Driver `hid Celine's body in his lorry'

A lorry driver who raped and killed the French hitchhiker Celine Figard hid her body in his cab for 10 days, a court was told yesterday.

Stuart Morgan, 37, then travelled 100 miles on an overnight delivery run to dump her naked body in woods by the A449, near Hawford, Worcestershire, the jury at Worcester Crown Court was told.

David Farrer QC, for the prosecution, said Mr Morgan removed a fuse from his tachograph recording device to give an alibi for the night trip. But he forgot to replace it, leaving a discrepancy in his travel record for that morning.

Mr Farrer told the jury they would hear evidence that Mr Morgan's cab was splattered with Ms Figard's blood; that he gave away as Christmas presents two bottles of champagne that she had been carrying her in luggage; that a blood-soaked mattress from his cab was found in his garage; and that items of Ms Figard's clothing were found near a warehouse he visited on the night her body was dumped.

Mr Morgan, of Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Dorset, denies murdering Ms Figard, from Ferrieres-les-Scey, near Besancon, eastern France.

As the case was outlined to the court, Ms Figard's parents, Bernard and Martine, sat around a table cordoned off at the back of the courtroom. Wearing headphones the couple listened as an interpreter translated the case into French.

Mr Farrer told the jury they would hear a case of "calculating and unmitigating wickedness". He said there could be "no plainer case of murder".

Mr Morgan has admitted taking Ms Figard on the final leg of her journey in England, and claims they had consenting sexual intercourse before he dropped her off.

The jury was told that Ms Figard's parents arranged a lift for her through a local haulage firm in France on 18 December last year. She crossed over to England the following day and arranged another lift with another French driver from the coast to Chieveley Services, on the M4 at Newbury, Berkshire.

There she looked for a third lift to take her to Fordingbridge in Hampshire where she was intending to visit her cousin.

"That was the last time that anybody saw Celine alive," Mr Farrer said.

"The prosecution case is that the defendant who sits in the dock today is her killer.

"We say that he raped her and killed her in the back of his lorry in the late afternoon and early evening of 19 December, within quite a short time of picking her up."

The trial continues today.

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