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The murder of Shana Grice

Warning: please be aware that some material within this article may cause distress.


Shana Grice portraitMile Oak teenager Shana Grice was tragically found dead at her home in August 2016.

On Wednesday 22 March 2017 Michael Lane was found guilty of her murder.

Now you can read about the police investigation and how he was brought to justice.

Shana Grice, 19, lived with two housemates in a bungalow in Chrisdory Road and worked for a delivery wholesaler. She was described by her family as a ‘beautiful girl, a kind thoughtful, caring daughter who always thought of others.'

 

 

 

 

 

What happened on 25 August 2016?

On the morning of Thursday 25 August Shana’s two housemates left for work leaving her in the house alone. By 9am that morning, Shana's colleagues in Hove were concerned she hadn’t turned up to work and contacted her boyfriend. Relatives of Shana's boyfriend went to check on her. When they arrived at her home they could smell smoke and found the front door was closed but unlocked. They headed straight for Shana’s bedroom and through the smoke saw her body lying face down on the bed.

Emergency services were immediately called but sadly Shana was already dead.

The manhunt and investigating the crime

Examinations revealed two seats of fire in the bedroom. However the window and door had been closed so there was insufficient oxygen for the fire to take hold. Crime Scene Investigators also found a box of matches on the bedroom floor. The carpet and duvet both had burns marks on them and traces of petrol on them.

Parts of a broken smoke alarm were also found underneath Shana’s body and bloody footprint was found on the doorstep. The following day a post mortem examination found that Shana had died from an incised wound to the neck, and that she had died before the fire was started.

Detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, working with local officers, immediately began an investigation. In the early stages detectives established Shana had been in an on-off relationship with 27-year-old Michael Lane, who lived nearby. 

Ex-boyfriend Michael Lane

Officers quickly decided that Lane had to be traced and less than four hours after Shana was discovered they went to his work address, a tyre firm in Burgess Hill, and arrested him on suspicion of murder. He responded by saying ‘murder’ but made no further comment. He did not ask who he was being accused of murdering or when this was supposed to have taken place.

Lane was interviewed by the detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team several times. He initially denied having been to Shana’s address the day of the murder. He gave a long account of his movements, including going for a walk, visiting the shops, and going to the dentist before going to work at midday. He also gave an account of his relationship with Shana.

 

 

 

 

Watch Lane talking in the first interview below.

Lane said that the pair had met in summer 2015 when they both worked at a fire alarm company in Portslade and began dating. They continued to see each other from then on, in what he described as an on/off relationship.

Despite providing an inconsistent account of his movements on the day, and admitting that he had dated Shana, there was insufficient evidence to charge Lane with any offence. He was therefore released on bail to enable further enquiries to be made.

Brighton and Hove officers made extensive enquiries in Mile Oak, and in the roads surrounding the homes of Shana and Lane. Officers spoke to hundreds of people, some of who gave key information in the investigation.

Five days after the murder a woman driving near New Barn Farm saw a man on a single track road leading to the farm. She recognised him as someone whose had been pictured in the news as a suspect. She contacted the police. 

Searches began in the area and officers found a pair of white Lonsdale trainers on the left hand side of the hedgerow on the path leading to New Barn Farm.

Officers searching at New Barn Farm

Blood on the trainers matched Shana’s and DNA showed Lane had at some stage worn the trainers. The tread of the trainer also matched the bloody footprint on the doorstep found at the crime scene.

Trainers found dumped match footprint at the crime scene
Lane was re-arrested and interviewed a further four times.

Officers reviewed hundreds of hours of CCTV of the area, which revealed Lane's car in various locations near Shana's home on the day of the murder.

At 7.25am Lane’s car was seen driving south on Thornhill Rise and four minutes later he was seen walking south in Mile Oak Road towards the junction with Sefton Road wearing a light coloured top, knee length dark shorts with a distinctive motif on the left thigh, white Lonsdale trainers with a stripe on the side and carrying a blue baseball cap.



His car was seen parked in Graham Avenue close to Avery Close for half an hour. Lane is then seen walking in the vicinity of the cashpoint machine at McColls Newsagents in Graham Avenue at 8.06am. A cash withdrawal of £60 was made from Shana's bank account using her bank card at that time.

Nine minutes later the CCTV captured Lane in nearby Martin’s Newsagents in Valley Road where he bought a bottle of Evian water.

