A ‘callous and calculated’ south London burglar with a violent past has been convicted for the 1993 killings of an elderly brother and sister after a DNA breakthrough.
On Sunday 22 August, 29 years ago, Danville Neil, now 65, of Sandrock Road, Lewisham, killed Anne Castle, 74, and William Bryan, 71, while burgling their Bethnal Green home.
The court heard that during the violent burglary, he assaulted the pair, restraining William using the tie from his own dressing gown and his binocular straps.
Recently released from jail for a spate of violent burglaries, Neil then aged 35, ransacked their home, stealing jewellery and other items.
During the incident Anne suffered a heart attack while much-loved uncle William, a WWII veteran, was smothered, causing him to go into cardiac arrest.
Officers reviewing the case submitted the binocular straps for forensic testing and found Neil’s DNA, leading to his arrest in 2020.
He was convicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of William and manslaughter of Anne, on Friday, November 18, following a two-week trial and will be sentenced this Friday, November 25.
Binocular straps used to restrain William
Detective Chief Inspector Joanna Yorke, of the Met’s Specialist Crime North Command, said: “Twenty-nine years of not knowing how their loved ones died and who was responsible. That is a pain no one should have to endure and I just hope this result can bring them some small comfort and peace of mind.”
Anne’s daughters, Janice and Cynthia, said: “Our mother spent her whole life in east London where she raised her five children, who went on to give her 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
“She was the most wonderful loving and caring mother and grandmother who was thoughtful in every way. She always put everyone before herself and was a great pillar of the community – well loved and respected by all who knew her.”
Anne and William, known locally as Annie and Billy, were siblings who had lived on the Minerva Estate for almost 50 years.
Anne had bought the property with her husband in 1943. He passed away in 1987 leaving Anne to care for her brother, who had become ill after the war.
On Sunday, August 22, Anne had spent the evening with a friend at the nearby Clarion Social Club and got home at 8.50pm.
The friend said William would usually prepare a coffee and sandwich when Anne got back. When police found their bodies, a half-drunk coffee and half-eaten sandwich were next to Anne, suggesting they were interrupted.
Police believe Neil forced or talked his way into the pair’s home, restraining William and assaulting them, with the ordeal causing them both to suffer heart attacks.
A neighbour recalled hearing a female screaming loudly at around 9.30pm that night. Believing it was coming from outside he looked out of his window but saw nothing.
A second neighbour said that at 11.30pm, all the lights in the flat were switched on and she could see movement in the lounge.
A young boy also reported being awoken during that evening by someone shouting “Get out of here” a number of times.
After noticing lights on and the balcony door open for a number of hours, a neighbour knocked at the flat to no avail and so called the police.
Officers attended on the evening of Monday, August 23, and noticed via a small open window that a number of the kitchen cupboards were open.
With the assistance of the fire brigade, officers used a ladder to access the open balcony door and entered the property to discover the bodies of Anne and William.
Anne was found slumped in an armchair, the rings pulled from her fingers, with William lying on the floor on his side with his hands and feet tied.
Most cupboards and drawers in the lounge were open and items were strewn across the floor.
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Neil stole a number of rings, a portable CD and cassette player, but failed to find £4,665 cash hidden in bundles in various locations throughout the house.
Post-mortem examinations indicated that Anne had a number of bruises on her arms, some of which seemed to suggest that she had also been restrained.
Police tried to track the suspect using finger and foot marks he’d left, and witness accounts, but couldn’t identify Neil.
Six years later, the case was reviewed and, whilst a partial DNA profile was obtained from the binoculars strap, no individual was identified.
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Twenty nine years later police received new information that caused them to resubmit the straps for testing to take advantage of forensic technology advancements.
Police said that during this process, DNA belonging to Neil was found underneath the knot of the strap, meaning he must have been responsible for tying William’s hands together.
The jury heard how just one year before the incident Neil had been released from prison after serving eight years for two south London burglaries in 1984.
During both incidents, female victims were assaulted in their own homes before items were stolen.
Following his release from prison for these offences, police said Neil continued to commit burglaries and, as a result, his DNA profile was put on the database.
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On October 1, 2020, officers carried out a search warrant at Neil’s Lewisham home and arrested him.
When initially interviewed, he denied all knowledge of the incident, claiming that he used to spend all his time in south London.
He argued he couldn’t work due to a back injury and was not involved in any criminality back then – aside from “bartering, buying and selling” stolen goods and cannabis.
Neil has continued to deny any involvement in their deaths, but couldn’t explain how his DNA ended up on the strap used to bind William’s hands.
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Admitting it was his DNA on the item, police said Neil fabricated a story about selling goods at car boot sales and suggested William had bought the binoculars from him.
Detective Chief Inspector Joanna Yorke said: “We’ve never given up on this case. Thanks to the determination of my officers and efforts of forensic scientists we have been able to achieve justice for Anne and William, and their family who have waited 29 years for this day to come.
“Neil is a callous and calculated individual, who has continued to deny any involvement in the incident despite the overwhelming forensic evidence against him. He entered the home of Anne and William that night intent on carrying out a burglary.
“The home they had shared for nearly 50 years. But it was not enough for him to just invade their home and steal from them. Instead, he killed them during a violent and heartless attack. I am thankful that he is now out of harm’s way where he belongs.”
Daughters Janice and Cynthia added: “The fear they must have experienced will never leave us.”