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BREAKING NEWS: Weymouth murder trial: Son to be sentenced for killing mother
9:53am Wednesday 28th November 2012 in News
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- The trial of a 17-year-old charged with the murder of his mother has ended
- The teenager is found guilty of murdering Leah Whittle, aged 42, in Weymouth between July 19 and 22 this year.
COMMUNITY leaders have said they are pleased justice has been done for the family and friends of Leah Whittle.
Westham ward borough councillor Ian James said: “I’m glad this has been brought to a conclusion.
“It proves the judicial system works. Everyone wants to live in a safer community.
“I’m really pleased the police have got that result.
“This was such a distressing crime. It makes it seem worse somehow because it was his own mum."
Weymouth and Portland Borough Councillor Gill Taylor, who also represents Westham, said her sympathy goes out to Ms Whittle’s family following the verdict.
“This is incredibly sad and my sympathy goes out to all the family.
“Weymouth is generally a very safe area and has a very low crime rate.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often,” she said.
GUILTY: Keiren George Smith
THE brutal murder shocked the residents in the Lanehouse area of Weymouth.
Tributes were paid to Ms Whittle who was described as a 'nice, quiet, friendly polite' woman.
She was originally from Portland but had moved back to the area in recent years after some time in Doncaster.
Her son admitted in court that he had a temper and became aggressive after drinking although he maintained that he had brought it under control by the summer of 2012 when the shocking incident occurred at the flat they shared in Fiveways Court off Benville Road.
Detectives launched a manhunt after Ms Whittle's body was found with multiple stab wounds on Saturday July 21.
The search involved the police helicopter, armed police and sniffer dogs and roadblocks were set up..
Armed police were drafted in from the Olympic security team to search the area.
Around 30 police officers were involved in the original investigation with officers tightening security and checking cars entering and leaving Portland.
A thorough forensic investigation went on throughout the day on Sunday and police scoured neighbouring gardens and checked under parked cars for clues.
A fingertip search of a building site opposite the flats took place and officers checked drains, windows and the Fiveways Court flat for more clues. The teenager was later arrested on Portland.
Detective Inspector Marcus Hester of Dorset Police spoke to the Dorset Echo after the jury had delivered its verdict.
He said: “This case involves a particularly horrific and sustained attack on a woman who was unable to defend herself.
"The jury has recorded the correct verdict and sentencing will take place in due course.
"This is a very tragic case of a young man, who through his own violent actions, has killed his mother and who has to face the consequences of those actions, as well as dealing with the loss of his mother.
"Our sympathies are with the family and friends of Leah Whittle who I know are still dealing with her loss."
The sentencing has now been postponed until tomorrow
Kieren George Smith, aged 17, was found guilty this morning of stabbing Leah Whittle to death at their Weymouth flat on July 21.
A jury at Winchester Crown Court returned a unamimous verdict after around five hours of deliberation which began on Friday afternoon.
Reporting restrictions on the publication of the teenager's identity were lifted by His Honour Judge Guy Boney because of public interest.
Smith will be sentenced later today.
The teenager can now be named as Kieren George Smith.
Judge Guy Boney lifted an order banning his identity being made public.
The teenager will be sentenced this afternoon.
The son of tragic Leah Whittle has been found guilty of her murder.
The jury returned the guilty verdict after resuming deliberations at Winchester Crown Court this morning
The court will reconvene on Monday
Judge Boney said that the jury need to consider whether an exchange between the prosecutor Richard Smith and the defendant on Wednesday showed 'a flash of temper' on the defendant's part. He said it was up to them to decide.
Judge Boney told the jury that under cross-examination the efendant said he did his best to tell the police everything he could remember.
He said the defendant had stated that "I said what happened might be linked to my broher. I didn't know that for a fact. I don't know who killed my mother or why."
The judge is now summing up the case outlined by the defence.
He said that the defendant had told police he had a temper one and a half or two years ago and had shouted at his mum.
