Joanna Dennehy alleged accomplices 'must be cleared if they feared for lives'

Lukasz Slaboszewski (l), John Chapman (c) and Kevin Lee (r) were found in ditches
Image caption The bodies of (l to r) Lukasz Slaboszewski, John Chapman and Kevin Lee were found in Cambridgeshire

Killer Joanna Dennehy's alleged helpers should be cleared if they feared for their lives, a judge has said.

Dennehy, 31, has admitted stabbing three men and dumping their bodies.

At Cambridge Crown Court, Gary Stretch, 47, denies two counts of attempted murder. Leslie Layton, 36, has denied perverting the course of justice.

Mr Justice Spencer said that if jurors believed they were in fear of death they could claim they were acting under duress, and should be found not guilty.

'Malign influence'

He said the prosecution had sought to prove that Mr Stretch and Mr Layton were "willing participants" in disposing of Dennehy's victims' bodies and attempting to cover up the crimes.

Image copyright Cambs Police
Image caption Joanna Dennehy was known as Star because of her distinctive facial tattoo

But he added that the defence had claimed the men were acting under duress, saying: "They say you should not underestimate the evil and malign influence of Dennehy."

"The key test is would a reasonable person placed in the defendants' situation have been driven to act in the way the defendants did?" he added.

Neither man has given evidence in their own defence.

Image copyright Cambs Police
Image caption Gary Stretch's barrister described him as a "nodding dog" in helping Dennehy

Dennehy, of Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, has already admitted the murders of Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, Kevin Lee, 48, and John Chapman, 56, over a 10-day period in March last year.

The men's bodies were all found in ditches in Cambridgeshire in March and April.

Dennehy has also admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of all three victims and two charges of attempted murder.

The attempted murder charges relate to her randomly selecting and repeatedly stabbing two men in Hereford in the days after the Cambridgeshire killings.

Mr Stretch, of Riseholme, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, denies three charges of preventing the lawful burial of three men and two counts of attempted murder.

Mr Layton, of Bifield, Orton Goldhay, denies perverting the course of justice and two counts of preventing the lawful burial of the bodies of Mr Chapman and Mr Lee.

The jury, made up of eight men and four women, is expected to retire to consider its verdict on Tuesday.

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