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West's jailer seeks pounds 50,000 compensation

A FORMER prison officer who guarded the serial murderer Rosemary West is suing the Home Office for damages, claiming that the job turned her into a nervous wreck.

But Lynn Armstrong's union, the Prison Officers' Association (POA), predicted yesterday that she would have difficulty convincing the courts to accept her pounds 50,000 claim.

Mrs Armstrong, 52, says that the experience of guarding West for five weeks during the murder trial in 1995 ruined her life. She alleges that she suffered a nervous breakdown after the trial at Winchester Crown Court, where West was convicted of 10 murders of women and girls, including that of her teenage daughter.

Mrs Armstrong, who joined the prison service in 1991 after 23 years in the Army, worked first at Wormwood Scrubs before transferring to Winchester Prison. She had to take medical retirement last December after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Her writ against the Home Office alleges negligence and breach of duty.

"I became ill, I lost my confidence and I couldn't make even a simple decision," she said at the weekend.

Mark Freeman, legal director of the association, said yesterday that after the Law Lords' ruling on the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster - which stated that police who suffered mental trauma after treating dying football fans were not entitled to compensation - he doubted Mrs Armstrong had much chance of success.

He said he would be watching the case with great interest, but added: "In my professional opinion, she might find it a hard case to win."

West's husband, Fred, committed suicide in prison before the couple's case came to trial.