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Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK


West warden's case 'will be difficult'

Rose West's trial lasted seven weeks

A former prison officer suing the Home Office for £50,000 because of the disturbing time she spent guarding Rosemary West has been warned she faces an uphill struggle.

Mother-of-two Lynn Armstrong says her experiences while guarding the mass murderer ruined her life.

She says the time she spent with West caused her to have a nervous breakdown which turned her from a confident guard into a nervous wreck.

But Mark Freeman, a Prison Officers' Association legal expert, says he has doubts about the case.

'A hard case to win'

"I think she will have difficulties with the case because of previous legal decisions, particularly the Law Lords ruling in the Hillsborough case," Mr Freeman said.

"I have not had any dealings with Mrs Armstrong personally, and she has not come through us. But in my professional opinion she might find it a hard case to win.

"We will be watching the progression of the case with great interest, because it will have a significant impact on many of our members, male and female."

Mrs Armstrong joined the Prison Service in 1991, after 23 years in the Army, and worked first at Wormwood Scrubs before transferring to Winchester Prison.

Horrific evidence

She was given the task of guarding West, at times around the clock, at the time of her trial.

She says she suffered a breakdown after listening to the horrific evidence during the trial at Winchester Crown Court in 1995.

Details of her and her husband Fred's reign of sexual violence, torture and killing were heard in the court.

Rose West received 10 life sentences for her part in the so-called House of Horrors saga.

Mrs Armstrong's writ reportedly claims the prison authorities were negligent in disregarding her protests about being on duty with West for long periods.

The stress of the ordeal caused her to quit her job, she said, and her life was never the same.

She told a national newspaper: "I felt the walls were closing in on me. I bought microwave meals because I couldn't cope with cooking and I started swearing and getting angry."

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