Friday, August 3, 2012

The Murder of Maureen Cosgrove

Carshalton Beeches

Lucy Rees, 34, and her boyfriend, George Maben, 45, by whom she was pregnant, had been out for a drink together on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, before returning to the home of Lucy’s mother, Maureen Cosgrove, 65, in the afternoon. Maben, originally from Ireland but known as Geordie by family members and friends, was not fond of encounters with Maureen because he was well aware the widowed mother of four and doting grandmother of seven did not care much for him. Nonetheless, he accompanied Lucy back to her mother’s £700,000 house located in the affluent Surrey commuter community of Carshalton Beeches, just south of Greater London.
Map of England with London and Carshalton Beeches locators
Map of England with London and Carshalton Beeches locators
Located about 10 miles south-southwest of Charing Cross, the traditional center of the London metropolis, Carshalton Beeches is an area dotted with springs and ponds but still easily accessible to London by car or public transportation. Maureen Cosgrove had left her four-bedroom home that morning for an appointment with her dentist about a mile away. When she returned home that morning to her mostly crime-free neighborhood, she had likely not expected an encounter with someone in her kitchen whose intent was to harm her. Similarly, as Lucy made her way down the quiet tree-lined street of detached homes accompanied by Maben, she did not expect to find the scene which awaited her.
Lucy entered the house first, followed by Maben. Seeing that the patio door was open, she went to close it. Then she saw her mother lying on her back on the floor, her arms sprawled at her sides and her eyes closed. They could both see that she was not breathing.

Detective Chief Inspectors

Unable to revive her mother, Lucy called for help. Paramedics were dispatched to the home from London Ambulance Service, arriving on the scene at 2:20 p.m. Tearful and still reeling from the grotesque discovery, she explained how she had found her mother’s lifeless body. Paramedics quickly determined that Maureen Cosgrove was quite dead and, concluding that foul play was possibly involved, summoned the police to the residence.
Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tim Grattan-Cane was among the first of the police to arrive, and he instructed murder squad officers to cordon off the home as a crime scene. Grattan-Cane was accompanied by DCI John McFarlane of the Metropolitan Police Homicide and Serious Crime Command. Finding no indication of a burglary, they began piecing together the victim’s movements.
Maureen Cosgrove
Maureen Cosgrove
“I need to build a picture of what Mrs. Cosgrove was doing…before she was killed—who she saw, who she spoke to, any information at all,” McFarlane said during an appeal to the public for information. “I know she was at a dental appointment in Banstead Road, Carshalton, until 10:07 a.m., and a neighbor saw Mrs. Cosgrove arriving home at 11:20 a.m. in her silver Peugeot estate car.”
From the outset, McFarlane and Grattan-Cane were particularly interested in speaking to the driver of a dark-colored estate car, possibly a Volvo, which had been seen by neighbors parked on the street near the Cosgrove house between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
“We need to trace the driver of this vehicle who may have vital information,” McFarlane said. “At the very least, it will allow us to eliminate the car from our inquiry.”
An autopsy conducted later at the St. Helier Hospital mortuary listed Maureen’s cause of death as asphyxia, and the evidence, particularly the injuries on her neck, showed that she had been strangled. A forensic pathologist said that she had been “throttled,” and that her killer had used a ligature to strangle her, a theory with which the police were in full agreement.

The Cosgroves

The Cosgrove family was considered respectable by most who knew them, but they were not without their problems. Lucy had battled drug issues and had moved back in with her two children some five years earlier. She had remained in the household to help her mother after her father, Terence Cosgrove, a financial consultant, had been found hanged in a park in 2007. Neighbors told police that Maureen and Terence had often found it difficult to cope with their daughter’s drug addiction, especially when she had lived with them.
Maureen Cosgrove
Maureen Cosgrove
“Maureen and her late husband were very respectable, but the house was troubled with drugs and family problems,” a neighbor told investigators. “Lucy had a problem with drugs, I think, and there were a lot of arguments.”
According to another neighbor, Lucy had been in danger of losing her children to the authorities, prompting her to arrange to live with her parents.
“It was too much for him to take and that is why he killed himself,” the neighbor said.
Still other area residents characterized the Cosgrove family as “really good community people,” and many seemed shocked and genuinely saddened when news of Maureen’s murder began circulating through the community.
The Cosgroves also have two sons and another daughter, all of whom reside in the area.

Maureen

St. Philomena's Catholic School for Girls, Carshalton
St. Philomena’s Catholic School for
Girls, Carshalton
Maureen Cosgrove had been a teaching assistant at St. Philomena’s Catholic School for Girls in Carshalton, and had volunteered regularly at Seaton House, a girls’ preparatory school. She and her husband had a long-standing relationship with the school—Terence had acted as treasurer and Maureen had assisted with the school’s finances. Both were well-liked, and Maureen was particularly popular in the local community and was known for devoting herself to her grandchildren.
“She was sweet, she was lovely,” said a friend and neighbor. “She…always had time for everyone. When my husband died, she was a shoulder to cry on…she was a great friend.”
Terence and Maureen were also involved in local charities, including Radio Lollipop, where they had volunteered their services for approximately 10 years, and years earlier one of their sons had worked at the Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children in Carshalton.
Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, Carshalton
Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children, Carshalton
“They were a close family and lived close to the hospital, offering great support in the charity’s formative years,” said Hedley Finn, chairman of Radio Lollipop. “They were social people, although I never really got to know Mrs. Cosgrove.”
Her son, John Cosgrove, characterized his mother as a “lovely, caring person” who was devoted to her family. He told investigators that his mother was the caregiver of his sister’s two children.
“She looked after the children,” he said. “At the time, Lucy was struggling so she helped out.” As to his mother’s murder, he added: “We just can’t understand what has happened. It still hasn’t sunk in. We are confident the police will eventually come up with an answer….She was…highly respected and did lots in the community….”

