Man on trial accused of murder of Colne grandmother Connie French

The house in Colne where George Portsmouth is accused of attacking Connie French

The house in Colne where George Portsmouth is accused of attacking Connie French

First published in News Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

A GREAT-grandmother who was smothered with a pillow told police the identity of her killer before she died from her injuries, a court heard.

From her hospital bed, Connie French, 80, told detectives that her granddaughter’s partner George Portsmouth tried to suffocate her, Preston Crown Court heard.

Mrs French, who could barely speak after suffering injuries to her larynx in the alleged attack, mouthed her answers to Keith Rimmer and John McNamara and wrote answers on a pad, insisting Portsmouth, 26, had tried to kill her.

Jurors heard that less than a fortnight after the interview, Mrs French died in the intensive care unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Kathryn Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said the great-grandmother was discovered by carers on her bedroom floor, in North Street, Colne, in the early hours of March 27 last year.

Mrs French insisted a man had broken into her home and placed a pillow over her face, the court heard.

Forensic experts later recovered a spot of blood from the pillow, which is said to match Portsmouth’s. He is also said to have left blood on a nearby blanket.

The prosecution alleges that trainee welder Portsmouth had a serious gambling problem, spending hundreds of pounds on betting shop roulette machines.

Earlier that day he had been asked to take £230 to Mrs French, as part payment for a wedding dress being ordered by his partner Janie Shuttleworth, the court heard.

But when the OAP’s bedroom was searched, the day after the attack, the money was found to be missing.

Miss Blackwell said that a pendant, which Mrs French could use in case of an emergency, was also missing. It had been activated at 2.47am, around the time she is thought to have been attacked, but has never been recovered.

The court heard that Mrs French’s home was still secured, when the carers arrived and there had been no signs of a break-in.

Days before the attack, Portsmouth and Miss Shuttleworth had been given the key to Mrs French’s home, so they could pick up money for a family meal, the court heard.

Miss Blackwell also said that on the night of the attack an eyewitness, Ian Wyman, of nearby Chatham Street, saw a man, wearing a Newcastle United away shirt, similar to one owned by the defendant, and matching the defendant’s description, was seen acting furtively in the street in the early hours.

Prosecutors say that Portsmouth had gambled away £200 from his partner’s bank account, at a bookies in Colne, and later spent more than £800 at the Bet Fred shop in Colne.

He is also alleged to have had problems with a direct debit, due for his rent, around the time of the incident.

Portsmouth was originally arrested for the attempted murder of Mrs French and denied trying to kill her. He could not explain why Mrs French was accusing him of attacking her.

When Mrs French died he was rearrested on suspicion of murder and refused to comment when questioned, the court heard.

Portsmouth, of Varley Street, Colne, denies murder.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.

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