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Alleged killer from Forest Gate of mother and two daughters trapped by DNA - 30 years later

PUBLISHED: 12:28 25 November 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 25 November 2010

The Old Bailey

The Old Bailey

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A COLD-BLOODED killer who murdered a former England footballer's sister-in-law and her two children was caught by his DNA nearly 30 years later, a court heard yesterday.

Wilbert Dyce, 54, allegedly killed Norma Richards, 27, and her daughters Samantha, nine, and Syretta, seven, at their home in east London in 1982.

He also daubed the “NF” logo of the racist National Front over the doors and walls of the flat in a bid to thwart the police investigation, jurors were told.

But Dyce’s name never featured in the original investigation because police focused on the friends, relatives and lovers of Norma Richards, it is claimed.

The case was only reviewed by detectives when a journalist began writing a book about her partner’s brother, the former England and West Brom midfielder Laurie Cunningham, the court heard.

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee said: “It was the twin factors of DNA profiling and the practice of cold-case reviews which caught up with the killer nearly 30 years after his crimes were committed.

“In fact what triggered the investigation was a request by a journalist who was writing a book about Norma Richards” brother-in-law Laurie Cunningham.

“Laurie Cunningham was a professional footballer, who in 1982 played for Real Madrid and indeed England. The journalist recalled these killings and contacted the police to enquire whether there had been any resolution.”

The resulting police enquiry found a DNA match between Dyce and semen found on the body of Norma Richards, jurors were told.

Mr Jafferjee described the killings as “almost unspeakably cold-blooded acts of brutality.”

He said: “The circumstances of her murder have all the hallmarks of a sexual attack. She was found completely naked in the living room with furniture upturned.

“Her panties were by her side. She was plainly raped. Her rapist then went on to become her murderer.

“It is an irresistible inference that at least one if not both of her children awoke to see their mother being raped and murdered. Their crime was to have seen their mother’s attacker, and so their young lives had to be violently snuffed out.”

The court heard Dyce managed to escape detection because he had no known association with Norma Richards.

Instead, he may have used a “passing acquaintanceship” with Norma’s partner Keith to escort her from a club on the night of July 17, 1982.

Mr Jafferjee suggested Norma was killed because she refused sex with Dyce at her home on the Kingsgate Estate in Shoreditch, east London

“Albeit an age of promiscuity, it did not mean that a woman was not entitled to say ‘No’,” said Mr Jafferjee.

“She did say no and it cost her life and the lives of her children.”

Dyce was arrested in October 2009 but at first claimed Norma was “like a sister.”

When confronted with the DNA evidence he claimed he had sex with her in the ladies’ toilet of the club on the day of her murder.

It is claimed that the lack of DNA on her underwear exposes this as a lie.

Dyce, of Romford Road, Forest Gate, denies murder.

Jurors heard Samantha and Syretta Richards were Norma’s children from a previous relationship.

After meeting Keith Cunningham, she moved in to 54 Kingsgate Estate in Dalston, east London, and gave birth to their child Rhodine in September 1978.

Fortunately the three year-old girl was with her grandmother on the weekend of the murders.

At the time of her death, Norma’s partner Keith was away in Spain visiting his footballer brother to supervise the building of a house.

The court heard Norma was seeing another man in the summer of 1982 but was not known to have any connection with Wilbert Dyce.

Nine year-old Samantha had been stabbed eight times in the neck, chest, arm, stomach and back.

One wound passed through her whole body and then entered her upper arm, the court heard.

Seven year-old Syretta, who was lying under her sister in the bath, had been drowned.

Jurors were told Norma Richards had been beaten about the head and stabbed twice in the neck and twice in the chest. One wound passed through her breastbone, heart, and lung and then came out the back.

It is thought an ornamental 19th century bayonet, which usually hung on the living room wall, could have been used to kill both Norma and Samantha.

The weapon was destroyed in 1989 but flakes of human blood were found on it.

Jurors heard Dyce’s palm and fingerprint were found on the wall below where the bayonet was hung.

The court was also told that DNA profiling was not available at the time of the murders in 1982.

Mr Jafferjee said: “It was a time prior to the advances of DNA profiling of stains recovered from a crime scene.

“All that was then scientifically available was blood-grouping, where each blood group would account for a significant chunk of the population.”The mother who was murdered with her two children 28 years ago told friends her partner would kill her if he found out she had been having an affair, a court heard today (THURS).

Norma Richards, 27, cheated on the brother of former England footballer Laurie Cunningham while he was away in Spain, it is claimed.

She and her daughters Samantha, nine, and Syretta, seven, were found dead at their home in Dalston, east London in July 1982.

Police investigating the murders questioned her lover Donovan Johnson for three days before releasing him without charge.

Nobody was charged until last year after a review of the case matched a DNA sample taken from the scene to 54 year-old Wilbert Dyce.

Mr Johnson, who flew from Jamaica to give evidence at the Old Bailey, admitted he had sex with Norma Richards on two occasions about a month before the killings.

He said he decided to end the relationship when he realised that her ‘babyfather’ was Keith Cunningham.

Mr Johnson claimed that Norma later told him: ‘When Keith finds out what I have been doing he is going to kill me.’

He told jurors: ‘Norma asked me whether I had a black suit. She said we might have to wear it because he is going to kill me.

‘It didn’t register at the time. I didn’t think the girl would lose her life.’

Mr Johnson, who living in Finsbury Park in 1982, said that he met Norma through a friend at a party about nine weeks before her death.

He said they first had sex on her living room sofa after a night out at a club.

A few weeks later he helped her take her children back home after going to her mother’s birthday party and they made love in her bed.

Mr Johnson added: ‘To be honest I saw the picture in the bedroom of a young man I knew very well.

‘From then I didn’t want the relationship to go on because I knew Keith Cunningham very well. I did not know she was his babymother at the time.’

He said Norma later confronted him at a club about him ending the affair and added: ‘She was very annoyed.’

Mr Johnson said he was out with friends on the night that Norma Richards was murdered, in the early hours of Saturday July 17.

The first time he heard about her death was two days later when he and his friends saw the news on the television.

He was arrested by police a few days later and made a witness statement on July 23.

Mr Johnson said: ‘They whisked me away from my house, they kept me at the station for three days questioning me. They gave me a lot of tests.

‘I told them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

Jurors heard that his only convictions are for possession of a knife and living off immoral earnings.

He told jurors that Norma Richards was ‘not the type of person who would just jump into bed.’

‘She was far from that. She was very choosy, but she liked me and I think she wanted to know more about me just as I wanted to know more about her.

‘She was a very, very nice person.’

He admitted that their relationship was ‘just a bit of fun’ but added: ‘She was not a cheap girl.’

The court has heard Norma Richards was stabbed four times in the living room of her home at 54 Kingsgate Estate.

Her nine year-old Samantha was stabbed eight times and seven year-old daughter Syretta was drowned in the bath.

The ‘NF’ logo of the racist National Front was daubed over the doors and walls of the flat.

Jurors have heard the case was only reviewed by detectives in 1982 when a journalist began researching the life of Norma’s ‘brother-in-law’ Laurie Cunningham.

Laurie Cunningham was the first black footballer to appear for England in a competitive match. He played as a midfielder for West Brom and Real Madrid.

It is claimed Dyce is linked to the killings by his DNA profile and a fingerprint on the living room wall below an ornamental 19th century bayonet which may have been used as the murder weapon.

Dyce had a ‘passing acquaintanceship’ with Keith Cunningham and was seen with her in the street shortly before her death, it is claimed.

Dyce, of Romford Road, Forest Gate, east London, denies murder.

The trial continues.

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