Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 12:00 UK

Overtime led to fatal chance encounter

By Chris Summers and Jeremy Britton
BBC News

A man who had been fired from his job has been convicted of murdering a former colleague after she went into work at the weekend and found him stealing computers.

Matthew Fagan is an American who graduated from high school in a logging town in Washington state. Cathy Marlow was a New Zealand expat, who had spent 18 months in London working as a finance manager.

Matthew Fagan
Matthew Fagan was born in September 1975
Graduated from Columbia High School in White Salmon, Washington in 1994
Came to London in 2000
Married a German woman in 2003
Worked at Research Now from April 2005 to April 2006
Murdered Cathy Marlow in January 2007
Convicted of murder in September 2008

A cruel quirk of fate put them together one day.

She ended up dead and he now faces life in prison.

Judge Brian Barker, the Common Sergeant of London, said: "She made a fateful decision to go to work on a Saturday. Her diligence cost her her life."

Miss Marlow's body was found, fully clothed, in a shower cubicle at her office on 13 January last year. She had been tied up and throttled with her own scarf.

It was a Saturday and Cathy had come into the offices of Research Now, a market research company, at the weekend to finish off some work. The 28-year-old had been on holiday to Egypt and felt bad for falling behind with her work.

The scarf used to murder Cathy Marlow
Miss Marlow was throttled with her own scarf

She arrived at the office at 0915 GMT and had arranged to meet a friend for lunch. At 1330 GMT she spoke to her friend and said she would be leaving soon, but she never arrived.

The friend contacted Simon Edwards, who worked at Research Now. They found her body and immediately called the police.

The walls and floor of the office were smeared with blood. Detectives sent away material for forensic analysis and a DNA sample from underneath Miss Marlow's fingernails gave them a match - Fagan.

He had had a DNA sample taken after he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and detectives discovered he had worked at Research Now as a web production manager before being fired in April 2006.

Fagan and Miss Marlow were former colleagues who knew each other by sight and detectives realised he must have panicked and killed her when she disturbed him in the office.

Stole laptops

After killing her, rather than aborting the burglary, he continued. His rucksack was seen on CCTV footage, bulging with stolen laptops as he left the office.

He did not stand out and was not in a lot of trouble - he was just an average guy
Janet McCutcheon
Former teacher

Fagan was born in Oregon and grew up in a small logging town, White Salmon, just across the border in Washington state.

At the age of two he moved to Canada - but he returned to White Salmon aged 14, and graduated from Columbia High School in the town with a B minus average.

The school's assistant principal, Janet McCutcheon, said: "He did not stand out and was not in a lot of trouble. He was just an average guy."

She said he had been enrolled in her Future Business Leaders of America class.

When interviewed by police, Fagan made no comment - but he later admitted burgling the office and stealing six laptop computers.

Tied up

He said he had tied Miss Marlow up and left her with one of his accomplices.

When he gave evidence, Fagan, speaking in a strong American accent, said he had been married since 2003 to a German woman.

He admitted falling heavily into debt after losing his job and filing for bankruptcy.

Matthew Fagan
Fagan, pictured here in his high school yearbook, was "callous and devious"

Fagan said he had been earning cash working for a removal company and carrying out burglaries on the side.

He thought his former employers would be ripe pickings for a burglary.

Fagan said, in the witness box, that when Miss Marlow had found him and his accomplices in the office they had grabbed her, muffled her screams and tied her up.

He claimed she was alive when he left her to meet other accomplices.

On the way home Fagan said he had been mugged and injured by a man carrying a knife. He said he had then gone to Guy's Hospital to get his injuries treated.

But Detective Chief Inspector Damian Allain said Fagan was a "devious and callous" man who had told a tissue of lies.

Miss Marlow's father, Bernie, and other members of her family flew over from New Zealand for the trial.

After the verdict, Mr Marlow said: "Whatever sentence he receives will never bring Cathy back, nor erase for us the horror of her suffering and death at his hands."


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