Harrowing details of how a convicted sex offender and his daughter were brutally murdered have been heard for the first time at an inquest this week.
Southwark Coroner’s Court heard how the corpse of Noel Brown – jailed in 1999 for his offences – was found dismembered with a saw in the bath at his home in Deptford’s New Butt Lane in December 2017.
Parts of the arms and one of his legs had been cut off from the 69-year-old’s body.
His daughter, Marie Brown, a crèche worker from Peckham, had been strangled to death in the flat’s living room.
The court heard how the police believe she disturbed her father’s killer as she went to check on him.
Tuesday’s inquest was told Mr Brown’s body parts have never been found, despite police scouring lakes, bins, and even rooftops with a helicopter to locate them.
Forty-one-year-old Marie “was fighting” at the time of being strangled, the court was told.
Pathology evidence suggested that abrasions on her body could have been from her fingernails, as she was attempting to stop herself being choked.
Officers have named Nathaniel Henry, a 37-year-old basketball coach at Peckham’s Damilola Taylor centre, as the suspected killer responsible for strangling the pair to death.
But alleged double murderer Henry will not be brought to justice, as he was himself found dead in a locked utilities cupboard only weeks after the grisly murders.
A hearing last month established he died of a drugs overdose on New Year’s Eve.
The court heard a moving statement from Marie’s daughter, who tried in vain to contact her mother, last seen shortly after noon on December 2, 2017.
“She told me she was going to check on my grandad,” said Venetia Brown, who was just nineteen at the time of the killings. “They’d been very close, and had been for as long as I could remember.
“Mum left our house that morning [Saturday], and that was the last I saw of my mum.”
Throughout the weekend, she attempted to call her mother numerous times, growing increasingly concerned at the “out of character” lack of a response.
“All of these calls just rang and rang. I was very worried,” she said. On Sunday, she contacted police to report her mother as missing, and was driven to her grandfather’s home.
But in the early hours of the following morning, the tragic news was revealed while she was staying at his neighbour’s.
“A police officer came back and said they had found two bodies in my grandad’s flat,” she said in the statement taken only weeks after the horrific crimes.
“There was no reason I know of why anyone would want to hurt my mum or my grandad. My mind is blown by this whole situation, I’m confused, I don’t know how I’m feeling.”
Noel’s neighbour and family friend, Jennifer Hilton, had also tried to contact Noel continuously, and when she did not hear from Marie, assumed she had found him and had gone to hospital.
“I later found out that Marie and Noel had died in Noel’s flat. Noel was my best friend in my life,” said Ms Hilton in a witness statement.
“I trusted him with my life. I’m devastated by what’s happened.”
The horror scene encountered by officers was recalled by the Met’s DCI Simon Harding, who has previously described the case as unlike anything he has seen in nearly three decades of policing. “The first thing we noticed is that Marie was dressed exactly as she left. She still had her coat on … so it did not look as if she had been there long,” he told the court.
“In terms of Noel, there was a significant amount of bleach around the body, which would indicate a form of clean-up process.”
DCI Harding also detailed how police pored over a nearly three-mile radius of CCTV footage over months in a bid to trace Noel’s last movements and catch his killer – named by officers as ‘Rucksack man.’
“We had no immediate lead as to who it might have been,” he said.
While the suspect could not be discussed in detail at the hearing for legal reasons, DCI Harding confirmed: “I am not looking for anyone else in relation to these deaths.”
Recording a verdict of unlawful killing for both Marie and Noel, Assistant Coroner Tony Badenoch QC concluded that Mr Brown was strangled to death sometime between November 30 and December 4.
He also found that Ms Brown was fatally strangled between December 2 and December 4.
“I want to express my condolences to the family,” he said.
“I’m very grateful to you all for attending today and engaging in this process.”
Turning to Marie’s daughter, he added: “Your mother would be very proud of you.”
VICTIM: NOEL BROWN
Noel Brown, originally from Jamaica, lived in Deptford following his release from prison for sexual offences.
He is described by close friends as loving to write poetry and had been writing a book about his life before he was killed.
Noel had been in poor health before his death, having suffered a stroke in 2015 and was being treated for prostate cancer.
He would frequently visit Paddy Power bookmakers on Deptford High Street to have a bet on the horse races, along with his best friend.
VICTIM: MARIE BROWN
Mother-of-two Marie Brown, 41, worked at Nunhead’s Ivydale Primary School as a crèche worker.
She had not been in contact with Noel “for years” growing up, but made contact as an adult, and would talk to him on the phone daily.
She was described by family following her death as “a calm, peaceful person – slow to anger and quick to forgive.”
Her two children, Venetia and Jayda, are described as “her life”.
SUSPECT: Nathaniel henry
Father-of-three Nathaniel Henry was described on a now-deleted GoFundMe page as “a true pillar of the community.”
Children at the Damilola Taylor centre, where he worked as a mentor and basketball coach were said to be devastated by his death, which has left “a huge gaping hole.”
The 37-year-old was described by officers as slim, bald, and around six-feet tall, with a tattoo of a mallet on his right arm.
He was found dead of a drugs overdose in a locked electricals cupboard at his Peckham Grove flat on New Year’s Eve 2017.
Police later name him as the double murderer – but as yet have not revealed a motive for the killings.