George Maben

George Maben
George Maben
When investigators interviewed George Maben, he explained that he was in a relationship with Lucy and that they had been together for about two years. He said that Lucy was pregnant with his child. Although he lived with his 82-year-old mother, Maben said that he often stayed at the Cosgrove residence and confirmed that Maureen had provided most of the childcare for Lucy’s two children. He told the detectives that his relationship with Maureen was not solid, that it was “up and down,” and it was learned during the course of the investigation that he had told others that he felt that Mrs. Cosgrove did not approve of him.
On the day of the murder he said that he had arranged to meet with Lucy in the nearby Sutton town center at 11:30 a.m., and they had sat outside a pub and had a drink. At one point, Lucy had attempted to reach her mother by telephone, but Maureen had not responded. Lucy then called her sister to see if she had seen or spoken to their mother, only to learn that she had not. After leaving the pub, he said that he and Lucy had done some shopping before driving back to Maureen’s house.
He then explained how they had found Maureen’s body, and also told how he had noticed that the back gate was open, the laundry door was open, and a side door was also ajar, this in addition to the back patio door being open. He said that all this was unusual because Maureen was very security conscious and would not have left any of the doors open or ajar. He said that it was his opinion that Maureen had been killed during a burglary that had gone awry. When asked if anything appeared to be missing, Lucy noted that her mother’s handbag was nowhere to be found.
One of the officers taking Maben’s statement noticed that he had sustained an injury to one of his hands. The officer noted that the injury was not a cut or a bruise, but had the appearance of a “friction” mark. When asked how he had injured his hand, Maben explained that he had been repairing his own mother’s washing machine and that the injury had occurred when he pulled the washing machine out from the wall.

A Missing Handbag

DCI McFarlane and his murder squad detectives made a public appeal for any information about Maureen Cosgrove’s murder, and asked for the public’s help in locating her elusive handbag. He described it as dark navy blue or black with a long shoulder strap, a large flap over the front with which to close it, and rounded corners.
“I am not saying that it was stolen or that it is missing, just that we have been unable to locate it,” McFarlane said. “She regularly carried it and we can’t find it at the moment. I ask members of the public that live in Carshalton area to have a look in their garden and see if any handbags have been disposed of there.”
As a result of the appeals for the public to come forward with information, the murder squad detectives were able to piece together Maureen’s movements on the day she was murdered. In addition to confirming details of her dental appointment, the cops learned that she had donated clothing items to St. Raphael’s charity shop just prior to having been seen arriving at her home at 11:20 a.m. No information, however, was received about her missing handbag.
On Monday, March 30, 2009, investigators found the driver of the dark-colored estate car parked in Maureen’s neighborhood at or near the time of her death and quickly eliminated him from further investigation.
In the hours that followed, investigators developed information indicating that Maureen may have had a chance meeting with an old friend at some point between leaving her dentist’s office and arriving at her home. They did not know the identity of the “old friend,” and unfortunately were unable to develop the lead any further despite additional pleas for the public’s help. They declined to comment on how the lead had been developed initially.
The police never recovered Maureen’s handbag, but continued to discount the theory that it might have been taken during a burglary.

Nightmares

In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Lucy said that nightmares had haunted her ever since discovering her mother’s body as it lay on the kitchen floor. She told police and others that she had known right away that her mother was dead. She had called for emergency assistance, and was told by paramedics and police to stay out of the kitchen.
“It was awful,” she said. “I think it speaks for itself…I have had nightmares ever since. I don’t think that image will ever leave my head.”
She also refuted claims that Maureen had been the primary caregiver for her children, and said that assertions made by her neighbors that her father had killed himself because of the personal issues and living arrangements besetting their family were untrue.
“My mother was helping out,” she said. “But she did not have custody. My father doted on the children and loved having them around.”
She said that her children looked up to her father, and that he had been akin to a father figure when their own father was not there. He helped her oldest son on the computer, took the children swimming and read stories to them. Lucy said that her mother once told her that it had been her and the children that had helped her get over Terence’s suicide.
“We had a very close relationship,” she said. “She was there for me when I needed her as any mother would be for her children.”

