October 6, 2016
Man on trial for murder after stealing a rare edition of The Wind in the Willows
by Nikki Griffiths
An antiques dealer and author has been brutally murdered during a robbery to steal a rare first edition of The Wind in the Willows worth £50,000.
Adrian Greenwood, who wrote books for The History Press, was found with more than thirty stab wounds to the chest and neck at his house in Oxford last April. Michael Danaher is currently on trial at Oxford Crow Court for the crime, but denies he committed murder, apparently telling the jury he killed Greenwood in self-defense.
The jury was told that Greenwood first came to Danaher’s attention when the accused noticed an ebay listing for the rare edition of Wind in the Willows in August 2015. Other items Greenwood had listed for sale included an illustrated first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a Bible from the sixteenth century, and an oil painting by George Bernard Shaw. Danaher had been attempting to earn a living by buying and selling items online, but was experiencing financial difficulties.
A list of targets was found saved as an Excel spreadsheet on Danaher’s computer, which he named “Enterprises.” Those on the list included property developer Howard Grossman, financial investor Guy Hands, television pawnbroker Adam Hatfield, and wealthy businessman and Conservative Party donor Adrian Beecroft. The jury heard that, only two weeks before Greenwood’s death, Danaher tried to force his way into Beecroft’s north London home March 22. Beecroft’s wife raised the alarm when Danaher arrived at the house pretending to deliver a package for her daughter, thwarting his attempt.
Danaher also made a list of wealthy people to investigate, including model Kate Moss and author and former MP Jeffrey Archer. The Guardian’s Esther Addley reports his research into wealthy potential targets had been extensive:
Analysis of his laptop revealed the accused had also researched and saved the home addresses of celebrities including Simon Cowell, Katie Hopkins, Eamonn Holmes, Gary Lineker and Louise Redknapp, as well as the former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and Adam Simmonds, a former Conservative police and crime commissioner of Northamptonshire, the court heard. A floorplan of the home of the TV presenter Anthea Turner was recovered from Danaher’s laptop… while he had also researched how to buy samurai swords online.
The BBC has been covering the trial, reporting statements made by prosecutor Oliver Saxby QC on the nature of the crime and the accused. Of the spreadsheet Danaher maintained, Saxy said, “It is almost as if these are people who, because of their wealth, and his lack of it, deserve to be subjected to what he has planned.”
Of the crime more generally, Saxby noted, “It takes a certain sort of person to have done what the defendant did to Adrian Greenwood.
“Cool, calculated, controlled, before, during and after. And underpinning it all? Greed. It was money he was after.”
It has emerged during the trial that Danaher has three previous criminal convictions for assault and battery, and that, prior to the attack, he had studied Greenwood’s movements carefully, looking him up online repeatedly and visiting Oxford five times.
The trial is ongoing and is expected to last for three weeks.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.