Lane is seen on CCTV again at 8.22am walking into Chrisdory Road.

He is then not seen until 8.56am, this time returning to McColls checking a lottery ticket. He was wearing a different outfit, a cream coloured T-shirt with horizontal stripes, dark shorts but different from the ones he was seen wearing earlier with black socks and Lonsdale trainers.

 

See the key locations on a map.

On a wider search of the area, Lane was also captured on CCTV on the previous day at the West Hove Sainsbury’s petrol station filling up a red petrol can.

Faced with this mounting evidence, Lane continued to change his story. It was not until the seventh and final interview that he admitted going to Shana’s home on the morning of her murder. He claimed he saw her on the floor, slumped against the bed, already dead. He did not tell anyone about what he had seen, or call for an ambulance or the police for help.

Watch Lane in the interview clip below.

On 2 September the evidence was compelling enough to charge Lane with Shana’s murder.

The Trial

Lane’s trial started on Tuesday 7 March at Lewes Crown Court. The jury heard about Shana and Lane’s relationship and his stalking and obsessive behaviour which led to him killing her. 

Shana initially reported she was being stalked by Lane in February 2016 after her and her boyfriend’s cars were damaged by Lane. Police warned Lane to stay away from her. In March, Lane went to Shana’s home with her two housemates, having met them at a pub. Shana was at home but left as she was unhappy at him being there. Lane followed her, pulled her phone away from her ear and pulled her hair.

In July, Lane visited Shana’s home to get his belongings but unbeknown to her he also stole a key to the back door. Around 6am the next morning Shana was in bed when she heard noises and footsteps approaching her bedroom. She hid under her duvet and heard her bedroom door open and breathing in her room for about a minute.

Once the intruder had left, she looked out of her window and saw Lane walking away. She phoned police and later that day he was arrested. He was in possession of the door key and admitted in an interview he had taken the key and went in to talk to Shana but realised it was wrong and left. He was given a formal police caution. 

Hear Michael apologising to Shana on the phone.



Later that month Shana reported receiving calls from a withheld number with heavy breathing and no speech, as well as being followed by Lane in his car while she was driving.

The jury heard how he had put a tracker device on her Renault Clio, which officers found attached to the underside of her car after her death. Following his arrest an empty box for the tracking device, as well as a receipt for the device in his name, were found during a search of Lane's home in Thornhill Rise.

The tracker fitted on Shana's car

The trial heard that Lane was unhappy Shana had gone back to her ex-boyfriend and told a friend she would “pay for what she’s done.”

Throughout August, Lane and Shana remained in contact with each other and on 23 August, two days before her death, they spent time together at a hotel in Hove where they agreed their relationship was over.

Lane claimed during the trial he did go to Shana’s house on the day of the murder where he found her dead. He claimed that he panicked, left the scene and disposed of evidence linking him to the scene because he feared the police would believe he had killed Shana. He maintained throughout the trial that he did not kill Shana.

However the jury didn’t believe his account of events and unanimously found him guilty of her murder.

 

Family statement

We understand that Shana's family are issuing a separate statement.

 

A reflection from the Senior Investigating officer

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Denslow said:

"This was a shocking and brutal crime and, on behalf of the Sussex Police and our Family Liaison Officers, our thoughts are with Shana's family.

"Our investigation found that Michael Lane had become obsessed with Shana and that their relationship was a complex one.

"By Tuesday 23 August, Shana had decided she wanted to be with her boyfriend and not Lane. She met Lane and they agreed to go their separate ways. However, this ended in tragedy.

"Two days later, Lane went to Shana's address early in the morning at a time when he knew she would be alone in the house. He killed Shana by cutting her throat. He left straight away to provide himself with an alibi and stole money from Shana’s bank account. He then returned to the address to set light to Shana’s room in an attempt to destroy evidence of his crime. 

"After his arrest, Lane repeatedly denied going to Shana’s home on the morning of her murder. However, in the face of mounting evidence suggesting otherwise, presented to him during hours of police interviews, he eventually admitted that he had been there, claiming that after finding Shana already dead, he panicked and left without telling a soul about what he had seen.

"Clearly the jury did not believe him.”

The sentencing

On Thursday 23 March 2017 Michael Lane was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years.

Disclaimer: This is a story of how detectives investigated the crime. It is not intended as a court report. The material has been released with the support of Shana Grice’s family.

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