Murder Trial Verdict: Convicted in Missing Body Case

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – David Benbow was found guilty of murdering his childhood friend Michael McGrath seven years ago, despite no body, no murder weapon, no DNA, and no confessions. This was the sixth murder conviction in New Zealand without a body. Benbow’s conviction raised significant questions about how law enforcement investigates cases without tangible evidence. The McGrath family expressed relief at the verdict but still yearned for closure without Michael’s body. The case highlighted the challenges of prosecuting “no body” homicide cases, especially when convicting someone based solely on circumstantial evidence.

The absence of a body poses a significant challenge for prosecutors, as it is often difficult to prove the cause of death in homicide cases. The lack of physical evidence also makes it harder for families and friends to come to terms with their loved one’s death and receive closure. In some jurisdictions, laws have been proposed to deny parole to offenders who refuse to disclose the location of a victim’s body. However, critics argue that such laws could lead to wrongful convictions.

Former Crown solicitor Brian Dickey pointed out the difficulties in prosecuting cases without a body, as it becomes harder to prove the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death. New South Wales, Australia, implemented a “no body, no parole” law to provide closure to families of homicide victims, allowing them to bury their loved ones. However, such laws carry potential risks for individuals wrongfully convicted.

The case of Yanfei Bao, which turned into a homicide investigation and led to a kidnapping and murder charge, further highlighted the complexities and challenges of prosecuting cases without a body. As these cases demonstrate, the absence of a body in homicide investigations continues to pose legal and emotional challenges for law enforcement, families, and the justice system. The resolution and closure of these cases often hinge on the ability to locate the victim’s remains and establish the cause of death.