But the defendant had said, in the summer of 2012, he had not been shouting at her or arguing with her or losing his temper.
Judge Boney added: "Some people would be a complete wreck after an event of this sort. Other people bottle up their emotions, quite simply because of the way they are made.
"You must make of that, and indeed make of him, what you think is right."
Judge Boney is now talking through evidence given by a young female witness who saw the defendant on the night of the alleged murder.
She said she was 'quite surprised' because she expected the defendant to be a 'complete wreck' but he just 'carried on like nothing had happened'.
The judge said it was difficult to know 'quite which way this piece of evidence cuts through the case'.
The Hon Judge Guy Boney is summing up this morning.
He began by talking through the evidence of the defendant's brother. The defendant suggested that his brother's drug debt may have been the cause of his mother's murder.
His brother denies this.
The judge told the jury: "You know about his background and you have got to make up your minds whether anything in relation to him had anything to do with the death of Leah Whittle."
Proceedings have finished for the day.
The judge will finish his summing up in the morning.
The Hon Judge Guy Boney is now summing up.
Of the defendant's alleged interest in knives, Mr Haggan said 'so what?'.
He added: "Let's say he has a fascination with knives - he wouldn't be the only teenager in the United Kingdom who might have collected them.
"But the question is, how does his interest in knives, if he has one, prove he murdered his mother?"
Proceedings have now resumed.
Haggan, defending, said that the court has heard that when investigations were made into finding blood at the crime scene, a forensic scientist marked up ten areas of interest which were never DNA-tested.
He said: "The investigation of those areas of interest might have proved to determine that a third person was at the scene."
The court has risen for lunch and will resume at 2pm
Mr Haggan added that when the jury weighs the evidence carefully a 'very different picture emerges.'
He said that time and again during interviews, the defendant volunteered information that would bring suspicion on himself because he was being honest about what he saw.
He said: "Why would he tell the police all of these things if it was a fabricated account he had a couple of days to think about?"
Mr Haggan added that the jury should consider why the defendant had fled the scene.
He said: "In fairness to him, put yourselves in his shoes and ask yourselves can you be sure you might not have done the same as he did?"
THe defence has begun its closing speech.
Nicholas Haggan said that what the jury should be wary of what the prosecution had said.
He said of prosecutor Richard Smith: "His powers of persuasion know no bounds. Were it his task to do so I have no doubt he could persuade you that black is white and the moon is made of green cheese."
The prosecution has finished its closing speech.
Teere will now be a short break before we hear from the defence.
Mr Smith said the defendant 'should not be allowed to try and escape the consequences of what he did'.
Mr Smith said the jury may 'never know the truth' of what happened on the night Ms Whittle died because the 'only person who could have honestly told you, won't".
Mr Smith said that the defendant appeared to have an 'uncontrollable' temper.
He said: "He will take up a knife and use it in anger.
"I am going to say, on assessment of him and his evidence, that it is uncontrollable anger."
He added that the defendant "won't look at the pictures, won't listen to the pathology, because he can't bring himself to see and hear about what he did."
Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, is addressing the jury.
He said they must treat the defendant's story of drug dealers killing his mother as nothing other than the fantasy version the crown believes it to be.
He said: "He may well have scared his mum to death in the past, he says, just with his voice.
"But on this occasion he scared her to death with 94 stab wounds."
Proceedings have been delayed again this morning.
We wil update as soon as they get underway.
Closing speeches are expected to start this morning
All the evidence has now been heard.
The defence and prosecution will make their closing speeches tomorrow before the judge sums up the case.
Mr Smith said to the defendant: "What you have done is pick on this incident with your brother and you have tried to make it sound dramatic as an excuse for you having killed your mum."
He added that the defendant had 'dragged' his brother to court.
The defendant said: "You don't know anything about me or my brother, all you know is what he tells you."
He added: "I never blamed him, it could have happened or it could have been someone else."
