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Murder Hunt: Sharon Malone last seen November 1999


Murder Hunt; Sharon Malone last seen November 1999

Wiping his pale and tear-streaked face, 45-year-old Garry Malone walked into the glare of the TV lights and took his seat alongside his father-in-law Harry Cinch. It was a month before Christmas 1999, but neither man was giving a thought to the festive season.

They were desperate for information about the whereabouts of an attractive 29-year-old woman who seemed to have vanished as completely as if she had stepped off the planet.

Sharon Malone had met Garry when she was only 17 and he was a karate instructor at her school. They had married in 1993 and had two children. Sharon had given up a career as a research scientist to train as a teacher so that she would have the school holidays to look after her children. They bought a house in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and settled down to a life of what appeared to be happy domesticity, but as a friend remarked: "Sharon was the bright one. Garry never really settled to anything. It was Sharon's salary that kept things going."

Then at the end of November 1999, Sharon vanished. There were no farewell letters or phone-calls. No one saw her leave home. She didn't tell her two young sons or other close relatives that she was going away.
Two days later, her car was found abandoned and police recovered her mobile phone. But it yielded no information and the car contained no forensic clues.

A few days later when police asked Garry and his father-in-law whether they would make a national TV appeal for information they both immediately agreed but when they appeared, Garry Malone appeared distraught with grief.

As he tried to speak to the cameras and appeal for information he broke down in tears. "Sharon," he said, his voice breaking with emotion, "We are missing you so much. The boys are always asking where you are. Please come back to us. Just let us know where you are and put our minds at rest..."

The broadcast went out on nation-wide TV but there was no response. Sharon did not make contact with her frantically worried familial and no one reported seeing her.

The mystery continued and then suddenly the plot took a dramatic and unexpected twist: it was no longer just Sharon who was missing. Gary Malone disappeared too — along with his two sons aged four and two.

A fortnight later Sharon's father, Harry Cinch, received a postcard from Garry. He said he was "under pressure and needed to sort things out. The boys are having a great time in the sunshine and send their love. We will be back soon." The card was postmarked Spain.

A few days later Garry wrote to a neighbour: "Sharon owed some nasty people some money. I really feel that the boys' and my life are in danger. I couldn't cope with the strain. When Sharon returns I hope we can return, too."

But everyone who heard about the letter dismissed it as ridiculous. One teaching colleague of Sharon remarked: "It makes her sound like some sort of underworld figure.

"In fact her friends are members of the local church and badminton clubs. They were hardly drug-dealers or thugs. This is crazy. Sharon is just an ordinary girl. As far as I know she didn't owe anyone a penny." Detectives looking for Sharon Malone were now anxious to talk to her husband. Interpol was alerted and Spanish police were now very actively looking for him.

Then four months after her disappearance the case still technically regarded as a missing person incident became a murder hunt. Sharon's body was found hidden in a dried-up stream only five miles from her home.
She was dressed in a nightdress, as if she had been getting ready for bed and had been killed by two violent blows to the head with a blunt instrument.

Now the hunt for Garry Malone started in earnest and police got help from an unexpected source: Paula Fiddes 34, another trainee teacher and a childhood friend of Sharon's, walked into a local police station and said that she had been with Sharon on the night she disappeared and that she had decided to leave Garry and start a new life.

It was a story that soon collapsed under police questioning. Soon a tearful Paula was confessing that her story had been invented by Garry Malone and that she was his mistress. Gary had previously told her: "I would be better off if Sharon was dead."

She said that Malone's marriage was on the rocks and that he would have been financially crippled by a divorce. "He was already deeply in debt and tried to make a living selling vintage guitars.

"Sharon was a success but Garry was a bit of a waste of space. She had a first class degree and always succeeded at everything but Garry could hardly hold down a job and got deeper in debt. He told me he was jealous of Sharon but I never believed he would actually harm her." Now Malone was the main murder suspect, but where was he? Finally police received a tip that Malone had changed his name to Ralph Kirque and was living on the Costa Del Sol. He was finally found lounging beside the pool of his rented villa at Benalmadena.

After first denying his true identity, Malone, 50, was arrested and a month later extradited to the UK. Six months later he appeared at the Old Bailey, pleading not guilty to his wife's murder. Sitting alongside him on court was Paula Fiddes, accused of trying to pervert the course of justice.   

Also in the dock was his 23-year-old son Gareth, from a previous marriage, who was accused of assisting an offender. It was claimed that Gareth Malone helped to clean up the death house and dumping blood-soaked wallpaper which had been stripped off the bedroom wall.

Prosecutor Stephen John told Justice Kramer and a jury: "In the month after the killing Garry Malone told persistent lies to the police and Sharon was treated as a missing person who might turn up at any time. He encouraged police to believe that she had simply walked out of their home.

He had pretended that his wife owed money to thugs and that he had fled the UK only to protect himself and his children. John told the court: "That was a cock and bull storyline. In reality Garry Malone was heavily in debt and jealous of his wife. He faced having to pay her £100,000 if they got divorced."

Appearing as a prosecution witness, Paula Fiddes told the court that Malone had asked her to lie for him and she had agreed. "When I heard that Sharon had been found dead it scared me."

She said she believed Malone was responsible for the killing and told the court: "He was like Jekyll and Hyde, with a terrible temper. It could have been me lying in that wood."

Malone's father-in-law Harry Cinch, said his daughter had doted on her sons and had given up a good job to look after them. She had become a teacher so that she could have time with her children in the school holidays.

He said that while his grandsons were in Spain he was not allowed to visit them and Malone did not allow the youngsters to speak on the telephone or reply to letters. "I have not had any contact with them for three years," Cinch said. Garry Malone told the court that he was convinced his wife had been killed by "ruthless men" to whom she owed money. "I would never harm her and until her body was recovered I hoped and prayed she would return," he said. But no one believed him. When he was found guilty of murder after a six-week trial, Justice Kramer told Malone: "You showed no remorse and mounted a sustained and dishonest pretence that your wife was still alive. You spun a web of lies after snuffing out a young and promising life."

Malone was jailed for life and ordered to serve at least 18 years while his son and mistress were jailed for two years each.

Harry Cinch, who with his wife now looks after his grandsons, said after the case: "We've waited a long time for the man who murdered our daughter to be punished. Now at last justice has been done."

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