Date set for West hearing

The almost disused courthouse in the quiet Gloucestershire market town of Dursley is to be reopened for the committal proceedings against Frederick and Rosemary West, accused of murdering nine young women.

They will begin on 6 February, magistrates at Gloucester decided yesterday. The hearing, before Peter Badge, the chief metropolitan stipendiary magistrate is likely to take a week. Media interest is expected to be huge, and Dursley magistrates' court ha s been chosen to avoid disrupting other courts in the county. The proceedings are to be relayed to an adjoining room for the overflow.

In a four-minute hearing yesterday Mr West, 53, a builder, and Mrs West, 41, appeared in the dock together, separated by two uniformed policewomen. Neither spoke.Withiel Cole, for the prosecution, applied for a further remand in custody until 10 January,which was not opposed by the defence.

After the hearing, Mr West's solicitor, Tony Miles, said Rodney Klevan QC was now acting for Mr West. He replaces Charles Barton QC, who withdrew from the case.

The couple are jointly accused of murdering nine women whose remains were found at their home in Cromwell Street, Gloucester. Mr West is accused of three more murders.