He said Smith, prosecuting, was 'annoying' because he kept saying things 'over and over again.'
The teenager added: "You act like you know me and you don't . You don't know anything."
Mr Smith questions the defendant over a facebook message he alleges to have received from a girl warning him he may be in danger because of his brother's drug debt.
He said he couldn't remember what the message said, 'just the gist of it'.
Mr Smith said: "You must have sat in anticipation of this trial and wracked your brains about it but you can't remember what this mystery person said the threat was."
The teenager said he took the battery out of his phone after calling the police to tell them about his mother's murder because it was running low.
Prosecutor Richard Smith said just a while later on the same afternoon the defendant was playing games on the phone.
Mr Smith suggested the defendant removed the battery to avoid being traced by police.
The defendant denied that was the case.
The teenager said he couldn't remember if he had make another knife-like object which was fashioned out of scissors which was found by police behind the radiator in his bedroom.
He said it may belong to a friend who had stayed at he flat prior to the alleged murder, but he could not recall the freiend's surname.
He admitted making a knife which police found on his bedroom door.
He said it was a kitchen knife which had broken whilst he had been using it in the kitchen and he had fixed it.
He said he didn't know why he had put in under the carpet in his bedroom.
The court has adjourned for lunch.
The defendant said he liked knives and had bought one from a website.
He said that, on a date prior to the alleged murder, he had lost his temper and used it to make cuts in his bedroom door.
Richard Smith, prosecuting, told the court that police never recovered the knife from the flat. The defendant said he had lost the knife some time ago.
He denied that he used it to kill his mother.
Richard Smith, prosecuting, will now cross-examine the defendant.
The defendant said he was reluctant to call the police when prompted to do so by the young female witness.
He said: "I wasn't ready to speak to them yet."
He added: "I was scared that I was going to be a suspect."
The defendant said that he had told a young female witness he had blood in his mouth, but denied saying it was his mother's blood.
He said he knew it was blood because 'it tasted weird, like a metal taste'.
The defendant is describing what he alleges happened on the night of his mother's murder.
He said he came out of the bathroom and saw his mum crouching with someone standing in front of her.
He said he saw a person make a thrusting motion before Mrs Whittle fell to the floor and the person made the thrusting motion again.
He said when the person saw him, they fled through the front door.
He said he locked the door behind them because he was 'scared they were going to come back in'.
He said after seeing his mum was dead he thought he 'had to get out of there'.
He said he changed his clothes because he was going outside and needed to wear something thicker.
He said he didn't think he was aware there was blood on the clothes he changed out of.
The defendant tells the court that he was told 'something could happen' over his brother's drug debt.
He said he was told that that something could happen to him but did not expect anything to happen to his mother.
He said he was told of the threat by a girl on facebook but he could not recall her surname or exactly what the message had said.
Proceedings have now begun. The defendant is taking the stand.
There will now be a further delay due to disruption on the trains caused by ice. Some patricipants have not yet arrived at court.
Slight delay again today. Defence is due to start shortly.
The trial is set to recommence at 10am his morning
The prosecution has now finished its case. The defence will begin tomorrow. The trial has finished for the day and will resume in the morning.
Nicholas Haggan, defending, is questioning DS Richards about the forensic strategy of the investigation.
The court is now hearing from Detective Sergeant John Richards of Dorset Police, who was the chief officer in the murder investigation.
Proceedings have resumed at Winchester Crown Court.
The jury has heard that in his sixth interview with the police, the defendant denied talking to a young female witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, about the number of days his mother had left to live during a conversation on Friday, July 21.
Proceedings will resume in five minutes.
In a further interview with the police on July 23, the defendant said he had been drinking and using drugs two years ago, which had affected his relationship with his mother. But he said things had been 'a lot better' recently.
He said that these days it took a lot for him to lose his temper. He said that on the day of the alleged murder his mother had 'moaned' at him about tobacco, but he just went to his bedroom.
