Media frenzy as Rosemary West faces murder jury

Gloucester killings: Trial of builder's widow begins nine months after he committed suicide in his prison cell
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The Independent Online

The trial of Rosemary West on 10 murder charges began in Winchester yesterday amid huge media interest but with the people of the ancient Hampshire city taking all the fuss in their stride.

The prosecution will not open its case against Mrs West, 41, until at least Friday and possibly next week because of legal submissions being made to Mr Justice Mantell, the trial judge.

Dozens of photographers and television camera crew were outside Winchester Crown Court yesterday as Mrs West arrived in a police van escorted by three motorcycle outriders after a two-minute journey from the city's prison. She is being held in the prison in a special unit made from seven cells in the segregation wing. She will be allowed to have visits from her family and lawyers during the trial.

A jury of eight men and four women was sworn in in the bland, modern surroundings of court three, where the trial, which is expected to last up to eight weeks, is taking place.

Mrs West, of Gloucester, stood with her hands clasped in front of her as the jury was told that she was pleading not guilty to 10 charges of murder, alleged to have been committed between 1971 and 1987.

The first charge read out by Angela Merridale, the court clerk, was that she had murdered Charmaine West, eight, the daughter of her husband's first wife, Rena, and the last alleged that she had murdered her own eldest daughter Heather West, 16, who was last seen alive in 1987.

Standing between two female prison warders, Mrs West, a mother of seven, did not speak a word. She looked straight ahead and glanced occasionally at the members of the jury.

Mrs West has faced the charges alone since her husband, Frederick West, a builder, hanged himself in his prison cell in Birmingham last New Year's Day.

The remains of nine of the girls and young women who Mrs West is accused of murdering were found at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, the West's house, early last year and those of Charmaine West were discovered at a previous home of theirs, at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester.

Mr Justice Mantell told the jury yesterday: "This is a case which has attracted a certain amount of publicity, it is going to attract more." He said that they must clear their minds of all prejudice.

The jury was then sent away from the court until at least Friday while the judge hears legal submissions from barristers. The case for the prosecution is being led by Brian Leveson QC, while Mrs West is being defended by Richard Fergu- son QC.

However, the case was adjourned yesterday afternoon until tomorrow. One of the reasons for this is that Mr Leveson, a devout Jew, wishes to observe Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, today.

The Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday that Mr Justice Mantell would hear other matters today and denied that the court would be losing a day's business.

The charges against Rosemary West

Mrs West, 41, is charged with 10 murders.

She is alleged to have murdered:

Charmaine West, eight-year-old daughter of Frederick West's first wife, Catherine, between May and 31 December, 1971.

Lynda Gough, 19, between 1 April, 1973, and 27 February, 1994.

Carol Ann Cooper, 15, between 9 November, 1973, and 27 February, 1994.

Lucy Partington, 21, between 26 December, 1973, and 27 February, 1994.

Therese Siegenthaler, 21, between 13 April, 1974, and 27 February, 1994.

Shirley Hubbard, 15, between 13 November, 1974, and 27 February, 1994.

Juanita Mott, 18, between 10 April, 1975, and 27 February, 1994.

Shirley Anne Robinson, 18, between 1 May, 1978, and 27 February, 1994.

Alison Chambers, 19, between 1 August, 1979, and 27 February, 1994.

Heather West, 16, first child of Frederick and Rosemary West, between 1 June, 1987, and 27 February, 1994.