December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 25, 2013
A bricklayer has denied sexually assaulting and murdering a mother-of-five whose partially clothed body was found at the rear of a Suffolk pub.
Andrew Ratcliffe told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that was drunk on the night that 49-year-old Mary Roberts died and after leaving the St Edmunds Tavern in Bury St Edmunds with her at closing time he had fallen asleep in a covered smoking area at the rear of the pub.
He woke later on the ground between two picnic benches in darkness.
Ratcliffe, 56, said he had gone to the front of the pub for a cigarette before returning to look for Mrs Roberts and had not seen her body on the floor of the smoking area.
Ratcliffe, who denies murdering Mrs Roberts in March this year, told the court he met Mrs Roberts two weeks before her death while they were staying at a flat in Petch Close.
He said he had liked Mrs Roberts and although they had kissed twice he knew she missed her husband who had left her several months earlier.
On March 26 he and Mrs Roberts had gone to The Grapes pub in Bury and he denied claims by a witness that he had been trying to “sexually touch-up” Mrs Roberts while they were at the pub.
Later he and Mrs Roberts went to St Edmunds Tavern and left at closing time, going into a covered smoking area at the back of the pub.
He said was drunk and described Mrs Roberts as being a little unsteady on her feet.
Giving evidence Ratcliffe initially claimed he remembered Mrs Roberts leaving the smoking area to find the toilet but then claimed he could not remember if that is what happened.
He said after leaving the pub he had walked round Bury before dialling 999 and claiming he had been robbed and assaulted. He admitted to the court he had been lying about being assaulted but said it was the quickest way he could think of getting to hospital to see if Mrs Roberts was there.
Ratcliffe said that when he was arrested later that day he had a pair of Mrs Roberts’ knickers and one of her rings in his coat pocket because she had given him both items to look after.
He also accepted that police had found seven pairs of women’s knickers in his bail address in Ipswich but said he had been given them by a resource centre when he was homeless as there had not been any men’s pants available.
Asked by his barrister Lindsay Cox if he had wanted Mrs Roberts to come to any harm he replied: “No I did not.”
He also denied sexually assaulting and murdering her.
It has been alleged that Ratcliffe was “sexually obsessed” with Mrs Roberts and strangled her after she resisted his advances.
In the weeks before her death Ratcliffe had allegedly bought Mrs Roberts chocolates and alcohol but she had made it clear she did not want a relationship with him.
Mrs Roberts’ body was found by the St Edmunds Tavern landlady on March 27 at the rear of the pub and a post-mortem examination found she had been strangled with sufficient force to break bones in her throat.
CCTV cameras showed Ratcliffe leaving the smoking area at around 3.25am and “calmly” smoking a cigarette before returning to the back of the pub where he had allegedly left Mrs Roberts for dead.
Blood on Ratcliffe’s fingernails was found to have Mrs Roberts’ DNA in it and his DNA was found on Mrs Roberts’ left breast and on the waistband of her knickers, the court heard.