Entwistle faces family of his murdered wife in court

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The British man accused of murdering his American wife and baby before fleeing to the UK faced their family in a Massachusetts court last night, for the first time since the bodies were found.

After arriving at Framingham District Court wearing shackles and a bulletproof vest, Neil Entwistle sat stony-faced in the dock throughout the two-minute hearing, avoiding the intense gaze of his dead wife's mother, Priscilla Matterazzo, who sat clutching a bunch of lilies and roses.

Asked if he wanted the allegations that on 20 January he shot his wife Rachel and nine-month-old daughter Lillian to be read out in court, his lawyer declined. The 27-year-old unemployed computer programmer has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment. He will be kept in custody ahead of a further hearing on 15 March.

A statement by the Matterazzos, read by a family friend from the top of the courthouse steps, accused Entwistle of "unbearable" betrayal. "To think that someone we loved, trusted and looked up to could do this to our daughter and granddaughter is beyond belief," they said. "Neil betrayed our trust in so many different ways that it is almost impossible to describe." His own parents, Clifford and Yvonne, were not at the hearing.

Mr Entwistle's lawyer, Elliot Weinstein, appointed because the Briton could not afford a private attorney, said he would defend his client "vigorously, aggressively and successfully". He complained that the publicity surrounding the case would prevent a fair trial.

"I am certain that anybody watching this telecast or reading the reporting of today's arraignment has already formed an opinion with respect to Mr Entwistle's guilt and that opinion is based upon the reporting and absolutely no facts and absolutely no evidence," he said.

Mr Entwistle agreed to be extradited when he appeared a week ago at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London, and was handed over to US marshals at Gatwick airport on Wednesday.

He fled the US for his parents' house in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, the day after the double killing, and before police discovered the bodies in a bed in the couple's home in Hopkinton, 30 miles west of Boston.

Prosecutors said last week they believed Mr Entwistle killed his wife and daughter after running up tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

Court papers detailed a telephone conversation that police in Massachusetts had with Entwistle three days after the murders, when he was in Worksop. He allegedly told State Trooper Robert Manning that, on the day his wife and daughter died, he returned to his house at 11am after running errands. When he found nobody in the baby's room, he went into the master bedroom, where he found the pair covered with a comforter [duvet].

He allegedly said that, after realising they were dead, he pulled the covers back over them and went downstairs to kill himself with a knife, but backed down because "it would hurt too much".

He is said to have claimed he drove 50 miles to Carver to tell his in-laws what had happened. Prosecutors say the trip was to return the handgun owned by Mrs Entwistle's stepfather which he had earlier stolen and used to kill the pair.