West is refused leave to appeal

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The serial killer Rosemary West looks certain to spend the rest of her life behind bars after the Court of Appeal yesterday refused to grant her leave to appeal against her convictions.

The rejection of her case by Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other judges leaves West, 42, with no further legal avenues to take unless new evidence about the Cromwell Street killings comes to light.

When West was convicted of 10 murders by a jury at Winchester Crown Court last November, Mr Justice Mantell, the trial judge, said he would recommend that she should never be released from prison.

After yesterday's hearing in London Leo Goatley, West's solicitor, said that the chances of her appeal being successful had always been "a long shot" and that she had not been optimistic. He said when he spoke to West recently, "she said to me 'well they're hardly likely to hand the key over are they?' and I agreed that that would be unlikely to happen quickly ... She, I think, is a realist."

West, widow of the self-confessed serial killer Frederick West who was found hanged in his prison cell before he faced trial, remained in Durham jail during the two-day hearing.

She has always denied involvement in the murders of 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. She alleged that her husband had carried out the killings alone.

The victims included Heather West, Rosemary's daughter; Charmaine West, her husband's step-daughter; and Shirley Robinson, a lodger who was pregnant by Fred West. The seven other victims were bound gagged and kept alive in the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street while they were sexually abused.

On the first day of the appeal Richard Ferguson QC, West's counsel, told the court that there was no direct evidence against her, that key evidence should have been declared inadmissible, that the trial judge had failed to sum up adequately and that media coverage had prejudiced the trial.

Yesterday Brian Leveson QC, for the Crown, said: "In a nutshell, it is our submission that Mrs West was tried fair and square. The evidence called by the Crown was properly laid before the jury.

"The summing up we submit was meticulous in attention to detail and the case was left to the jury on a correct and proper basis. We submit that the jury understood the issues and on ample evidence convicted her on each of the 10 counts."

Lord Taylor, Mr Justice Mitchell and Mr Justice Newman will give their reasons for the decision next week.

Detective Superintendent John Bennett, who led the murder inquiry, said afterwards: "We are very pleased that the judicial process has come to an end and perhaps now the families of the victims can be allowed to live their lives and put all these tragic problems behind them."