NIKITTA CASE: Journey claims exposed by CCTV
The movements of killer Carl Whant were painstakingly pieced together by officers investigating the crime to contradict his version of the fatal night. AILSA CHALK reports.
NIKITTA Grender’s family and friends packed Newport Crown Court from day one of the trial as the prosecution laid out its case against Carl Whant.
Prosecutor Gregg Taylor QC told the court firefighters were called to the flat Miss Grender shared with her boyfriend, Ryan Mayes, in Broadmead Park, Lliswerry, on February 5 last year.
Sarah Voisey, who lived in the flat below, reported hearing the smoke alarm going off since 5.30am, but did not smell smoke until she went outside at around 7.50am to put something in the bin.
Crews from Malpas and Maindee attended and broke the door down to get into the burning flat.
When the fire was extinguished and the dense smoke had cleared, Miss Grender’s body was found in the bedroom.
A post-mortem examination carried out later that day by Home Office pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbeatter revealed she suffered a 10cm stab wound to the neck and another to the stomach which entered the back of the unborn baby.
Mr Taylor said Miss Grender spent the night before her death driving around with a friend visiting car parks at retail parks in Newport and Cwmbran, before being dropped off at home at around 1am.
He said: “At her own flat in the early hours of Saturday morning, she should have been safe for the rest of the night. But at some point that morning, someone entered the flat, someone raped her, someone murdered her and in the process killed her unborn child.”
Mr Taylor said: “The bed where she lay was then set on fire to cover up the crimes, to make it look like she had died in the fire. The man who did that was Carl Whant.”
Whant spent the evening before Miss Grender’s death with Mr Mayes and other friends, first watching part of the Wales v England Six Nations match at Mr Mayes’ mother’s house, before they went to The Star Inn in Duckpool Road, Maindee.
Mr Taylor said the group visited The Greyhound Inn and Revolution in Newport City Centre and returned to Whant’s Ford Focus in a car park a number of times to take drugs.
The group left town to go to a house party in Corelli Street at around 2.30am, where they continued drinking and took cocaine.
Whant left the house at around 5am saying he was going to his nan’s to get cigarettes, leaving Mr Mayes at the party. He did not return until around 6.20am, without cigarettes.
During the course of the trial, jury members were shown maps of the route Whant claimed he took from the house party in Corelli Street to his nan’s house.
Whant told officers he drove over the Town Bridge, over the Old Green Roundabout, into Queens Hill, Fields Park Road and Edward VII Avenue avoiding the town centre.
Police examined CCTV footage from across the city and identified a car matching the description of Whant’s silver Ford Focus driving in along Prince Street, past Maindee Police Station along Chepstow Road towards the Lliswerry area.
Mr Taylor said: “The prosecution says we can establish where Carl Whant’s car was at that time of the morning and it was not driving from Corelli Street to his nan’s at all. It was going in a completely different direction along Chepstow Road, west, going towards Broadmead Park.”
Experts were able to distinguish Whant’s vehicle from other silver Ford Focus cars brought in for a reconstruction, by the location of the tax disc and an AA sticker, as well as defects with rear number plate lights. Officers also tracked the return journey, where a silver Ford Focus was caught on CCTV turning into London Street at around 6.18am.
Mr Taylor said: “If the fire started as it did at about 5.30am, what was Carl Whant doing between 5.30am and 6.18am when he turned right into London Street? We don’t know what he was doing, but what we do know is that the knife that killed Nikitta Grender and destroyed her unborn child has never been found so that would have to be disposed of.”
Whant’s partner, Rachel Bird, noticed scratch marks and bruises on him later that day after news of Miss Grender’s death had spread.
He told her he got them when a woman held him back from confronting a man in the pub who spilt lager on him.
Whant gave a witness statement to the police on February 5, when he voluntarily gave officers the clothes he’d been wearing the previous night and admitted they had been washed.
The clothes were examined by forensic scientists who found “diluted” blood stains on the inside of the right cuff and back of a blue shirt and on the inside of a black jacket. Tests recovered a full DNA matching Miss Grender from the samples and Mr Taylor said there was “strong” evidence it originated from her blood.
The court was told forensics also found DNA evidence to show that both Whant and Miss Grender’s boyfriend, Ryan Mayes, had recently had sex with her.
Mr Taylor said the DNA could have been deposited any time during the five days prior to Miss Grender’s death and officers examined both Whant and Miss Grender’s movements for the previous seven days.
He said: “When you look at the events, the picture will be built that there was no opportunity for Carl Whant to have been with Nikitta Grender other than the period when he was at her flat in the early hours of morning, when we say the semen was deposited when, we say, he raped and then murdered her.”
Whant’s car was also examined and blood stains were found on the floor of the driver’s side footwell and on the footwell carpet. Miss Grender’s DNA profile was recovered from the samples examined.
Mr Taylor said: “That blood was deposited while wet.
“One possible explanation is that something wet with Nikitta Grender’s blood had been put underneath the carpet of the car and then removed.”
Whant was arrested on February 9 and was interviewed 26 times before being charged on February 12.