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Man guilty of murdering ex-wife, Bromley

News   •   Dec 07, 2018 15:57 GMT

[Martin Cavanagh]

A jealous ex-husband who subjected his former partner to harassment and abuse before callously murdering her then going on the run has been found guilty of murder.

Martin Cavanagh, 35 (09.04.83), of Chatterton Road, Bromley, was convicted at the Old Bailey today, Friday, 7 December.

He will be sentenced at the same court on Monday, 10 December.

The court heard that unemployed Cavanagh murdered 31-year-old Sophie Cavanagh (08.12.86), the mother of his two children, at his home address between Saturday, 19 and Sunday, 20 May.

Cavanagh and Sophie, who worked as a cleaner and as an online make up sales assistant, had been together as a couple for ten years, six of those married, and had two children together; a six year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

They had however been living apart for roughly two years prior to Sophie's murder, maintaining contact by telephone and visiting each other's addresses.

Cavanagh had moved out of the family address in Albatross Gardens, Croydon, where Sophie continued to live with their children. He moved to the address in Chatterton Road in early 2018.

The couple had a volatile and fractious relationship. Cavanagh would harass Sophie and monitor her online activity, interfering with anyone she may have been speaking to and making unsubstantiated claims about her personal life.

In the days before the murder Cavanagh had been pressuring Sophie to sleep with him for money, which she declined.

Documents found later on would indicate that Sophie had been petitioning Cavanagh for a divorce.

On the evening of Saturday, 19 May, Cavanagh and Sophie, along with their two children, are believed to have visited the Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent before returning to Cavanagh's address, and then on to a nearby pub.

They were joined by two friends, who would later state that although they were aware Cavanagh and Sophie were separated and had issues, on this occasion they appeared to be in good spirits and their evening together passed without issue. The pair returned to Cavanagh's address at around 20:00hrs.

At around 08:10hrs the following morning, Cavanagh's mother was woken at her home in Beckenham by her son, who was outside shouting at her to open the front door.

He had his two children with him and asked her to look after them for a couple of hours, telling her that he needed to go to the police station as he left.

As the day passed and the children became restless, Cavanagh's mother attempted to make contact with him to find out what he was doing but to no avail. She asked the two friends he and Sophie had spent the evening before with to attend his home address and see if he was ok, which they did. Finding a window open, they called out but received no response and so left.

They updated Cavanagh's mother that they had not heard from him and she gave them a key to the flat as she continued to look after his children.

The couple went back and entered the premises; there they saw two feet poking out from beneath a quilt on a makeshift bed in Cavanagh's bedroom.

The couple retreated and called Cavanagh's mother, who attended with her other son and daughter. They called an ambulance and police attended at the request of the London Ambulance Service at around 18:13hrs. Sophie was pronounced dead at the scene.

The death was initially treated as unexplained but suspicious; as officers examined the scene, they found a children's whiteboard in the corner of the room displaying a written message:

"U no who u r, so 2 u I say Fnk u + I realy do love u. She deserved it. And now me my angel and my princess. Can be 2 geva 4eva and we will Have love and happyness like we deserve."

A post-mortem examination held on Monday, 21 May at the Princess Royal Hospital in Bromley confirmed the cause of death as compression of the neck.

At around 19:00hrs, after Sophie was discovered, Cavanagh returned to his mother's address while she was at the scene of the incident with his siblings.

Cavanagh's sister-in-law had been looking after his children. Upon seeing Cavanagh she alerted her husband, who told their mother.

Cavanagh said to his sister in law, 'you know, don't you'. She replied that she did, at which point Cavanagh put his head in his hands and said that his life was over. She asked him what had happened, and he said that he didn't know, before stating that he and Sophie had been having an argument and that she had been throwing things at him.

He repeated that his life was over and kissed his children goodbye. He left the address at around 19:20hrs before his mother returned.

Police began enquiries immediately to trace Cavanagh.

Officers established that Cavanagh had contacted a friend, claiming he was able to repay some money he had borrowed. The friend drove him to the cash point and dropped him back at his address in Chatterton Road. No further usage was shown for the card, or on Cavanagh's account.

A media appeal was circulated on Wednesday, 23 May, naming Cavanagh as being wanted for Sophie's murder.

The following day he attended Bromley police station where he was arrested on suspicion of murder.

He was found to be in possession of three bank cards belonging to Sophie. He had also suffered an extensive injury to his inner forearm, believed to have been sustained while he was climbing over something, and was taken to hospital to receive surgery before going into custody.

In the morning, before his arrest, family members had seen Cavanagh in the shed at his mother's address. He said; "I'm not running, are the police here?" and "I want you to take me to the police station, I didn't do it."

Cavanagh was interviewed after his discharge from hospital and declined to answer all questions put to him. He was charged on Monday, 28 May with Sophie's murder and remanded in custody.

CCTV messages seized from Cavanagh's phone in the days before her murder would indicate his possessive and controlling behaviour:

M.C: Funny how Ur normally up till l8 specially when stripping inline 2nyts I've asked to cum round to talk Ur in bed by 9

S.C: What ever mart

M.C: It's the truth to Soph. I'm on way did u leave Fing out

S.C: Yeah

M.C: Fnk u. U r funny tho going bed but still online lol

M.C: Bed my ass

S.C: Just waiting on washing machine to finish everything is off! I've knackered

M.C: IYSS SOPH. NO MORE Message from me tonight. Just wish u would admit Ur talking to a fella.

S.C: Well I'm Not!

M.C: OK PINOCCHIO

M.C: Been online all ******* night Soph u still r

S.C: What ever mart! Seriously stop checking up on me! And no it's not a bloke!

In a statement, Sophie's family said: "This has been a horrific time for our family. That nasty, controlling, abusive man deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life for taking our beautiful Sophie's life away from her and her babies and family, in such a despicable way, just because she no longer wanted to be with him. This is a nightmare no family should have to go through.

"We wish to thank the investigation team for their hard work and support throughout this ordeal."

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Vandenbergh, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "This has been a tragic case to investigate. Sophie was a young woman who lost her life in her prime to a man who was controlling and abusive, and whom she had been petitioning for a divorce.

"Cavanagh will now have a significant amount of time to reflect upon the irreparable damage his wicked actions have caused to her family, and especially his own two young children; they have been robbed of a loving mother by their own father.

"A custodial sentence will, I'm sure, serve of little comfort to Sophie's family, but I hope they will appreciate that justice has been done."

+ The Metropolitan Police Service recently launched a campaign aimed at encouraging victims of abusive relationships to contact police - more information is available here: