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Halliwell: A Killer's Defence

Halliwell in the dock Photo:

As Christopher Halliwell is convicted of a second murder, Robert Murphy looks back at the unusual trial in which the killer defended himself.

Why did I think the serial killer would be some criminal mastermind? A brilliant brain? He had evaded police for years.

The scene set - Christopher Halliwell, murderer of two women, defending himself in Bristol Crown Court. Up against a leading Queen’s Counsel.

He was going to tell us the truth, he had said. 100 per cent, he maintained.

But when the skeletal figure of the 52 year-old lifer appeared in the witness box, he was a rambling, incoherent, ranting mess.

A bore. A stupid man with a high self-opinion.

This was legal history in the making. Never before - to the press bench’s knowledge - had a convicted killer defended himself in a murder trial.

Halliwell defending himself in court

He had sacked his legal team at a preliminary hearing.

In court, he affected the aloof air of a counsel. On the first two days he even wore a suit. Sucking the arms of his spectacles, looking skyward in contemplation of some great legal conundrum.

Then he would open his mouth. And realise he was hopelessly out of his depth. He would fumble about, lose his place. He didn’t serve his outline defence statement - a legal requirement.“I’ll keep my powder dry’” he had said.

But it was when Halliwell gave evidence that the full extent of his stupidity became clear.

He concocted a story where two drug dealers used to hire him to drive them around Swindon, going from house to house, dropping off Class A and taking bundles of cash.

Then, one night, they put a large sports bag in his boot and said they needed to ‘get rid of something.’ Did he know anywhere?

He suggested a field in Gloucestershire near the village of Eastleach. He left them, they buried whatever was in the bag.

Halliwell's victim: Becky Godden

The problem was, Halliwell had already confessed to police on the day of his arrest in 2011. He had taken them to where he had buried Becky.

And through his own legal ineptitude, this confession was allowed to be told to the jury.

Then came the devastating cross examination by the experienced and eloquent Nicholas Haggan QC:

"You told police you had taken a prostitute from the Manchester Road area of Swindon”

“Yes,” replied Mr Halliwell

“You told the officer that you had sex with that girl?”

“That's what I told him”

“You told him you had strangled her.”

“That's what I told him.”

“You couldn't be sure if it was 2003, 04 or 05?”

“That's right”

“But you told the officer you would be able to take him back to spot that you had buried her.”

“Exact spot,” replied Halliwell.

The QC asked Halliwell why he was defending himself? “You like being the centre of attention. You like being in the newspapers.”

“No,” Halliwell replied: "This is my worst nightmare. I'm normally a quiet, reserved person"

"Normally? When you're not murdering young woman?" Asked the prosecutor.

Halliwell cut a deeply unimpressive figure in the box. He argued over minor irrelevant points. Did he have a Hackney Carriage licence in one year or another? What year did he have a red car?

But he refused to answer the big points. Who were these mysterious men? Why did he confess to police if he didn’t kill Becky?

Convicted murderer Christopher Halliwell

The court can be a gladiatorial stage. In his first battle in 2012, Halliwell was represented by Richard Latham QC, prosecutor of Ian Huntley. He persuaded a judge Halliwell’s confession should be omitted, Becky’s murder wasn’t pursued then.

Christopher Halliwell did not persuade anyone in the court of anything. He will never see liberty. His fellow inmates may be bored by his tedious and smug company for many years to come.

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