He said whenever his mother 'moaned' he just 'blanked it out' and didn't take any notice.
In the defendant's interview, the first of seven with the police, the defendant said 'one or two' people entered the flat at around midnight and stabbed his mum.
He said he thought the alleged murder was 'a warning' to his brother.
He said: "My brother stole from a lot of bad people, like drug dealers and that.
"A lot of people want him."
He added: "I think they must have killed mum to get a message to my brother.
"Like if they can't get to you they will get to them."
The jury is hearing a transcript of the defendant's interview with DC Williams and a colleague which took place on July 22
Defending, Nicholas Haggan, said: "There is no suggestion that has been made that either of these items was used in any way in the attack on Ms Whittle."
DC Williams confirmed to Richard Smith, QC, prosecuting that a knife was found on the flooor of the defendant's bedroom. Another 'knife-like' object mainly made from scissors was found behind the radiator in the same room.
The court is hearing from DC Paul Williams of the Dorset Police Major Crime Team
Proceedings have been delayed until 10.30 his morning
Proceedings have finished for the day.
The trial will resume in the morning.
The defence alleges men broke into the flat and stabbed Ms Whittle because the defendant's brother owed money for drugs.
The brother admitted to the court hat bhe made off with two and a half ounces of cannabis which belonged to a drug dealer he was selling for.
He said the man had tracked him down and beaten him up. He worked to pay off the debt and that no problems existed after he settled the debt.
He added that as far as he was aware no threats had been made against his family.
Proceedings have resumed. The court is hearing from the brother of the defendant.
The court has risen for lunch
The court is now hearing from the pathologist who examined Leah Whittle's body.
He said that a lack of defensive wounds to her arms and hands, which would imply she tried to protect herself from the attack, suggest and early blow to the spinal cord paralysed her and rendered her helpless.
Nicholas Haggan, defending, questioned Ms Mayfield.
He said: "The finding of the blood on the clothing does not mean the defendant was he attacker.
She replied: "No, it does not."
Ms Mayfield told the court that blood on a jumper and a pair of tracksuit bottoms allegedly belonging to the defendant found at the flat matched the DNA of victim Leah Whittle.
Her DNA was also found on socks allegedly belonging to the defendant, found at another address, the court was told.
DNA found on the trainers the defendant was wearing upon his arrest matched more than one person, the court heard.
Ms Mayfield said this may have been a mixture of blood from the defendant and Ms Whittle.
However, she told the court she could not determine how the blood got on any of the items.
Forensic scientist Rebecca Mayfield continues to give evidence on the blood found in the flat where the murder is alleged to have taken place.
Proceedings are due to commence at 10.30am
Forensic scientist Rebecca Mayfield has told the court that blood samples taken from a handbag at the crime scene and from a window vent at the flat matched the DNA of he defendant.
She confirmed to Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, that the chance of the blood being from someone other than the defendant was approximately one in a billion.
The trial has finished for the day and will re-commence on Monday morning.
The jury is now hearing from forensic scientist Rebecca Mayfield who examined items seized from the address for blood.
A Crime Scene Investigation officer has taken to the stand to give evidence about the murder scene
Proceedings are due to recommence shortly following a lunch break
This morning the jury heard evidence from the police officers who arrested the defendant.
The trial will recommence at 2.15pm and it is expected the next prosecution witnesses will be from scenes of crime.
The trial has been delayed this morning due to a road accident which has prevented participants from getting to court on time.
The jury have finished for the day and the trial will continue tomorrow morning at 10am
In a video interview to the police the second young witness has described how she saw blood on the defendant's socks after he took his shoes off.
She said there was 'quite a bit of blood' on the socks.
She also described seeing blood on his face and hands. She said he had cuts on his hands and one finger was swollen.
The first young witness has finished her evidence.
The defence cross-examined her regarding the defendant throwing a knife away.
