Police 'bugged safe house for two months'

Rosemary West: Quest for truth
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WILL BENNETT

Police bugged a safe house where Rosemary West stayed before she was charged with murder but she said nothing that incriminated herself, Winchester Crown Court was told yesterday.

An electronic listening device was installed at the house provided by the police for a two-month period after she was released following initial questioning and before she was charged.

Andrew Chubb, for the prosecution, told the court that Mrs West had not said anything that indicated her involvement in the 10 murders with which she is charged or that she knew the bodies were buried at the West family home in Gloucester.

Richard Ferguson QC, for the defence, questioned Detective Superintendent John Bennett, the officer who led the murder investigation, about the bugging device. He said: "The purpose of the operation was to try to obtain further evidence."

Det Supt Bennett replied: "No, sir. It was for the purpose of seeking intelligence to gain the truth."

Mrs West, 41, denies murdering 10 girls and young women whose remains were found at the Wests' house at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, and at their previous home in the city. Frederick West, her husband, who was charged with 12 murders was found dead in his prison cell on 1 January this year.

The jury heard yesterday that Mr West had been questioned about the disappearance of Mary Bastholme, 15, who was last seen in Gloucester in January 1968. Det Supt Bennett said there was no evidence that Mr West had been involved.

Earlier a slide projector was erected in the court as Dr David Whittaker, a forensic dentist, explained why he believed Charmaine West, the daughter of Mr West's first wife Rena by another man, had died soon after a photograph of her was taken on 29 April 1971.

The smiling face of Charmaine, eight, whose remains were found at the Wests' former home at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester, dominated the court room. Mrs West, who is charged with murdering her, watched as Dr Whittaker superimposed a photograph of the girl's skull onto the first picture.

He said that the photograph of Charmaine was particularly useful to him because she was smiling and showing her teeth. The only difference between the photo and the skull was that two baby teeth were missing.

Dr Whittaker said he believed the teeth had been lost after her death and that she had died no more than two to three months after the photograph was taken.

Last week Anne Marie Davis, Charmaine's half-sister, told the court that on the day Mrs West told her Charmaine had gone away with her mother Mr West was still in prison. Prison records show that he was released on 24 June 1971.

The prosecution completed its case yesterday after 14 days of evidence and the trial was adjourned until Monday, when the defence will begin.

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