Murder Trial Sheds Light on Sham Marriages and Post-Brexit Immigration Dodge

A murder trial at the Old Bailey in London heard the motive was a row over money from a sham marriage scam, but how common are bogus weddings?
Murder Trial Sheds Light on Sham Marriages and Post-Brexit Immigration Dodge
Undated images of Jurick Croes (L), who was convicted of murder, and Raichell Felomina (R), who was convicted of false imprisonment after a trial at the Old Bailey in London on May 28, 2024. (Metropolitan Police)
Chris Summers

A Dutch national has been convicted of murder in London and two others have been convicted of false imprisonment after a trial that heard the motive was a row over money from a “sham marriage scheme.”

But how common are bogus weddings and what safeguards are there?

On Tuesday a jury at the Old Bailey in London found Jurick Croes, 38, guilty of murdering Riches Obi, 25.

Croes and two other Dutch nationals, Raichell Felomina, 39, and Suvenca Martis, 33, were also convicted of the false imprisonment of his mother, Bernadette Ortet, a case worker with a firm of solicitors who specialised in immigration work.

The court heard Ms. Ortet—a case worker at a firm of solicitors that specialised in immigration work—was setting up bogus weddings between Dutch nationals and Nigerian women and Croes and Felomina were either angry at not being paid or were trying to steal the cash.

Prosecutor Jennifer Knight, KC, said, “The background to these offences seems to lie in a sham marriage scheme in which all three of these defendants and Bernadette Ortet were engaged.”

“It seems likely that these defendants had become angry in some way about the remuneration they were receiving for their part in the scheme and went to Bernadette Ortet’s flat on November 17 determined to demand and get money from her,” she added.

‘I Was Promised £50,000 to Marry a Nigerian’

Croes, who gave evidence, said he had been promised £50,000 to marry a Nigerian national called Loretta Ozoh.

He said he came to Ms. Ortet’s flat on the Rockingham estate, near Elephant and Castle in south London, on Nov. 17, 2020 to try and obtain the payment he was owed.

Croes claimed a row with Ms. Ortet became heated and Mr. Obi suddenly attacked him with two knives.

He claimed he overpowered him and stabbed him to death in the hallway.

Undated image of Bramwell House in Elephant and Castle, south London, where Riches Obi was killed in November 2020. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Undated image of Bramwell House in Elephant and Castle, south London, where Riches Obi was killed in November 2020. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Ms. Ortet’s daughter, Olive Obi, apparently found her tied up in a bedroom, with a scarf around her neck.

Ms. Knight told the jury Ms. Ortet had returned to her native Nigeria—where her son was buried—without giving a comprehensive statement to the police.

Ms. Obi has since moved to the United States without giving the police a full account of what happened.

During the trial, Croes’s barrister claimed his client acted in self-defence and claimed the actions of Ms. Ortet and her daughter were both very suspicious.

The actual motive for the murder was unclear but it is believed Croes and Felomina were trying to force Ms. Ortet to hand over cash from the sham marriage scam which they thought was in the flat.

Felomina and Croes fled Britain a few hours after Mr. Obi was killed. Felomina was extradited from the Netherlands and put on trial last year with Martis.

Killer Was Extradited From Colombia

The trial collapsed. Croes was then extradited from Colombia, where he had fled, and the three went on trial in April.
In 2013 an impact assessment published by Parliament reported, “The Home Office considers that sham marriages/civil partnerships for immigration advantage are a significant problem, leading to an estimated 4,000 to 10,000 immigration applications each year.”
In 2022 the BBC reported hundreds of couples had exploited a post-Brexit scheme giving the spouses of EU citizens the right to remain in the UK if they had been resident in December 2020.

That would appear to have been the case with Croes and Felomina, Dutch nationals who were being paid to marry Nigerian women.

If the weddings had gone ahead in November 2020, the women would have been able to claim the right to remain in Britain when the Brexit transition process ran out at the end of December 2020.

The law has since been tightened.

In 2019 a gang was sentenced to a total of 36 years in prison for bringing women from impoverished communities in Slovakia to Scotland, some of whom ended up in sham marriages for the purpose of helping men become EU citizens.

The ringleader, Vojtech Gombar, 61, was jailed for 12 years and the judge, Lord Beckett, said his crimes were “utterly repugnant.”

In January 2021 new rules came into effect which allowed permission to enter or to stay in the UK to be refused or cancelled on the grounds of involvement in a sham marriage or civil partnership.

In February 2023 the Public Law Project (PLP) challenged the Home Office over an algorithm which it was using to identify potential sham marriages.

It followed a ruling by a data protection tribunal which found “there will be some indirect discrimination” and “potential bias” in the automated triage tool.

PLP’s Legal Director Ariane Adam said in a statement at the time, “Couples who fail face invasive and unpleasant investigations and can have their permission to marry delayed without even being told that a machine was involved in the decision-making process.”

“The information available demonstrates prima facie indirect nationality discrimination, with some nationalities, including Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians, disproportionately failing triage,” she added.

Ms. Ortet was a case worker for Obadiah Rose Solicitors, a firm specialising in immigration and nationality cases. There is no suggestion the firm was involved in any illegality.

Croes, Felomina, and Martis will be sentenced in July.

The Epoch Times contacted the Home Office for comment.

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.