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A man has been found guilty of murdering two women in Sussex and disposing of one of their bodies at a building site in Kent.
A jury at Hove Crown Court found that Mark Brown killed 33-year-old Leah Ware and 34-year-old Alexandra Morgan at a yard he was renting at Little Bridge Farm in Westfield, near Hastings.
The 41-year-old denied both murders but was convicted following a complex investigation by detectives from Kent Police and Sussex Police.
The investigation began on 18 November 2021 when the parents of Alexandra, known as Alex, reported her missing to Kent Police when she failed to return home as expected.
A mother of two young children, Alex had met Brown through an adult services website. Extensive detective work established – via hours of analysing ANPR and CCTV footage as well as Alex’s phone records - that on Sunday 14 November, she had driven from her home in Sissinghurst near Cranbrook to meet Brown at Little Bridge Farm.
Brown, of Squirrel Close, St Leonards, East Sussex, was charged with her murder on 28 November 2021 after evidence showed he had murdered Alex at Little Bridge Farm and burned her body in an oil drum.
Officers found the oil drum at a building site near Sevenoaks where Brown was employed, and forensic odontologists used dental records to confirm the remains were that of Alex Morgan.
After appearing in court, Brown was presented with this evidence and subsequently admitted burning Alex’s body after she died but insisted he was not responsible for her murder, rather that she died after slipping and falling over at the site.
While searching Brown’s van, officers found prescription drugs in the name of Leah Ware. Believing she may be able to help with their ongoing enquiries, detectives tried to find Leah but were unable to do so. On 26 November, Kent Police contacted Sussex Police to raise concerns about Leah’s welfare and officers opened a missing person investigation.
Detectives discovered Leah had been in a relationship with Mark Brown, having met him through an adult services website in March 2018, and that she lived in the shipping container he kept at Little Bridge Farm.
However, no one had seen or spoken to Leah since early May 2021. She had not been in contact with family or friends, either in person or online, and detectives established there was no record of her using a mobile phone, accessing her finances, or receiving medical care since that time.
Sussex Police detectives concluded that Mark Brown was the last person to see Leah alive, and that she died on or around the evening of 7 May, 2021.
Following her death, Brown had tried to create the impression Leah was still alive. He collected her weekly prescriptions and made regular withdrawals from her bank account. This conflicted though, with information Brown gave to colleagues and friends about Leah’s whereabouts, telling people she was either in hospital or had taken her own life.
Brown had also rehomed Leah’s beloved Mastiff, while the bones of a smaller dog – consistent with those of Leah’s Pomeranian – were discovered at land near Little Bridge Farm. Everyone who knew Leah says she was devoted to her animals and would never have left them voluntarily.
Already in custody for the murder of Alexandra Morgan, Brown was then interviewed by Sussex Police officers in relation to the disappearance of Leah Ware. He gave no comment and was subsequently charged with her murder on 1 February 2022.
Brown pleaded not guilty to both murders but following a seven-week trial at Hove Crown Court, was convicted on 1 December 2022 by a unanimous jury. He is due to be sentenced on Friday 13 January, 2023.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kimber, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Alex Morgan was a young woman dedicated to her two young children. She had everything to live for but tragically, her efforts to earn money to support her family caused Alex to come into contact with Mark Brown.
"Brown is an exceptionally dangerous individual who poses a significant threat to women. I am extremely pleased he has been convicted of Alex’s murder and, once he has been sentenced, I hope Alex’s family and friends can find some form of closure to come to terms with her tragic loss."
Detective Superintendent Andy Wolstenholme, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: "No-body homicides are incredibly rare and difficult to prove but thanks to an enormous amount of investigative work and close liaison with our colleagues in Kent Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, we were able to build a really strong case that showed Mark Brown to be responsible for Leah’s death.
"Leah was a loving and trusting young woman, but sadly her later life wasn’t without its difficulties. She became dependent on Mark Brown and he used that to his advantage until ultimately, it led to her death. He may never tell us how or why he killed her but we hope his conviction for her murder will bring some sense of justice to the family and friends Leah left behind."