Crime files | Gay hubby, wanting to live with boyfriend, strangles Indian-origin pharmacist with plastic bag

Crime files | After Jessica Lal in Delhi, Jessica Patel murder in Middlesborough shocks UK
Jessica and husband Mitesh Patel. Photo: Facebook
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Murder of Jessica Lal, a model, shocked India in 1999. Nineteen years later, gruesome murder of another Jessica, an Indian origin pharmacist, shocked Britain on May 14, 2018.

In the first case the model was shot dead by a top Congress leader's son from Haryana in a posh Delhi bar run by a socialite. The murderer Manu Sharma, son of former Haryana minister Venod Sharma, was sentenced to life term.

In the second case, the killer was Jessica Patel's 37-year-old husband only.

Jessica Patel
Screengrab from CCTV visuals showing Jessica Patel walking into her apartment minutes before she was killed.

The 34-year-old Indian-origin pharmacist was found dead in her home on The Avenue in Linthorpe suburb of Middlesborough, northern England, in May this year.

Burglary murder?

Jessica's husband Mitesh Patel called '999' around 8pm on May 14, 2018 to tell cops that his wife was killed by burglars in a botched up attempt to break into his home and he found her lying in the living room when he returned home from the market.

Jessica's hands and legs were tied with duct tape and the killer had wrapped duct tape around her mouth to silence her before strangulating her with a Tesco supermarket plastic bag. She was injected an overdose of insulin so that she remains in semi conscious state.

The couple, who got married in 2011 after a courtship during their university days in Manchester, were running a pharmacy store on Roman Road in Middlesborough. The couple's home is close to their pharmacy, which they ran for around three years. Both the home and work premises were the focus of intense police searches in the days after the murder on May 14.

The police started investigations and they soon realised that Mitesh's burglary story doesn't hold water.

Soon, sleuths started checking Mitesh's digital footprints like mobile phones, Google search history and chats with friends and other stuff. Soon, cops were in for a shock as they realised that he is a gay and he had a “soulmate” called Amit Patel.

After Jessica Lal in Delhi, Jessica Patel murder in Middlesborough shocks UK
Jesica Patel and Mitesh Patel. Photo: Facebook/File

Further investigations revealed that he was known as "Prince" to gay men on Grindr, the dating app where he met his boyfriend Amit Patel.

He also had made internet searches years ago like “I need to kill my wife", "insulin overdose", "plot to kill my wife, do I need a co-conspirator?", "hiring hitman UK" and "how much methadone will kill you?".

iPhone Health App traps killer

These were enough evidence for the cops to zero in on Mitesh but the clinching evidence came from Mitesh's iPhone Health App. This was for the first time in the United Kingdom a mobile App was used to prove a crime. The App tracks down a person's steps throughout the day. Cops had seized Mitesh's iPhone and downloaded information about his movements. The same App was used by Jessica also.

The health app uses motion processors in the phone to monitor a person's steps and when the handset is taken up a flight of stairs, and that evidence was used in the court to show the killer's frantic movements inside and outside his house immediately after Jessica's death. The App showed that Mitesh had gone upstairs several times to ransack rooms to stage a burglary after he had strangled his wife in the living room.

The App also showed that after he returned from a trip out to buy food that night (he had bought Pizzas after killing his wife), he had gone upstairs after he pretended to find his wife's body. He had gone into the bedroom to hide the CCTV hard-drive under clothes kept in a suitcase.

In the courtroom, sleuths showed how the husband was making fast movements around the house after the killing as he staged the burglary. Jessica's phone was also analysed to nail Mitesh's lies.

Jessica's health app showed that the phone moved 14 steps at 7.44pm, the time the husband left the home to give the impression that he was not in the house when the murder occurred. He also went to a pizza store to buy packaged food so that the CCTV in that store could capture his image. This was his alibi plot.

Jessica Patel
Photo of Jessica Patel tweeted by Cleveland Police.

Mitesh had stated that Jessica was alive when he left home, but this lie was nailed when her health app showed that her iPhone was motionless outside the couple's Middlesbrough home till 8.40pm when a cop picked it up. The husband had left the phone outside to give the impression that the killers had left it to avoid tracking by cops.

Motive

Immediately after marriage in 2011, Jessica came to know that her husband had gay friends and he had sex with several of them. She also came to know that he also was in love with Dr Amit Patel, who worked at a health centre and migrated to Australia. Mitesh used to have casual sex with strangers whom he met through the dating App Grindr. The worst part was he used to have sex with these strangers in the same house where the couple lived, some times even in their own bedroom. The cops have not made Amit as a conspirator in the case till now. He is a witness as of now.

Mitesh was angry that his wife knows about his gay image. He wanted to escape his strict Hindu upbringing and flee to Australia to be with his soulmate Amit Patel and bring up a family.

IVF treatment

Even though Mitesh is a gay, he wanted to have a family with Amit. So, he forced his wife to go for IVF. The couple had several rounds of unsuccessful IVF sessions. However, Mitesh forced Jessica to continue the treatment because he wanted to kill her and flee to Australia with the baby.

Jessica Patel
Jessica Patel. Photo. Facebook

On one occasion, according to UK media reports, Mitesh asked his boyfriend Amit on chat: “Would you love the baby like your own?”

After a few rounds of IVF cycles, Jessica's embryos were harvested and kept in a frozen storage in a clinic in Darlington.

Being the husband, Mitesh also had access to the embryos and he decided to eliminate Jessica immediately as he did not see any use for her now.

In the courtroom, Mitesh once confessed that he should have been honest with himself and should not have married Jessica.

He claimed that he was scared of being exposed as an Asian gay.

2 million pound booty

The biggest motive for Mitesh to eliminate Jessica was the insurance amount. He had planned to claim a UK pound 2-million life insurance payout and move to Australia with lover Dr Amit Patel.

The murder trial at Teesside Crown Court opened in November and on Tuesday (December 4) the jury found him guilty of strangling his wife to death with a supermarket plastic bag so he could start a new life with his boyfriend.

Justice James Goss told the jury a life sentence was mandatory and he would determine Patel's minimum term behind bars during a sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

During the hearing the court was told in July 2015, Mitesh had told his Sydney-based lover Amit: "Her days are marked."

Jessica Lal
Jessica Lal, whose gruesome murder in 1999 shocked India. File photo

Jessica's family made a statement at the end of the trial, saying they were "devastated" by her death.

The statement said "She had simple dreams, all she ever wanted was to fall in love, have a family of her own and live happily ever after.

"The man we welcomed into our family, who promised to look after and protect her, betrayed her in every sense of the word, cheating her of her dreams, robbing her of her life and robbing us of her."

The court heard that Mitesh chatted to men on Grindr daily in front of employees at the pharmacy he ran with his wife. The jury was told that his gay double life became the pharmacy's "worst kept secret".

At the start of the trial, Justice Goss had said that it was agreed that the accused had been unfaithful to his wife with men, having used the dating app Grindr. He had therefore ruled out any jury member who had used the same dating app or visited the Patels' pharmacy in Linthorpe since 2011 to be included for the trial to ensure impartiality.

On Tuesday, the jury of six men and six women took three hours of deliberation to give their guilty verdict.

(With inputs from agencies)

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