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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Ex-Rose West officer sues
Rosemary West
Rosemary West: "Horrendous crimes"
A former prison officer who says she was "encouraged to befriend" mass murderer Rosemary West while on suicide watch is suing the Home Office.

Lynn Armstrong claims she was so traumatised by her exposure to the notorious killer in Winchester Prison it left her under the illusion West was innocent.

Mrs Armstrong, from Dorset, first spent time with West at London's Holloway Prison and moved with her to Winchester where she stood trial in 1995.

Her counsel, Andrew Bulhan, told the High Court in London she spent more time with West than any other officer.

25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester
25 Cromwell Street: "House of Horrors"
It was partly the shock of West's conviction for "horrendous crimes" that drove Mrs Armstrong, of Oakhurst Lane, West Down, Ferndown, into depression and a dramatic personality change.

She was transformed from an ambitious and highly motivated woman officer into "a grumpy, argumentative, belligerent and, I'm afraid, disillusioned prison officer until she was medically retired," said Mr Bulhan.

He said it was at the forefront of Mrs Armstrong's case that she had been "encouraged to befriend" West by several prison governors in order to stop her committing suicide as her husband, Fred, was later to do before he could stand trial.

Her superiors had failed to protect her against the risk of psychiatric injury associated with prolonged exposure to one of the worst mass killers Britain has ever produced, the court was told.

The Home Office denies liability in the case, which is expected to last five days.

See also:

21 Oct 00 | UK
West launches murder appeal
05 Mar 00 | UK
West fights to clear name
31 Jan 00 | The Shipman files
Shipman joins Britain's chamber of horrors
15 Dec 98 | Health
West case that haunts NHS staff
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