A former couple who murdered 43-year-old Irish dancing champion Adrian Murphy from Kilkenny are now facing life behind bars.
The pair were been found guilty of poisoning and killing Adrian as part of a plot to steal from him.
Joel Osei, 25, and his girlfriend Diana Cristea, 19, targeted victims on the gay dating site Grindr with a plot to knock them out with the drug scopolamine- known as “The Devil’s Breath”- and then strip their homes of valuables.
Adrian Murphy was found dead at a Battersea apartment last June, he was house sitting there for a friend. Adrian lived in Wandsworth.
Adrian Murphy died from a fatal dose of the drug which was put into his Coca-Cola. A second man had also been targeted and robbed by the couple but survived.
Adrian Murphy was a seven-time Irish dancing champion.
He was a professional dancer and produced and choreographed a number of Irish dancing shows, including Feet of Fire and Firedance.
Joel Osei was found guilty at Croydon Crown Court on Friday 23 October of murder and administering a poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life.
He had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, administering poison with intent to injury, aggrieve or annoy, two counts of theft and eight counts of fraud part-way through the trial.
Co-defendant and Osei’s former girlfriend Diana Cristea was also found guilty of murder, administering a poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life, administering poison with intent to injury, aggrieve or annoy, two counts of theft and eight counts of fraud.
She previously pleaded guilty to two counts of handling stolen goods and one count of fraud.
Osei targeted and arranged to meet the victims through Grindr. He would then drug them, rendering them unconscious and stole their belongings. He then handed the property to Cristea for her to sell online.
A murder investigation was launched when Adrian Murphy was found dead on Tuesday, 4 June 2019. It is believed he died on Saturday, 1 June 2019.
A special post-mortem examination did not reveal any defensive injuries, signs of sexual activity or of restraint. However, toxicology revealed high levels of scopolamine present in Adrian’s system. The pathologist deemed this directly attributable to his death. Scopolamine was also detected in an empty drink can discarded in the flat where Adrian was found.
A review of CCTV footage from within the block of flats where Adrian was staying showed that at 10pm on Saturday 1 June 2019 Osei exited an elevator and walked towards the property where Adrian was staying.
He was then captured leaving the building just after midnight on Sunday 2 June 2019 carrying a designer holdall which was full of items stolen from Adrian.
Detectives found out that while at the Battersea address with Adrian, Osei spoke to Cristea through 23 separate calls and messages. After departing, he met Cristea and handed her goods stolen from the flat including laptops, phones, bank cards, designer bag and wallet, and clothes.
On Sunday 2 June 2019 Cristea’s phone was used to take photographs of the items and post them for sale online. They also used one of Adrian’s cards to spend well over £2,000 on computer software.
On the same day, a PayPal account was created in Adrian’s name but registered to Cristea’s former address in Tottenham. An attempt was then made to purchase £60,000+ worth of goods from a diamond jeweller in New York.
Detectives were able to link Osei to a similar incident at an address in Walthamstow on Thursday 30 May 2019.
The 40-year-old victim invited Osei to his flat after making contact through Grindr. He told police that whilst with Osei he became incapacitated and was later found by his neighbours in a conscious, but completely unresponsive state. A sample of his hair taken by police was analysed and revealed the presence of high levels of scopolamine.
On returning home from hospital, the victim found that while he was unconscious his flat had been ransacked and laptops, mobile phones, a wallet and cash had been stolen. Phone records revealed that while inside the address, Osei was once again in contact with Cristea.
A review of CCTV in areas surrounding the address showed Osei walking along a road near the victim’s address at 3pm on the day of the incident. He was carrying bags which detectives believe contained the stolen goods. He travelled to a shop in Tottenham with Cristea, where they used the victim’s card to purchase a number of items.
Officers later recovered the stolen property from Cristea’s address and found images of the items – a number of which had already been sold – on her phone.
The jury heard that it was actually Cristea that called 999 to report that Osei had killed Adrian Murphy by drugging him and then stole his personal belongings. However, investigators also found a wealth of evidence also linking her to the crime.
Detective Chief Inspector Robert Pack, the senior investigating officer, said: “This marks the end of a long and complex investigation. In a callous and calculated plan to make what he saw as easy money, Osei engaged with his victims on a social networking app with the intention of stupefying them with a powerful drug and stealing their valuables.
“He selected this method with the belief that victims would be unlikely to contact police due to the intimate and personal nature of the meetings. They targeted the victims in a place where they should feel safe, their own homes, and Osei’s indiscriminate use of a drug he knew to be dangerous led to the tragic death of Adrian Murphy.
“The second victim assisted us significantly with our investigation and was able to identify Osei, who at the time he only knew as Remy. He has shown bravery and great strength and has been central in bringing this pair to justice.
“Although scopolamine is known to be commonly used in other parts of the world to facilitate crimes, we believe this is the first scopolamine related homicide in the UK. We know a range of other drugs and chemicals are used to harm others and often the use of these substances create barriers which deter victims from seeking help. If you have been the victim of a similar offence and have not reported it to police, I would strongly urge you to do so. You will be listened to by specialist officers trained in investigating these cases and provided dedicated support to help you through the process.
“We have worked closely with a whole host of partners in the charity sector and LGBT+ community to help us with our understanding of the complexities of this case and reassure those who may have been affected by these incidents. We want to make sure that anyone who may have suffered the same way knows how to get help and what support is out there.
“I would like to thank Adrian’s family, some of whom have travelled from Ireland for this trial, for their bravery, assistance and support throughout the course of this investigation. My thoughts remain entirely with them as they continue to come to terms with the loss of their loved one.”
The family of Adrian Murphy, said: “The world is full of sameness, but this could not be said of our brother Adrian.
“Adrian brought the love and art of dance to thousands of young people all over the world. He made so many loyal friends who are so sad at his untimely passing as he was an inspirational Irishman, who was a gifted dancer and choreographer.
“He was also very funny and made everyone laugh at his hilarious stories. He had the gift of bringing people together.
“Our family are heartbroken that Adrian is no longer with us. He has left a huge void within our family and the fact we can no longer see or hear from him makes his absence felt all the more.
“He was generous to a fault and after our Dad passed in 2012, he took great care of our Mam. He ensured her every need was catered for and even redecorated her house making it elderly friendly and easier to maintain.
“Adrian loved his hometown of Kilkenny and although he was a regular world traveller, he never missed an opportunity to return to his family and friends.
“Adrian’s legacy is that of a hero and hopefully his tragic death has stopped this happening to any other innocent victim.
“He is now dancing amongst the stars. May he rest in peace.”
Osei and Cristea will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on December 14.