Paul Bryan, 62 (13.03.61), of no fixed address, has been found guilty of the murder of 62-year-old Roman Szalajko at an address on Seaton Close in Kennington on 7 February 1984. He was also convicted for possessing and controlling documents with intent.
Roman was stabbed to death, but a suspect was not identified during the first investigation. Fingerprints were found at the scene, however 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 finger marks and discovered a match with Paul Bryan, who had been arrested in 1997 after committing a drug-related offence.
Officers set about tracking down Bryan, but there were no traces of ID documentation or an employment footprint since the 1980s. Further enquiries led to the discovery of marriage records for a Paul Bryan and Sylvia Bryan, but this Paul Bryan had used a different date 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.
Officers established that Bryan was living in Spain.
While the presence of his fingerprints at the murder scene were significant, this was not enough to seek his extradition as a suspect.
Undeterred, officers examined family trees and genealogy, and through this work they were able to trace Bryan’s mother. Although she had since died, her former husband provided a hairbrush which contained her DNA profile. 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 Metropolitan Police at Stanstead Airport after returning to the UK on a flight from Spain on 19 November, 2022.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Blackburn, the Senior Investigating Officer for the investigation, 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.”