Saturday 25 November 2017

Man 'confessed to murdered of young sex worker and led police to her naked body'

Rebecca Godden, also known as Becky Credit: Wiltshire Police/PA Wire
Rebecca Godden, also known as Becky Credit: Wiltshire Police/PA Wire

Scott D'Arcy, Claire Hayhurst and Rod Minchin

A man confessed to police that he had murdered a young sex worker and then took officers to where he had buried her naked body, a court has heard.

Christopher Halliwell, 52, admitted he had taken Becky Godden, then aged 20, from the streets of Swindon in Wiltshire, had sex with her and then strangled her.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Miss Godden's skeletal remains were recovered from a field in Gloucestershire in March 2011 after Halliwell had taken police to the location.

The jury of six men and six women listened as Nicholas Haggan QC, prosecuting, opened the Crown's case against Halliwell.

He told them: "What happened to Rebecca Godden? We, the prosecution, say the short answer to that question is that she was murdered.

"Her naked body was buried in a clandestine grave in a field which might be described as in the middle of nowhere," he said.

"You might conclude that it was plain Rebecca was murdered.

"But secondly, this defendant, Christopher Halliwell, confessed to the police that between 2003 and 2005 - he couldn't be sure of the date - he had taken a girl from the streets of Swindon.

"He told the police he had sex with her and then he killed her by strangling her. He told the police he stripped the girl of her clothes and concealed her naked body.

"Not only that but the defendant took the police to the location."

Mr Haggan went on: "Had the defendant not told the police where he had buried that girl from the streets of Swindon, you might think that Rebecca's remains to this day would be in that field in the middle of nowhere."

Halliwell, wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and light blue tie, carried his own bundle of documents into the dock.

Relatives of Miss Godden sat in the public gallery, including her mother, Karen Edwards, and Mrs Edward's husband, Charlie, and Miss Godden's father, John Godden.

Earlier, the trial judge, retired High Court judge Sir John Griffith Williams, told the jury that Halliwell would not be represented by a barrister and would instead defend himself.

But Sir John directed the jury not to speculate on the reason why.

"It has no bearing on the issue of his guilt or innocence," he said.

"You will give his case the same careful consideration as if it had been advanced by counsel."

Mr Haggan told the court that Halliwell had also murdered Sian O'Callaghan, a woman who disappeared after a night out with friends at the Suju nightclub in Swindon in March 2011.

He pleaded guilty to murdering Miss O'Callaghan and was jailed for life.

"What happened to Sian? She too was murdered," Mr Haggan told the jury.

"Her semi-naked body was found a few days after she disappeared. It was concealed by undergrowth in a remote location, not a great distance from the field where Rebecca's body had been buried.

"What relevance is that, you might think? The short answer is that this young woman was murdered by this defendant, Christopher Halliwell.

"How do we know that? We know that because he pleaded guilty to Sian's murder and is currently serving a term of life imprisonment for that offence."

Earlier, Mr Haggan told jurors that the "last reliable sighting" of Miss Godden was in Swindon town centre in January 2003, possibly January 3.

"After that nothing more was heard from her. She made no contact with her family; she made no contact with any of the government and other agencies and financial institutions," he said.

"She quite literally disappeared. She was just 20 years old."

The court heard that Miss Godden's parents, John Godden and Karen Edwards, separated when she was about six years old.

"It is right to say Becky had a troubled adolescence," Mr Haggan said.

"She became a heavy user of Class A drugs and, at some point during her early to mid- teens, she began earning a living as a sex worker operating in the Manchester Road area of Swindon.

"As is so often the case with people in her situation, her life became somewhat chaotic and contact with her parents became more sporadic."

Despite her lifestyle, Miss Godden - known as Becky or Rebecca to friends and family - kept in contact with her family, especially on Mother's Day and her birthday on April 4.

Mrs Edwards last saw her daughter on December 16 2002, when she collected her following an appearance at Swindon Magistrates' Court, the jury heard.

Having picked her up, Mrs Edwards took her to a friend's house in Swindon.

"She was the last member of Rebecca's family to see her alive," Mr Haggan said.

"No member of Becky's family heard anything from her after that date."

A community beat officer recorded seeing Miss Godden, who was known to the police, on December 27 2002.

Rebecca Boast, a friend of Miss Godden, spent time with Becky outside a nightclub called Destiny And Desire in Swindon in early January 2003.

A taxi pulled up and Miss Godden approached it, returning to the car a short while later and arguing with the driver, Mr Haggan said.

"A short time later, Becky told her friends that she was leaving and she went back to the taxi," he told the jury.

"She got into the rear of the vehicle and the vehicle drove away. Rebecca Boast never saw her friend again, although she looked for Rebecca when she was out and about in Swindon town centre.

"Extensive inquiries by the police indicate that this probably was the last known reliable sighting of Becky."

The court heard that Miss Godden did not make contact with her family on Mother's Day in 2003, nor on her 21st birthday in April that year.

Press Association

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