Man, 51, convicted of 'savage' 1994 murder after DNA breakthrough cracks cold case

By John Mercury February 16, 2024

A man was convicted of a “savage” murder that happened 30 years ago after new DNA techniques were used on a single hair found at the scene.

Sandip Patel, now 51, stabbed 39-year-old Marina Koppel more than 140 times at her rented flat in central London on 8 August 1994.

It was also alleged that he had taken her bank card PIN and used the number to withdraw money near his home.

Sandip Patel
Sandip Patel. Pic: Met Police

Patel, who was a 21-year-old student at the time of the murder, was charged last year after his DNA was matched to a hair on the victim’s ring.

He was later linked by a bloody footprint on a skirting board in Mrs Koppel’s Chiltern Street flat.

His finger marks had been found on a carrier bag in Mrs Koppel’s kitchen but he was not treated as a suspect at that time because he worked for his father’s newsagent Sherlock Holmes News on nearby Baker Street.

Patel had denied murder but declined to give evidence in his defence. The Old Bailey jury found him guilty after deliberating for three hours and 10 minutes.

The court heard that Mrs Koppel’s husband David lived in Northampton and they met while she was working as a hotel chambermaid.

Mrs Koppel later worked as a masseuse and a sex worker, and stayed in London during the week while visiting Northampton on the weekends.

She also sent money home to her family in Colombia including to her two children who were being cared for by her family there.

According to her husband, who died in 2005, her sex work clients had included successful people, businessmen, a doctor, and even a politician.

Marina Koppell pictured in 1994
Pic: Met Police
Marina Koppel pictured in 1994. Pic: Met Police

Mr Koppel did not approve of her work but “accepted it”, jurors were told.

It caused tensions in their relationship and resulted in the couple arguing on 31 July 1994, which prompted Mr Koppel to return home alone.

Prosecutor William Emlyn Jones KC said little was known of Mrs Koppel’s last movements.

On the evening of 7 August 1994, she had entered a poker tournament at the Victoria Sporting Club casino and met a client at a Heathrow hotel before returning to central London.

Mrs Koppel’s last known sighting was a visit to Midland Bank on Baker Street at 1.42pm the following day.

Sandip Patel pictured in 1994
Pic: Met Police
Sandip Patel pictured in 1994. Pic: Met Police

That evening, Mr Koppel returned to her flat near Baker Street Underground station to find she had been murdered.

She had been subjected to a “sustained and savage attack,” Mr Emyln Jones said.

“Marina Koppel was brutally murdered. It has taken a terribly long time to solve it, but we now have evidence that she had this defendant’s hair stuck to the ring she was wearing when she was attacked and killed; and his bare foot was pressed against the skirting board next to her.

“And that, the prosecution say, can only be because it was him who killed her all those years ago.”

Brown plastic bag in kitchen
Pic: Met Police
A brown plastic bag in the kitchen had Patel’s fingerprints on it. Pic: Met Police

Patel only became a confirmed suspect in 2022 after his DNA was matched to a hair found by a scientist on the ring in 2008.

Although technology was still not advanced enough at the time for scientists to get a DNA profile, it was preserved until 2022 and then re-examined.

The bloody footprint was found at the scene in 1994 and matched to Patel after he was made a suspect, the prosecutor said.

Footmark left in a bloodstain
Footmark left in a bloodstain. Pic: Met Police

Following his arrest, Patel denied knowing the victim but said he would run errands for his father.

He told police: “I continue to have no recollection of Marina Koppel, her address, or this incident. I have no idea how my fingerprint came to be on this carrier bag or how a hair of mine was present.”

Mrs Koppel’s family members said she was “an extremely bright, highly intelligent and charismatic person, who saw good in her family and all people she met.

“She wanted to give them everything they needed, especially her two children and nephew who grew up in Colombia.

“Her family and friends would have been in a much better place because of her abundance of energy for life had she not died.

“We have all suffered these many, many years because we lost Marina so early in life.”

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Dan Chester, the Met’s forensic lead for cold case homicide investigations, said: “Unsolved historic murders can be among some of the most complex and challenging cases for police to solve.

“However, today’s result provides an example where forensic science, newer technologies and collaborative working practices have had a positive impact in bringing a brutal killer to justice.

“This was a great team effort with the forensic scientists, fingerprint experts, the forensic manager and the investigating team all playing their part in solving Marina’s murder.”

Patel, of Finchley Road, north London, was remanded into custody to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday.


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