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Wealthy woman ‘frightened' of saying no to younger boyfriend, murder trial told

Norma Girolami, 70, was ‘gregarious and fun-loving', the court heard (Met Police/PA)
Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent

A wealthy woman was “frightened” of saying no to her younger boyfriend before he allegedly killed her to plunder her money, a court has heard.

Norma Girolami, 70, had already bought 42-year-old Serkan Kaygusuz a car and given him more than £200,000 before he murdered her in August 2021, it is claimed.

Kaygusuz buried her body in a graveyard and set about emptying her bank account, stealing jewellery and applying for loans totalling £60,000 in her name, the Old Bailey has heard.

On Friday, Ms Girolami's lifelong friend Linda Crystallis told jurors that by the summer of 2021, she was afraid of the defendant and even wanted to move from her Highgate home in north London to get away from him.

Mrs Crystallis, who last saw the victim on August 1 on a visit to Kenwood House stately home, said she had confided in her that Kaygusuz had taken more than £200,000.

She said: “Because of Covid and my husband's illness I had not seen her as much as I would like.

“Serkan had taken six-figure sums from her and I asked her if she could stop giving him money and she said that she could not.

“I asked her if she was afraid of him and she said yes because he wanted that money and she was frightened if she said no. I imagined she was frightened of him being violent.”

Asked if Ms Girolami had ever told her he had been violent, the witness said: “She intimated but she did not say it. I think she was ashamed and embarrassed.

“She was very worried about money because funds were going down very rapidly.

“She wanted to move away to get away from Serkan and also be a bit closer to me and reduce her outgoings.”

Mrs Crystallis told jurors that she had known the victim since they were girls.

Ms Giromali had worked as a tour guide before helping her mother with her property lettings business.

“Norma was a gregarious, fun-loving, kind and generous person, sometimes too generous. She really liked to be generous and did not like to say no.

“She often did not understand social cues and got herself into difficulties because she did not always understand everything around her and why it was going on.”

Ms Girolami had been in “abusive” relationships with men in the past and could be careless with her safety, jurors were told.

She also exhibited potentially autistic personality traits such as lining up her lipsticks “like soldiers” and maintaining mealtimes and routine, the court heard.

Mrs Crystallis described how her friend first met the defendant at a swimming pool she regularly visited for her arthritis.

“She confided in me that she had met somebody at the Archway leisure centre, a man who was considerably younger than herself who seemed to flatter her and she had become quite fond of him.

“She said that while she was in the hot tub he made inappropriate advances to her. At first she was somewhat disturbed by it but she found it a bit flattering.”

Ms Girolami began giving him money on a regular basis, the witness said: “In the early days she was glad to help and she wanted to help and she thought it made him happy.”

Prosecutor Jocelyn Ledward asked: “As her friend, how did you feel about it?”

Mrs Crystallis said: “It was not for me to judge but I felt that maybe they were both getting what they wanted from the relationship.

“Norma told me in the beginning she had not been intimate with anybody for years and she found that side of the relationship very uncomfortable because of her illness – it was something she did not wish to continue for very long.”

Mrs Crystallis told jurors that her friend turned to her for financial advice because she was “not good with money”.

“She struggled with money and I have always helped her with a bank account, to put money into investments and tried to safeguard her as much as I could.”

By the summer of 2021, Ms Girolami had become “very stressed and sad”, the witness said.

Ms Girolami was last seen alive on August 19 2021, when she travelled from her home for a day out in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

She was missing for 15 months before her body was found buried in St James' Churchyard in Barnet, north London.

Peter Murray had a lifelong association with St James's The Great Church, having married there 60 years ago.

Giving evidence, he said he tidied the churchyard and took care of 16 war graves, picking up litter left by fly tippers and vagrants.

In the summer of 2021 Mr Murray said he noticed a disturbance in the ground.

He said: “It looked like someone had been doing a test dig in the ground, I had assumed it was someone wanting to put their family ashes there.”

Mr Murray thought it “didn't look important” but within a week he returned and saw the area had been “tidied up” and took a photograph.

He added: “It looked like someone had a spade and had started to dig. It was a two-metre plot.”

Mr Murray thought no more of it until police arrived on the site more than a year later and he learned it was a possible crime scene.

Kaygusuz has admitted perverting the course of justice by concealing Ms Girolami's body, and the theft of her house keys, bank cards and jewellery.

He has also pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud relating to bank loans totalling £60,000 in her name and cash withdrawals, and transferring criminal property in the sum of £21,000 from one of the loans into his own bank account.

The former supermarket worker, of Crouch End, north London, denies murder and the trial continues.

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