The defence suggested that her memory in this regard was incorrect. Defence also suggested that the defendant had said he 'tasted' blood in his mouth and not as she had recalled.
The prosecution then re-examined the witness and went over her evidence again.
The jury is now watching a police video interview with a second young witness. She is describing the events of the evening of Friday July 20.
Back in court now. The young prosecution witness is being re-examined by the Prosecution.
The jury is back and young prosecution witness is being cross-examined by the defence.
Defending Nicholas Haggan said the defendant's recollection of the events 'differed' from her account.
The jury has retired for a short break.
Defence's cross-examination of first young prosecution witness begins.
Young witness says in video interview with police that is being shown to court, that the defendant told her he had got hold of the knife but had thrown it in a bush.
Also in the video she is seen telling officers that the defendant had been coughing when he had been at her house. When asked what was up, the defendant told her he thought he had some of his mother’s blood in his throat.
The jury is in and now starting to watch a video interview with a young witness
The murder trial will continue from 10am this morning at Winchester Crown Court. Expected today are two young witnesses for the prosecution.
For legal reasons neither can be identified.
Leah Whittle who was found stabbed to death at her flat in Weymouth
The jury has now gone home for the day, the trial will continue tomorrow. Follow #DEmurdertrial and @Dorsetecho on Twitter for live updates from the court
#DEmurdertrial the jury has heard more evidence from a young witness about contact she had with defendant on night of Fri July 20— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial trial has resumed after a short break.— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial young witness on video link said she spoke to defendant after he said men attacked his mum. She said he was shell shocked.— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial ... In video interview she says defendant told her he saw men stab his mum and heard screaming. Then men came at him.— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial. Jury is hearing a prosecution youth witness, who cannot be named. . .— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial court to resume in ten mins. Jury heard prosecution opening. They say defendant told police a men or men stabbed his mother— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
Mr Smith told the jury that the defendant had spoken to a girlfriend in the hours before his mother was murdered to say she only had a couple of days to live because of the problems over the drug debt.
But Mr Smith alleged that this was just ''setting a scene for some sort of attack on his mother'' and that the teenager had either formed a murderous intent or the bravado of the conversation had spurred him on to commit murder because he was ''brooding'' over something that had happened between them.
He told the jury that the youngster should have called 999 or screamed for help, or called an ambulance, but he did nothing but leave the flat.
He eventually went to a friend's house with his mother's blood on his face and on his socks, the court heard. He was described as calm when he got there but he maintained he had witnessed the attack.
He said to friends he had disposed of a knife near to the flat but no weapon was ever found, the court heard.
Unemployed Ms Whittle had moved to Dorset after living in Yorkshire until her marriage broken down.
The court heard that her relationship with her son was often less than harmonious but the teenager told police the pair were close.
The trial is expected to last 12 days.
A 16-year-old boy stabbed his mother to death after losing his temper, a court heard today.
The teenager repeatedly attacked Leah Whittle, 42, in the flat they shared in Weymouth, Winchester Crown Court was told.
Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had an interest in knives and had a temper, but he said the reason for the alleged murder would never be known.
The boy, now 17, denies the killing in July this year and said that men came from Doncaster in South Yorkshire to execute his mother because his brother had got into trouble over a drug debt.
He told friends and the police that he had seen the man or men attack his mother through a bathroom door and when they had left he had bolted the door, taken some money from his mother's purse and escaped through a window and down a drainpipe.
Prosecution say that defendant claims men or a man entered their flat and attacked his mother.
#DEmurdertrial jury has heard prosecution's description of attack. They say defendant stabbed his own mother with one or two knives. He denies this
#DEmurdertrial trial start delayed by ten mins- then it will be the Crown Prosecution's opening statement— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
#DEmurdertrial trial about to start in ten mins— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012
The Dorset Echo will be tweeting from Winchester Crown Court this week for the Weymouth murder trial using #DEmurdertrial— @Dorsetecho 28 November 2012