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Nemtsov Murder: The Police Close In

The arrest of 5 suspects and the confession of one suspect vindicate our view - contrary to the Western media's - that this case will be solved and that there will be no cover-up.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

A few days ago I wrote a piece for Russia Insider saying that the widespread assumption that the Nemtsov murder would not be solved was unwarranted.  My precise words were:

“Not only are there...good reasons to think this case will be solved, but it is quite likely the investigators have by now already formed a view on who the murderers  might be.”

When I wrote those words even I did not expect that arrests would come literally within days.  On the contrary, what I said was that “it may take a long time...before there is enough evidence to justify arrests or to bring charges and it may take longer still - perhaps years - before the case can be brought to trial and the full facts become known.” 

In the event we now have 5 arrests and one confession.

Though I did not expect arrests to come so quickly the fact that they have done so does not surprise me. 

As I discussed in my piece, the murderers left a trail of clues about themselves which all but guaranteed they would be caught.  Over and beyond those that were apparent from the way the crime itself was committed, the get away car (as I anticipated) has provided important clues about them.   Also it seems there is more CCTV footage than has been made public.  It is very likely this is not of the murder itself.  Rather, it is more likely to be of Nemtsov’s movements over the course of the day on which he was killed, which ought to help the police identify the people who were following him.

There are further points that can validly be made at this time:

In cases where arrests are underway it is important not to lose sight of the presumption of innocence.  The case has not been solved and will not be solved until there are convictions following a proper trial.  This remains true even in a case where one of the accused has confessed his guilt.

There are no grounds so far to speculate about the motive for this murder.  When the murder took place it was taken universally for granted that this was a contract killing.  That may be so but no evidence has so far been made public that bears that belief out. 

The police will by now undoubtedly have formed a view of the motive from their questioning of the accused.  Until more evidence is made public there are no grounds for others to do so.

The thread to my previous article contained an interesting discussion on the subject of Nemtsov’s female companion, who has been the object of a great deal of speculation.  Before concluding this brief comment I want to say briefly a few things about her.

There is no reason to think Nemtsov’s female companion was part of the conspiracy to kill him.  

She is most unlikely to have hired the gunmen who killed him.  People who hire hitmen by definition want to distance themselves from the murder they have commissioned.  Her presence at the murder scene is a compelling reason to doubt she instructed the hitmen who carried the murder out.  

Had Nemtsov’s companion been in some other way involved - for example by luring Nemtsov to the spot where he was killed or by signalling to his killers his whereabouts - she would have possessed information about the killers that would have made her an obvious secondary target when the murder took place.  The fact the man who shot Nemtsov did not shoot her is not therefore a reason to suspect her involvement in the crime as many appear to think.  On the contrary, it is strong grounds for believing her innocent.  

As for the fact Nemtsov’s companion says she cannot identify the murderer, even if she is wrong in saying that she did not see his face, that too is also no grounds to suspect her.  

The murder happened unexpectedly late at night in a public place at great speed.  What would be very surprising and indeed suspicious is if Nemtsov’s companion were in such circumstances to say that she is able to identify his killer.  The fact she says she cannot do so is not a sign of guilt.  On the contrary it is what one would expect and is a further sign that she is telling the truth as she remembers it. 

The possibility however remains that if Nemtsov's companion is physically confronted with the killer, for example in an identity parade, his actual presence might jog her memory so as to enable her to carry out a positive identification.  That sort of thing does occasionally happen as I know from experience.  Such an identification would be evidence against a defendant in a trial for murder, though if uncorroborated it could not by itself lead to a conviction.

That Nemtsov’s female companion is entirely innocent has clearly been the police view throughout the investigation.  In the days following the murder Nemtsov’s companion was held not as a suspect but as a witness.  That the police briefly placed her under guard and restricted her movements is not a sign they suspected her.  It is a basic precaution to protect a witness who might be in a position to give identification evidence and who might therefore be in danger whilst the killers remain at large.

The probability is that over the next few days more information about this murder will come to light.  Until that happens it is better not to speculate further about a case where a solution appears now to be in sight.






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