Murder of Marguerite Van Campenhout

The 2002 murder of Marguerite Van Campenhout by her former boyfriend on a packed London Underground platform proved to be a significant case for British Transport Police.

 BTP history

The crime, which took place at the height of the evening rush hour on 11 January 2002, was the first ever murder case in which BTP officers took the lead.
Vaso Aliu had been having a relationship with Marguerite Van Campenhout for four years until she decided to end the relationship. And, according to DCI Newton, Aliu could not accept the relationship was over and began following and harassing her.

“She ended the relationship because of his controlling manner,” says DCI Newton. “She decided to end the relationship in the run up to Christmas but he continued to follow her, text her and harass her. He was absolutely captivated by her. She even had to change her routes to and from work in order to avoid him.”

Van Campenhout even moved house to escape him. She changed the route she took to get home. But on the night of the murder, Van Campenhout and her work colleague Thomas Pontifex, who she lived with, decided to take their normal route home from work.

The attack 

CCTV footage captured the pair walking with Aliu following closely behind them. He followed them onto the platform at Euston Underground station. Aliu then began pleading with Van Campenhout to take him back, but each time she refused, insisting their relationship was over. When she refused for the final time, he pretended he had got a present for her and began unwrapping something under his coat which turned out to be a knife. He lunged forward and stabbed it straight into Van Campenhout’s chest. She collapsed and died.
As Pontifex stepped forward to try to stop Aliu stabbing anyone else, he was slashed on his arm. “The cuts were so deep you could actually see the bone,” says DCI Newton. Meanwhile, Christopher Kiely, a commuter who witnessed the incident from a passing Tube train, jumped off the train and tackled Aliu. Aliu then stabbed him in the chest and ran away. DCI Newton adds: “[Aliu] ran off past his ex-girlfriend who was lying on the ground dying. He stopped and looked down at her before saying: “You won't do that to me again.”
Aliu ran up the escalators and into the booking hall chased by staff and an off-duty security guard. When he reached the booking hall, he stabbed himself in the neck – the knife went through both sides - and his chest, but he still managed to survive.

First on the scene 

DCI Newton, who at the time of the incident was a detective inspector, was the first detective on scene and his initial challenge was to try to preserve both the station platform and also the booking hall from contamination while hundreds of passengers filed by on their way home. “I was the duty detective inspector for London Underground that day for BTP,” he says, “and the call came in that there had been multiple stabbings at Euston Underground station.
“What greeted me was a scene of absolute devastation. There were three people who were seriously wounded; Marguerite dead on the Northern Line platform; and other people – including staff and passengers – who had collapsed through shock. The biggest issue for me was the scene.

“This was not a rural location, where it would be relatively easy to preserve the scene. Here we had one of London’s busiest stations – a major part of the whole transport infrastructure for London – and I made the decision to shut it during rush hour. I was conscious that this decision meant 5,000 people were trapped in trains in tunnels, and that the Northern Line was brought to a halt. We knew we had to act quickly get the scenes of crimes officers in and get the scene forensic harvest under-way.”

A murderer's confession 

Despite Aliu confessing to the murder several times in the booking hall, officers did not leave anything to chance, interviewing 600 people and running identity parades. DCI Newton says: “At first it seems like an open and shut case: we have got a body, eyewitnesses and a man making verbal admissions but we did not take anything for granted.

“We ran an identity parade to get the proof that Aliu was the man, and then linked the knife to him. We needed to prove that the man admitting it in the booking hall was the man on the platform.”
The officers’ caution proved well founded because, just weeks before the case was due to come to trial, the defence put forward a plea of diminished responsibility. It was argued that Aliu had committed the crimes because he had an abnormality of mind that supported the assertion that he suffered from diminished responsibility.

Aliu stated to the Immigration Service, the police and examining psychiatrists that this abnormality occurred because he was an ethnic Albanian who was born and raised in Kosovo. At the time, Kosovo was a war zone and ethnic Albanians were being persecuted by the Serbian authorities. Aliu claimed he and his family had been persecuted, beaten and tortured. He also claimed he had been singled out because of his involvement in a subversive group. He also said he had suffered head injuries earlier in life and abuse as a child.

Visit to Greece

DCI Newton took the unusual step of sending two of his officers – a detective constable and a detective sergeant – to Greece to interview Aliu’s mother about the claims. DCI Newton says it was the only way the prosecution could check out the claims and build up an accurate picture of what had truly happened. Aliu’s mother told them his claims were untrue. She told officers she had no knowledge of the abuse or head injuries he said he had suffered. He had had a fall but had fallen in a ditch and not off a cliff as he claimed. As a result, officers were able to disprove his claim of diminished responsibility.
“The decision to visit Aliu’s family in Greece was the right one and it certainly paid off,” says DCI Newton. “It gave us the chance to build up the true picture. We wanted to produce our own report that reflected the true facts.”

Officers also carried out checks on Aliu’s immigration status. He had been granted residency in Britain because he claimed he had been an immigrant who fled Albania to avoid persecution. These checks discounted that claim. Officers discovered Aliu had been living in Greece for two years before coming to Britain and had not fled Albania as he had claimed.
“What this taught us is that you cannot take on face value anything that is told to the immigration service,” says DCI Newton. “They were unable to conduct the independent inquiry in order to establish the truth. If we had accepted what Aliu had claimed on face value, it would have built up a picture of a man who has suffered considerably, but that was complete nonsense.”

The conviction 

As a result of a successful investigation and a close working relationship with the Crown Prosecution Service, the case was heard at the Old Bailey. Aliu was convicted for the murder of Van Campenhout, for which he received a life sentence. He was sentenced for eight years for wounding Christopher Kiely and sentenced to seven years for wounding Pontifex. Aliu was found not guilty of the attempted murder of Christopher Kiely.
The Old Bailey judge in the case commended the work of BTP officers for the professionalism they had shown in the case.

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