A husband whose pregnant wife went missing from their home in Deal more than 20 years ago has been found guilty of her murder.
Devoted mother Debbie Griggs’ body has never been found following her disappearance in May 1999 at the age of 34.
Her husband Andrew claimed Debbie was depressed and walked out on him and their three children, when in reality he had killed her and disposed of the body.
The investigation into Debbie’s death has been regularly reviewed over the years by cold case detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, who resubmitted the case to the Crown Prosecution Service earlier in 2019. The CPS then reconsidered the evidence and authorised a charge of murder against Andrew Griggs, now aged 56, in March.
He was convicted on Monday 28 October following a five-week trial Canterbury Crown Court. He will be sentenced on Wednesday 30 October 2019.
The jury heard how Andrew and Debbie Griggs moved into a house in Cross Road, Deal, in 1990 and were wed later that same year. Their marriage deteriorated over the years and there had been a number of arguments and altercations in the months leading up to Debbie’s disappearance, resulting in a brief separation in March 1999.
They agreed to work on their marriage but the problems remained and reached a head when Debbie went missing on the evening of Wednesday 5 May.
Andrew claimed he was asleep in the living room when Debbie came in ‘screaming and shouting’ at him before asking him to see how he coped looking after their children by himself. She is then alleged to have left the house and was never seen again.
Debbie was reported missing to Kent Police by Andrew the following evening, and as part of the investigation into her whereabouts it was established that her white Peugeot 309 had been parked in a residential street about a mile away from their home. The inner lining of the boot was missing and a small trace of Debbie’s blood was found inside.
Witnesses later reported having seen the vehicle leave the Griggs’ home address at two different points in the early hours of Thursday 6 May.
Andrew was arrested on suspicion of her murder on Monday 24 May 1999 but the CPS ruled there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.
He moved to Dorset in 2001 but the case remained open and further enquiries, searches and excavations were carried out in the years that followed to try to find Debbie’s body and shed further light on her disappearance.
The evidence was re-submitted to the CPS in 2018 who authorised a charge of murder against Andrew Griggs. He was taken into custody from his home in Ringwood Road, St Leonards, Dorset, on Tuesday 12 March 2019.
Detective Chief Inspector Kaye Braybrook of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Debbie Griggs was a loving mother of three young sons and with a fourth child on the way. The jury heard from a number of witnesses who all agreed she would have never abandoned them, and was not the depressed, unstable and violent person Andrew Griggs has gone to great lengths to paint her as.
‘While Debbie’s body has never been found, we are certain she died at the hands of her husband. There is no other plausible explanation as to what happened to her, nor any other person who is likely to have been responsible for her disappearance.
‘Andrew Griggs provided varying accounts of what happened on the evening he last saw Debbie alive, contradicting himself on the time she left the house and the amount of money she took with him. He also claimed Debbie’s mother asked him to delay reporting her disappearance to the police, which she strongly denied.
‘These discrepancies and other holes in Andrew’s evidence left us and the jury in no doubt that he had something serious to hide – namely that he had murdered his wife and disposed of her body.
‘He has proven himself to be a callous and manipulative individual who has gone to great lengths to destroy his wife’s reputation. For 20 years he has heartlessly carried on with his life while Debbie’s family and friends have struggled to come to terms with their loss, and having never had the chance to bury her body and say their proper goodbyes. Tragically Debbie’s mother died just weeks before Andrew was charged with her murder, without ever knowing what happened to her daughter.
‘Only Andrew knows how he killed Debbie and what he did with her body, and I appeal to him to have the courage to speak up and enable those who continue to grieve her loss to have some form of closure. It is not too late for him to do the right thing.
‘I hope Debbie’s surviving family can take some comfort from the outcome of this case, which is testament to the hard work and determination of cold case detectives who ensure justice catches up with serious criminals like Andrew Griggs regardless of the length of time that has passed.’