Bodies-in-garden case man collapses in dock Garden bodies murder charge man collapses

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A MAN accused of murdering three women whose bodies were discovered in the back garden of a house, yesterday collapsed in the dock of Gloucester magistrates' court as fresh charges were put to him, writes Ian Mackinnon.

Frederick West, 52, a builder, was eventually helped on to a seat by two detectives, but the brief hearing was delayed for four minutes as he attempted to regain his composure. He is already remanded in police custody charged with murdering his daughter, Heather, 16, but yesterday was further charged with murdering Shirley Ann Robinson, 18, and another as-yet unidentified woman in her early twenties, between 1 January 1972 and 27 February 1994.

As the new charges were read out, Mr West, looking pale and drawn, slumped towards the floor but was caught by one of the officers. He then sat with his head down, facing away from the body of the court, and was given a glass of water. When asked if he was all right, he whispered, 'yes'.

He was remanded in police custody until Monday while detectives continue their investigations, including the excavation of the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, and a search of the house. Floorboards were being taken up yesterday.

His solicitor, Howard Ogden, expressed concern over the reporting of the case and warned that he would take action against any newspaper to ensure that his client could receive a fair hearing.

As police broadened their inquiries in an effort to identify the third body, officers also appealed for Mr West's first wife, Catherine Costello, to get in touch.

A spokesman said that Miss Costello, aged about 50, who may also be using the name West, had lived with the accused somewhere in Gloucestershire until about 15 years ago, when it was believed she had moved to Scotland.

Officers also renewed their plea for anyone who knew Shirley Robinson, who was heavily pregnant when she died, to come forward. She was born in Leicestershire on 8 October 1959, and had lived in Bristol before becoming a lodger at the house in Cromwell Street.