Man (25) accused of murdering Colne grandma (80): court

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An elderly Pendle woman was murdered in an attack in her home, carried out by her granddaughter’s partner, it has been claimed.

Constance French (80), known as Connie, was video interviewed by police at her hospital bedside, where she wrote the name “George” on paper 12 days before her death.

Footage of the interview has been played at Preston Crown Court where George Portsmouth (25), formerly of Varley Street, Colne, denies her murder last April.

The court has heard that, in the early hours of March 27th last year, her alarm pendant was activated. Carers found her lying in the front room floor of her home, in North Street, Colne, with injuries, including one to her neck and money was missing. She died in hospital the next month.

Following her admission to Bradford Royal Infirmary, Mrs French was video interviewed by police in which she nodded her head to questions, wrote “George” and mouthed the word “Portsmouth”. She indicated a pillow had been placed on her neck and face and wrote “money” on a sheet of paper. At the start of the trial, Judge Anthony Russell told the jury they would see the video interview and should put aside emotions and sympathy they would feel.

Miss Kate Blackwell (prosecuting) said money and the alarm pendant had gone missing from the home when she was found.

The defendant was the then partner of the woman’s granddaughter, Janie Shuttleworth. The couple had been due to marry last September but, in the event, the wedding did not take place.

The prosecution say whoever attacked Connie had access to her home as there was no sign of a break-in.

It has been suggested Portsmouth may have had a financial motive, having fallen into debt. He was one of few people who knew Mrs French had substantial amounts of cash in her property, said Miss Blackwell.

The prosecution claim the defendant helped himself to some of her cash using a cash card.

On March 26th, Portsmouth arrived at work and boasted to colleagues he had won £720 at the bookies. The prosecution say the money had been taken from Mrs French’s account.

Portsmouth was later asked to take £230 cash to her. The money had been taken out of her account at her request to part pay for Janie’s wedding dress.

At 2-47am on March 27th, the alarm pendant worn by Connie was activated carers found her lying on the floor of the front room with a pillow under her head. She said someone had been into her house. The money that had earlier been delivered to her home had gone.

The prosecution say a spot of the defendant’s blood was found on a pillow case at the address. The Crown claim it was left when he put the pillow over her head to try to smother her. Blood and saliva was found on the opposite side of the pillow and a DNA profile matched that of Mrs French.

At hospital she was adamant in her story and a doctor described her as orientated, alert and not appearing confused. She told a nurse someone had gone in and tried to kill her and told her son someone had tried to put a pillow over her face.

Mrs French expressed a fear to her family that the defendant might come back in the night and asked her family, communicating in writing, how she should shout if he returned. “Please tell the police” was put on a piece of paper.

She died on April 13th. Portsmouth had earlier been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder while visiting her at hospital on March 31st. Following her death he was arrested on suspicion of murder and made no comment to any police questions.

The trial is continuing and is expected to last two weeks.