THE TRIAL of two people accused of murdering a young Stratford woman at an address in the town, due to take place in August, may have to be delayed.
Jack Williams and Kayleigh-Louise Woods have been charged with the murder of 20-year-old Bethany Hill at an address in Hertford Road, Stratford, in February.
Williams (20) of Redlands Crescent, Stratford, and Woods (22) of Hertford Road, appeared at Warwick Crown Court for what was to have been a plea and case management hearing.
But the defendants, who sat in the dock with a dock officer between them, spoke only to confirm their names.
Peter Cooper, for Williams, asked that he should not be arraigned, even though a trial date of August 1 had already been set.
He explained: “There have been mental health issues which have been apparent to us for some time, and a psychiatrist had been identified to provide a report.”
But he said that psychiatrist was now unable to do so because of his workload, so the defence had had to ‘start afresh’ and obtain authority for a different psychiatrist, Dr Nicholas Kennedy, to prepare the report.
And Dr Kennedy has said that, working from scratch, he will need six to eight weeks to do so.
Judge Richard Griffith-Jones asked whether the report may affect the issue of whether Williams is considered fit to plead to the charge.
Mr Cooper responded: “I don’t think it’s likely, but it may; and it’s something which must be explored.
“But fitness to plead is only part of it. He will also be asked to provide a report in relation to possible defences.”
At Mr Cooper’s request, the judge allowed until mid-June for the psychiatric report to be completed and served to be considered by the prosecution – who may then want to have their own report prepared.
Nick Devine, for Woods, said he did not anticipate any need for a psychiatric report in her case, and Judge Griffith-Jones asked whether the indictment could therefore be put to her.
But it was decided that should not take place because it may be necessary, for legal reasons which were discussed in court, for Woods’ legal representation to be transferred to a different firm of solicitors.
The judge said: “There will have to be a further case management hearing, but there is no point holding that until the end of June.
“My priority now is to see that the 1st of August can remain as the trial date. It’s going to be tight. It may be worth looking at another date as an alternative, which would be the 3rd of October.”
He adjourned the case for the matter in relation to Woods to be heard on May 11, if necessary, and for a case management hearing in early July, with the trial on August 1, but with ‘the first week of October as a reserve date.’
The judge, who granted applications for both defendants to be represented by two counsel at trial, remanded them both in custody.
At an earlier hearing the court was told that Bethany Hill died at an address in Stratford some time during the afternoon of February 3.
The police and an ambulance had been called to the address in Hertford Road, where Miss Hill was found with neck wounds, at around 7pm, and she was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.