Matthew Donkin, originally led by Robert Smith Q.C. and subsequently by Jonathan Sandiford Q.C., was instructed as junior for the prosecution of Keith Hall for the killing of Rachel Wilson.
The defendant had begun a relationship with Rachel Wilson when she was aged 17 and he many years her senior. Over a period of years he was violent and controlling of her, sending her out to work on the streets as a sex-worker in order to fund his drug habit. In May 2002 Rachel disappeared and a missing person enquiry was begun, to which Keith Hall gave false information suggesting that Rachel was alive. In fact she had been killed by him. Having worked the streets she returned home with insufficient money and he beat her to death. Her naked body was then dumped by him on nearby farmland and remained undiscovered until 2012. When it was discovered, such was the state of decomposition that the prosecution was unable to prove a cause of death.
A painstaking police investigation followed – the largest and longest homicide enquiry in the history of Cleveland Police – in which over 20,000 hours of CCTV were viewed, more than 10,000 nominals featured and tens of thousands of documents and statements obtained. Robert Smith Q.C. was instructed to provide advice on charge and in 2019 the defendant was finally charged with Rachel’s killing. The case was based upon the circumstances of Rachel’s disappearance, movements of Keith Hall and demonstrably dishonest accounts that he gave and, most importantly, confession evidence and attempts to pervert the course of justice. When the case was listed for trial, now with Jonathan Sandiford Q.C. instructed as leading counsel for the prosecution, for the first time the defendant admitted killing Rachel and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He has never said what his actions were to kill her.