Page last updated at 18:46 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Wife convicted of Gambia murder

Kate and William West
Kate West was convicted of killing her husband William

A 28-year-old Nigerian woman has been found guilty of murdering her 76-year-old husband by a court in The Gambia.

The body of William West, of Hastings, East Sussex, was found near his holiday home in the country in July 2006 after he was reported missing by his wife.

His charred remains were found hidden in a sack, Banjul High Court heard.

Kate West, who had claimed the retired businessman had disappeared in Senegal, was given a life term and told she would be spared the death penalty.

Gambian Police Force spokesman Sulayman Secka said she would be transferred to the state Central Prison in Banjul for the killing of Dublin-born Mr West, who lived in St Helen's Park Road, Hastings, East Sussex.

Remote home

West had admitted his murder at previous court hearings in The Gambia, but later denied the charge.

The couple had been staying at their remote holiday home in the West African country at the time of his death.

Bryony Mansfield
Bryony Mansfield, BBC News, Banjul High Court

As Justice Joseph Wowo passed down the guilty verdict, Kate Atori West was expressionless, as she had been throughout the hearing.

However just minutes later, as he read out a sentence of life imprisonment, she raised her hand to her face and sobbed, then raised her hands in the air and collapsed on the steps of the dock.

She had to be helped to her feet by two female prison guards.

As we filmed her leaving court she shouted: "I am going to smash that camera; don't film me, don't film me."

One of the eight guards escorting her said: "Kate, behave", and they led her away.

West, who was a mature student, had claimed he went missing during a daytrip to Senegal on 3 July, 2006.

She said he simply vanished while she waited outside a convenience store while he bought cigars, so she returned firstly to their Gambian home and then to the UK to look for him.

Mr West was registered as missing when his wife returned to The Gambia and the authorities later alerted Sussex Police.

West initially told police that five Nigerian men had taken the 76-year-old from their luxury property in Sanyang and killed him.

Officers from Sussex Police travelled to The Gambia to help the investigation.

An inquest into Mr West's death in Hastings in May 2007 heard his wife later confessed to murdering him with a wooden pestle before setting his body alight.

The coroner recorded an unlawful killing verdict.

Police 'diligence'

A statement from EMD Law, the solicitors representing Mr West's brother Albert, said: "This has been a protracted and traumatic time for Mr West's family.

"They are pleased that justice has now been done and that Kate West has been brought to account for her crime.

"The family of Mr West have asked me to thank Sussex Police for their skill and diligence in bringing this matter to the attention of the Gambian authorities.

"The family hope that they will now be able to move on with their lives."

Defence counsel Lamin Camara said West planned to appeal against the conviction.

Mr Camara said he would prepare case papers to be sent to the Court of Appeal in Banjul over the next couple of weeks.

"She is gutted about being sent to prison for life," he said.

"She cried very much. She pleaded not guilty to the charge on the grounds that she firmly believed she did not kill Mr West.

"She did confess to the crime originally but we challenged that confession on the grounds that it wasn't obtained voluntarily."

Kate West

Life sentence for Gambia murder

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