New DNA evidence convicts burglar 30 years after Bethnal Green double murder

Elderly siblings Anne Castle and William Bryan were killed in a burglary at their East London flat in 1993 Pic: PA 

New DNA evidence has convicted a prolific burglar of the murders of siblings William Bryan and Anne Castle, committed 30 years ago in Bethnal Green.

Sixty-five-year-old Danville Neil of St Johns, Lewisham, was sentenced at the Old Bailey last week to a minimum of 32 years life imprisonment for the 1993 murders after being found guilty by a jury. Neil’s fingerprints were identified on a binocular strap used to restrain the siblings.

World War II veteran Bryan, 71, and widow Castle, 74, died during a forced break-in. After being physically assaulted, Castle had a heart attack and Bryan went into cardiac arrest. Castle was found unconscious on the floor with his sister slumped in an armchair when the police arrived.  

There were no witnesses to the crime but neighbours heard screams, suggesting a “prolonged burglary and attack”, the jurors were told. The siblings were violently restrained as Neil rummaged through the flat. He stole two wedding rings and two diamond rings.  The case remained unsolved although in 2000 a review led to DNA being obtained from the binocular strap, but could not be linked to any individual.

In 2020, after receiving new information, the strap was re-tested using advancements in forensics technology. DNA was found underneath the knot of the strap, meaning that person must have been responsible for tying Bryan’s hands together. When the DNA was submitted on the database it came up as a match to Neil, whose details had been added as a result of his prolific burglaries. He was then arrested.

During the trial Neil admitted that DNA was his but denied that he had been present at the scene or involved in the deaths of Castle and Bryan. He claimed that the DNA was there because “he was involved in car boot sales.”

Judge Cheema-Grubb said: “This was a notorious and universally appalling crime, both because of your history and the doubly fatal consequences of what you did.”  

The judge added: “They were left virtually opposite each other, it is not difficult to imagine, though no one would want to, the anguish they must have endured at the suffering of the other.” 

Neil had a prolific history of burglary from 1973 to 1998, including three home burglaries in 1984 alone. The murders in Bethnal Green were carried out only one year after Neil was released from prison after serving a sentence for multiple thefts. His string of offences, including 15 burglaries, meant his fingerprints were on a national database and could be matched with the ones found at the scene.

Castle’s daughters, Janice and Cynthia, spoke of their mother and uncle in a statement: “She was the most wonderful loving and caring mother and grandmother who was thoughtful in every way. She always put everyone before herself and was a great pillar of the community – well loved and respected by all who knew her.”

They added: “The fear they must have experienced will never leave us. Uncle Billy was a kind-hearted, thoughtful and generous uncle to all the family. Always happy and so grateful for how he had been looked after.”

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