A man who gave police a false account of the death of missing mum Natalia Doherty has been given a suspended sentence.
Joseph Doherty, 73, admitted perverting the course of justice regarding the death of his sister-in-law at Luton Crown Court today.
The remains of 50-year-old Natalia were found in a garden used as a dumping ground in Icknield Way, Luton, in December 2015 some 12 years after she vanished.
Det Ch Insp Jerry Waite said: “This case has been an incredibly difficult one to investigate. We were initially searching for Natalia in the possibility that she may have been alive ... but very quickly it became evident that her life had been cut short.
“Technology and the keeping of records has improved dramatically in the 13 years since she was murdered, so I am pleased that this man involved in perverting the course of justice in relation to our investigation has finally been brought to justice.”
Officers began investigating the disappearance of mum-of-three Natalia in January 2014 after reports were made to the force.
Searches failed to show any sign that she was alive after April 2003, when she attended a doctor’s appointment in her home town of Eastbourne.
Investigators discovered she had since “been brought” to Luton by her estranged husband Gerald Doherty and never left. Natalia was then presumed murdered and a homicide investigation was launched.
Detectives were given a false account of her death by Joseph Doherty, which diverted police attention. A tip-off from elsewhere ultimately led officers to search the Icknield Way garden which was the home of another Doherty brother, Daniel.
An excavation of the site uncovered a near-complete human skeleton which forensics proved was undoubtedly Natalia. Alongside the remains were empty beer cans and the remnants of a bin bag which had been left undisturbed for more than a decade.
Det Ch Insp Waite added: “Tragically we will never know the exact circumstances in which Natalia was murdered, but it was our case to the court that her estranged husband Gerald, who has since died, was responsible.
“I would like to pay tribute to the officers who have spent countless hours piecing together the puzzle behind her disappearance and the cover-up of her untimely death, as well as all of the specialist teams who worked on the traumatic search for and excavation of Natalia’s body.
“I am pleased that today Natalia’s former brother-in-law has pleaded guilty, his actions could have prevented justice from being done. Our investigation over three years has led us to uncover her remains and bring answers and some closure to her family, though nothing can ever bring her back.”
Daniel Doherty stood trial on related offences and was found not guilty part way through the trial. Joseph Doherty received a three month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.