Accused regrets silence on torch girl's plight

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The Independent Online
ONE OF FIVE people accused of the 'human torch' murder of Suzanne Capper stood with head bowed in court yesterday and spoke of his feelings of 'devastation' for not alerting police to her plight.

Jeffrey Leigh, 27, told Manchester Crown Court that he discovered Suzanne, 16, cowering in a locked wardrobe. He later saw her shadowy form tied to a bed in a darkened room. But, apart from telling his girlfriend and another friend, he remained silent.

His counsel, Helen Grindrod QC, asked him why he did not go to the police. Mr Leigh told the hushed court: 'I could have but for most of my life I have been a criminal. I did not feel I was involved in what was going on. You do not like going to the police.'

Mrs Grindrod then asked: 'What do you think now?'

Mr Leigh replied: 'If I had told the police that day that poor girl would be with us today. I will feel devastated for the rest of my life.'

Mr Leigh, along with Glyn Powell, 28, his estranged wife Jean Powell, 26, Bernadette McNeilly, 24, and Anthony Dudson, 17, all of Moston, Manchester, deny murdering Suzanne last December. Clifford Pook, 18, also of Moston, has been cleared of the murder on the direction of the judge.

Suzanne was tied to a bed, beaten and tortured for nearly a week before being taken to a remote wood near Stockport, Cheshire, doused in petrol and set alight. The court has heard Mr Leigh did not go to the wood with the other four accused but the prosecution says he was equally involved.

Mr Leigh told the court that he visited the house to obtain amphetamines from Jean Powell. One day he arrived to find the house empty apart from Ms McNeilly. 'She seemed to be happy, on a high . . . She threw me a key and said 'Look what's upstairs in the wardrobe'.

'I saw a person cowering. She had her arms over her face. At first I thought it was a boy because the head was shaved. But then I noticed she had a black eye and bruising on her face.' Mr Leigh added: 'She did not speak to me. She looked absolutely petrified. I did not speak to her.'

Yesterday, on the charge of false imprisonment, Dudson changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Jean Powell, McNeilly, Pook and Dudson now all plead guilty to false imprisonment, a charge denied by Glyn Powell and Mr Leigh. Pook has also admitted conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, which is denied by the other five.

The trial continues.