One of the most extraordinary trials of the century should now take place later this year following yesterday's committal of Rosemary West to the Crown Court on 10 charges of murder.
After a seven-day hearing at Dursley magistrates court, Gloucestershire, Peter Badge, the chief metropolitan stipendiary magistrate, decided there was sufficient evidence for Mrs West to be tried by a judge and jury. Reporting restrictions were not lifted.
He formally committed Mrs West, 41, widow of the alleged serial killer Frederick West, for trial at Bristol Crown Court, as the area court. However, it is likely that the case will be heard in the autumn, either at Winchester or at the Old Bailey in London.
After yesterday's hearing, Leo Goatley, solicitor for Mrs West, said that his client denied all the charges and that he would be seeking a judicial review of Mr Badge's decision.
Mrs West is charged with murdering nine girls and young women whose remains were found last year at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, where she lived with her husband, who hanged himself in his prison cell on New Year's Day. The skeleton of a tenth victim was found at the West's former home.
The victims alleged to have been murdered between 1971 and 1994 were Heather West, the couple's daughter; Charmaine West, the child of Mr West's first wife; Shirley Robinson, Allison Chambers, Lynda Gough, Juanata Mott, Carol Cooper, Shirley Hubbard, Therese Siegenthaler and Lucy Partington. Her late husband had also been charged with these murders, plus two further killings.
Mr Badge said yesterday that Mrs West would also face two further charges of rape alleged to have been committed jointly with Mr West, one between 1 January 1976 and 31 December 1977 and the other between 1 June and 31 December 1977. She was also charged with two indecent assaults between the same dates.
However, two rape charges against Mrs West and two other defendants were dropped by the prosecution yesterday. She faced one charge jointly with Whitley Purcell, 64, and the other jointly with William Smith, 68, both from Gloucester.
Mr Goatley said after the hearing: "Mrs West maintains her innocence, she strenuously denies all the charges that have been laid against her and we will be defending the matter when it comes to trial."
He said that he would be seeking a judicial review of Mr Badge's decision to commit Mrs West for trial because of the time that had elapsed since the alleged offences and the prejudicial effect of media coverage.
"These are matters which will be pursued at the outset of any trial. The kind of circumstantial evidence being relied upon is of no value at all," he said.
He added that his client, who showed no emotion when Mr Badge announced his decision, was maintaining "pretty reasonable" morale and had tempered any disappointment at the decision.
"I think that the trial could possibly be at the Old Bailey or possibly Winchester. That is a matter which has to be decided by the court administrative listing officers in the near future."
A series of legal skirmishes will now take place before the Crown Court trial, which is thought likely to last six to eight weeks. There will be a pre-trial review in Bristol as well as Mr Goatley's application for a judicial review at the High Court.
Detective Superintendent John Bennett, who is leading the police inquiry, said after the hearing yesterday: "The inquiries in relation to this investigation are continuing and this will continue during the next few months."
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