Case against West's wife `to go ahead'

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The policeman in charge of the "House of Horrors" murder inquiry, Detective Superintendent John Bennett, said yesterday that he believed the prosecution against Rosemary West would go ahead as planned. His comments came after the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would be reviewing whether it was worth continuing with the prosecution against her in the wake of her husband's suicide.

The CPS announcement heightened speculation that the case against Mrs West, 41, jointly charged with her husband with nine murders, might collapse.

A decision on whether to carry on with the prosecution will be reached by lawyers and CPS officials before a committal hearing on 6 February, at which Mrs West's lawyers will argue she has no case to answer.

News of the review came after a post mortem examination confirmed that Frederick West, who had confessed to the murder of 12 women and girls to police, died from a lack of oxygen to the brain due to hanging.

The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, yesterday confirmed that West was not listed as a suicide risk at the time of his death, but was subject to hourly checks by prison staff. He said the last assessment of West was made four months ago. The level of surveillance provided for individual prisoners was the responsibility of the prison governor on the basis of guidance laid down by the Home Office, he added.

In a letter to the shadow home secretary, Jack Straw, he said no Home Office minister had been consulted about the decisions taken about Frederick West. West, 53, a builder from Gloucester, was found hanging in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingha

m , on New Year's Day. No date has been fixed for an inquest.

The CPS statement said: "The implications of the death of Mr Frederick West on the case against Mrs Rosemary West are being considered by the CPS. Every case ... is continuously reviewed to ensure the evidence available provides a realistic prospect of conviction.

"All the evidence in the case against Mrs Rosemary West will be subject to this continuous review process."

Det Supt Bennett admitted that West's death "complicated" the inquiry, but maintained the prosecution would go ahead. He added: "Any death is tragic and our thoughts and sincere condolences go to the relatives of Mr West at this time and also to the victims' families."

He also denied reports that police were planning to dig for more bodies at new sites.