Regina -v- Onufrejczyk; 1955

References: [1955] 1 QB 388, [1955] 2 WLR 273, (1955) 39 Cr App R 1
Coram: Lord Goddard CJ
The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder, where no body had been found.
Held: The court approved the direction given by the judge (Oliver J): ‘If he did not die by natural causes, he was killed. Members of the jury, if he was killed his body was concealed or destroyed and has not been found. It he is dead and was killed and the body was destroyed or concealed, he was murdered, was he not? That is the point. I want you to apply your minds to that set of circumstances, and decide for yourselves whether in the light of those facts, and many more to which I shall have to draw your attention, you can say that you are satisfied that no rational hypothesis except that he is dead, dead by violence, is open. If you are driven to that conclusion, that would be a verdict of murder; but if you think that that would be going too far, and that you could not safely say that no rational explanation of his death except murder could be conceived, why then it will mean that you have a doubt about it, and you will acquit him.’
Lord Goddard CJ said: ‘it is equally clear that the fact of death, like any other fact, can be proved by circumstantial evidence, that is to say, evidence of facts which lead to one conclusion, provided that the jury are satisfied and are warned that it must lead to one conclusion only.’ and ‘here there are facts which point inevitably, as it is said irresistibly, towards the appellant being the person who knows what happened to the missing man and who disposed of that man in one way or another. It may be that it would have been desirable to emphasise to the jury that the first thing to which they must apply their minds was whether a murder had been committed; but, speaking for myself, I think that the way the judge put it in the two passages which I have read did sufficiently direct the attention of the jury to the fact that they had to be satisfied of that, and that if they were satisfied of the death, the violent death, of this man they need not go any further.’

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