, 43, that his marriage was over and had begged to move in with him.
He was planning to use his pension and money from the sale of the house in Locket Road, Wealdstone, to 'see out his days' in Trinidad.
But his second wife was facing a bleak future if the couple separated, without enough money to house her and her daughter.
When Mr Banfield signed the contract for the sale of 146 Locket Road he was 'unwittingly signing his own death warrant', prosecutor Crispin Aylett told the Old Bailey.
Two days before his disappearance he had told police how he woke in the middle of the night to find himself handcuffed to the bed and the pair attempting to smother him with a plastic bag.
His wife and daughter are believed to have murdered him that night or during the weekend that followed. Neither reported him missing and it was friend Rod McIntosh went to the police.
Shirley Banfield and her daughter insisted that the victim had just disappeared and they had no idea where he was.
Without a body or any evidence of a struggle the case was dropped.
The two women were then free to help themselves to Mr Banfield's William Hill pension by forging a letter to the company instructing them to switch payments to a joint account he held with his wife.
A handwriting expert has since determined the 'flowery, feminine' script on the note was in fact penned by Lynette, allowing she and her mother to claim £29,000 up until November 2008.
A similar request was made by telephone to the Department of Work and Pensions in January 2003 in respect of Mr Banfield's state pension, with this fraud netting £34,000 for the pair up to May 2009.
Shirley also made a claim for Disability Living Allowance, with entries on the form purporting to have been made by her husband.
THE PLOT UNRAVELS
In the years that followed, Shirley and Lynette bought a house in Whitby, Yorkshire, which they sold before going to stay with family in Stanmore, Middlesex, in an attempt to distance themselves from the disappearance.
They later bought a property in York, before selling that and eventually settling in Canterbury, Kent, where she and Lynette pooled their cash to buy a four-bedroom house.
Mother and daughter had enough money to enjoy luxury holidays including a trip to Greneda, which Shirley Banfield claimed she took to look for her husband in the Caribbean.
But in 2008 an official from William Hill contacted the wife and she was forced to admit she had not seen her husband for years.
Police reopened the investigation but the two women said Mr Banfield had visited them over Christmas 2008 - though they now admit this was a lie.
Shirley told police he had turned up asking if he could use the house as a postal address and that he had been coughing up blood.
She said she believed he had gone back to Trinidad.
Shirley Banfield even told her son Kevin, now 43, his father was alive and she had been in contact with him.
But lies unravelled when police discovered the pensions fraud.
Detectives mounted a huge search for Mr Banfield with appeals on TV's Crimewatch.
They even made an appeal for information at the Santa Rosa racecourse in Trinidad, but no trace of him has ever been found.
Both Shirley and Lynette ridiculed claims they had killed Mr Banfield when they gave evidence.
Shirley admitted telling police 'a pack of lies' but claimed she had only done so because she was anxious to get home and feed her pet cockatiel.
Her defence team also called Mr Banfield's nephew, 40-year-old Alan Strickland, who claimed he had seen him crossing the street in Wealdstone five years after he vanished.
Lynette also said she had only lied to police because she was worried about the fraud being uncovered.
But the jury saw through their web of deceit - despite the lack of a body - and found both Shirley and Lynette guilty of murder.
They had already admitted fraud, forgery and perverting the court of justice.
After the convictions, Mr Banfield's sister Kay Hackett spoke of her shock following her brother's disappearance.
She said: 'When Don went missing in May 2001, a wave of shock ran through his closest and extended family.
'Siblings in New York and Trinidad were looking forward to news he was enjoying his retirement in Trinidad back with his family.
'Not knowing where he was and whether he was alive was a constant ache in everyone's hearts.
'His mother, Irene, sadly died knowing that he was missing, longing for news of his safe return.
'News that his wife and daughter had stolen his pension and that they were now being tried for his murder was devastating.'
She added: 'The most painful thing now is not knowing how he died or where his remains may be.'