Guilty verdict 'would make West a victim'

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The Independent Online
WILL BENNETT

Convicting Rosemary West of murder would add yet another name to the list of her husband Frederick's victims, the jury at Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

Not a shred of evidence had been produced to link her with any of the 10 murders with which she is charged and to which Mr West confessed before his death, Richard Ferguson QC, for the defence, said.

"On the one hand, you have the siren voices urging you to convict because Rosemary West is an evil woman, on the other hand, you have your consciences and your oath," Mr Ferguson told the jury in his final speech. "The last thing you would want to live with would be the realisation that you have added yet another victim to the list of Fred West's victims."

Mrs West, 41, denies murdering 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at the Wests' house, 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, and at their previous home in the city. Mr West, who was charged with 12 murders, was found hanged in his prison cell on New Year's Day.

Mr Ferguson told the jury that the prosecution had to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Mrs West was guilty of the murders.

He continued: "You may have come to the conclusion that as a mother and a woman her conduct fell far below that which you might expect ... but that does not make her guilty of the crimes with which she has been charged.

"When it comes to proof of the actual crimes charged against this woman, they have not got the evidence. Speculation yes, opportunity perhaps, but proof, no. and you cannot convict without proof.

"There is not a shred of direct reliable evidence to show that this defendant was a party to their deaths.

"There is no fingerprint evidence to associate this defendant with their deaths, there is no forensic evidence to associate this defendant with these deaths, there is no eye-witness, there is no confession.

"This is not like the trial of OJ Simpson in America. There are no bloody footprints here, there are no gloves, there is no DNA evidence. You are not being asked by us to acquit in the teeth of the evidence. You are being asked by us to acquit because there is no evidence. All you have is conjecture, suspicion and perhaps prejudice."

Mr Ferguson said that although the jury might regard Mr West as "the very epitome of evil", if jurors believed that what he said in police interviews might have been true then they must return a not guilty verdict.

"We accept that the recordings you heard were not the comprehensive truth. Nevertheless the broad thrust of what he told the police in those early interviews was, we say, essentially correct. Rosemary West was not a party to these killings. We accept that Fred West was a liar, that he was a depraved and morally bankrupt human being, if you can honour him with the title of human being, but what he said in those interviews has the kernel of truth," he said.

"Once you accept that Fred West or Fred West and somebody other than Rosemary West could have killed without her knowledge, then that is the end of the Crown case. That is an end to the prosecution.

"Fred West was an evil, corrupt maniac who was able to follow his career of aggression without any assistance from this defendant.

"The real issue is not whether Mrs Rosemary West had an unconventional sex life, but whether or not the Crown has proved her guilty of murder."

The trial continues today when the judge, Mr Justice Mantell, will begin summing up.

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