Man found guilty of murder nearly 40 years later as DNA from hairbrush helps solve case

A man has been found guilty of the murder of Roman Szalajko, who was killed almost 40 years ago after a DNA discovery helped police track him down.

Paul Bryan, 62, of no fixed address, was convicted of the murder of 63-year-old Mr Szalajko, who was killed at an address in Seaton Close, Kennington in 1984.

Mr Szalajko was stabbed to death but a suspect was not identified during the first investigation.

The block of flats in Seaton Place, which have since been knocked down, where the murder took place (Picture: The Met)

Fingerprints were found at the scene, but at that time there was no match on the national fingerprint database and the investigation was subsequently closed.

In 2013, a review of the case was conducted by detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.

As part of those extensive enquiries, officers reviewed the fingerprints and discovered a match with Paul Bryan, who had been arrested in 1997 after committing a drug-related offence.

Met officers set about tracking down Bryan, but there were no traces of ID documentation or an employment footprint since the 1980s.

An undated picture of Paul Bryan (Picture: The Met)

Further enquiries led to the discovery of marriage records for a Paul Bryan and Sylvia Bryan, but this Paul Bryan had used a different year of birth – 1955.

Bryan had taken on the identity of a dead Welsh man with the same name, but the 1955 date of birth, and registered a driving license and passport in Portugal using those details.

Bryan travelled around Europe for decades using this identity and officers discovered that he was living in Spain.

The presence of his fingerprints at the murder scene were not enough to seek his extradition as a suspect.

The Met officers continued to search family trees and genealogy to finally trace Bryan’s mother. Although she had since died, her former husband provided a hairbrush which contained her DNA profile.

The Met said the result was a very strong match, with DNA from the telephone found at the scene of the crime in 1984.

Bryan was greeted by the Met at Stanstead Airport after returning to the UK on a flight from Spain in November last year.

The 62-year-old, originally from Hammersmith, denied murder, but was found guilty by at the Old Bailey earlier today. He was also convicted for possessing and controlling documents with intent.

Met Detective Chief Inspector Kate Blackburn said: “Finding Paul Bryan has taken my team years, but thanks to advanced forensic technology, enhanced police tactics and the unwavering dedication of my officers, the Met has brought him to justice.

“I’m pleased that Mr Szalajko’s family finally have the answers to what happened to their father and grandfather almost 40 years ago.

“My team have worked relentlessly on this investigation over many years and their professionalism and dedication has resulted in the guilty verdict today. They exemplify the finest homicide investigators we have.

“This case is an example of the Met refusing to give up on families who have lost loved ones. No matter how much time has passed, we will continue to pursue those who commit violent crime and seek justice for the families of those who have died.”

Bryan will be sentenced on December 8.

Pictured top: Paul Bryan, left, now aged 62, was found guilty of the murder of Roman Szalajko, right, in 1984 (Picture: The Met)

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