Detective Work

During the first days of the investigation, detectives visited the home where George Maben lived in Rosehill with his mother in an attempt to verify his claim about how he had injured his hand. However, they saw nothing to indicate that the washing machine had been moved recently, as Maben had stated. Now believing that Maben had lied to them and with little to lead them toward anyone else, the murder squad detectives moved the intensity of their probe up a notch, making Maben their primary focal point.
Not swiftly getting anywhere, DCI McFarlane tried another approach and ordered that hundreds of hours of closed-circuit television footage from the day of the murder be retrieved and reviewed to check out Maben’s alibi, footage of the locations where Maben had told them he had been on March 24. The effort paid off. Investigators discovered that Maben had met Lucy at the pub where they had their drink an hour later than he had told them. Another lie, it seemed.
Although gut feelings had led DCI McFarlane and his team to believe that Maben was their man earlier in their investigation, they were now all but certain that he was the murderer. For their case to stand up in court, however, they needed additional evidence before charging him with Maureen Cosgrove’s murder.
Detectives had obtained a black jacket that Maben had been wearing on the day of the murder, and ran a forensic analysis on it for evidence. They found a number of fibers that were believed to have originated from a red top worn by Maureen on the day she was killed, and the investigators reasoned that they could only have gotten onto Maben’s jacket as a result of close contact with the victim. Not surprisingly, the forensics team also found a number of black fibers on Maureen’s body that were similar to fibers from Maben’s coat.

Caught on Tape

As the detectives continued reviewing the closed-circuit tapes they discovered additional footage showing Maben getting off a bus near Maureen’s home near the time of the murder. He was seen in the tape putting on a pair of gloves. When police re-interviewed him and asked him about the gloves, he calmly explained that he could not find them and claimed that his dog must have eaten them, a story that police had difficulty accepting.
They learned through interviews with others that Mrs. Cosgrove had not liked Maben because she considered him lazy, someone who did not like to work, and not a suitable match for her daughter. The information gave police a theory as to motive, albeit a thin one: they hypothesized Maben had killed Maureen because he had viewed her as an obstacle to marrying Lucy. If true, it painted a picture of Maben as especially cold and calculating, since the time stamps on the various videotapes showed that he had met Lucy for a drink after having been taped getting off the bus near Maureen’s home. If he had killed Maureen, he had accompanied Lucy during the outing while harboring the knowledge that he had just killed Lucy’s mother.
As a result of the mounting evidence being collected against their prime suspect, McFarlane received authorization to place a bugging device inside Maben’s car. They followed him around for a few days, watching his every move and taping everything that was said in his car. It did not take long for police to get what they needed to make an arrest. On Thursday, April 9, 2009, detectives heard him praying to God and asking for forgiveness:
“Please God, help me…for me and Lucy eliminated from all police inquiries and everything’s all right, please, God, help me…God forgive me for what I have done,” he was heard sobbing. “I just could not take it anymore. Every single day she was breaking me down. Please God, will you forgive me?”
Upon hearing the prayer, which they construed as a confession, police arrested Maben and charged him with Maureen Cosgrove’s murder.

Trial

At his trial, held in early November 2009 at London’s Old Bailey, prosecutor Anthony Glass took the jury through the details of the case and urged them to interpret his “prayer” as a confession to murder.
“He provides in those words the motive or reason for the killing,” Glass said. “Clearly, relations between the defendant and the grandmother had seriously deteriorated. With her out of the way, the defendant could see a future for himself, Lucy, her children and the unborn baby unencumbered by any constraints imposed by Maureen Cosgrove.”
Glass pointed out that the cause of death was asphyxia.
“What he did was to put a ligature around her neck and squeeze the life out of her,” Glass added. “No one has seen him do it, which is often the case in murder. The evidence against him amounts to a series of compelling facts and circumstances, many of which are not in dispute, which when taken together add up to a formidable case against him.”

Summing Up

The jury found Maben guilty of murder in short order. Judge Jeremy Roberts had mercy on the unemployed murderer, facing a life sentence, reducing his sentence to a minimum of 13 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Although the judge considered Cosgrove’s murder a premeditated act by Maben, Roberts said that it was out of character for Maben and found that he had been under “enormous pressure” because of Cosgrove’s feelings toward him. Roberts believed that Maben must have seen murder as his only option to remain with the woman he loved, and their baby.
“It was illustrated by your prayer for forgiveness which was recorded by police,” Roberts told the defendant as he pronounced sentence. “It was no one’s fault that the situation developed where your relationship with Lucy, whom you loved deeply, and her mother, whom you must have seen as an obstacle, drove you to such an act of desperation.”
Outside the courthouse, DCI McFarlane concluded that the entire ordeal was “terrible” for the families on both sides, but was especially terrible for Lucy: “She has a child by the killer of her own mother…Maben was a cool, manipulative character throughout the investigation. But here, where he lets down his guard, we hear the motivation behind his actions. He liked to control, but Maureen Cosgrove would not be controlled. Their relationship had seriously deteriorated and he was resentful of her positive influence on her daughter. He wanted Maureen out of the way so that he could take control of Lucy’s life.
“During the trial,” he continued, “he has sought to avoid responsibility for his actions and tried to blame everyone but himself. He committed an unforgivable crime against a family that took him in and supported him. Their bravery in the face of the loss of a loving mother is commendable. They should have been looking forward to many more years of happy family life and George Maben has robbed them of that future.”

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