The pensioner and the “Pretty Woman” charged with his murder

THE wife of murdered Irish pensioner William West has finally admitted she killed him.

And as more details of his death – and life – emerge, it also appears Kate Atori may have actually been working as a prostitute in the African resort where they met six years ago.

The 26-year-old – who married Dublin-born West in Scotland four years ago – was “known” to Gambian police long before her arrest over his brutal death in The Gambia earlier this month.

Despite initially claiming he had gone missing, she broke down during questioning by police and admitted she beat her husband to death with a club at their Gambian holiday home before dragging his body into the garden, dousing it with petrol and setting it alight.

Contrary to earlier reports, he was not alive at the time.

Assistant Superintendent Aziz Bojang said last night: “She has had time to reflect on her actions and she realises the consequences of what she has done.

“She is full of remorse about what she did and is now saying she alone effectively clubbed Mr West to death.”

He added: “She has given us a number of contradicting versions and we cannot rule out the involvement of others.

“I cannot comment on whether or not she may have been a prostitute when she first met Mr West but some of my colleagues in the police force knew her.”

A friend of West – known as “Jar” to his friends – has said she believes Atori was just one of hundreds of young women who flock to the Senegambia tourist strip each year to target lonely rich westerners, or Toubabs as they are known locally.

As one recent tourist noted on http://www.worldsexarchives.com: “The Gambian girls are always looking out for a white man for a meal ticket as there is so much poverty in the country, and to find a Gambian girlfriend is the easiest thing in the world even if you are bald, ugly and fat!

“They are also not concerned about age.

“There are many, many, girls ready for a one night stand for a small fee, including many prostitutes from neighbouring countries such as Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Liberia etc.

“Most of these girls are stunning in looks, and are readily available.”

And as to the area where West met Atori, he added: “One has to be ready for a barrage of Gambians ready to take you anywhere, offer you anything from a banana to their “sister”.

“These people lay in wait for the tourist and to be honest they are a nuisance.

“Ali Baba’s is basically at the centre of the area, and everybody – tourists and locals – pass here at some stage of the evening.

“It is good to sit and watch. Eventually the girls start to arrive. A lot will come and sit at the tables with a drink and a snack . . . before getting up to the nights activities.”

The daughter of a poor Nigerian farmer called Efemon John Atori – who died when she was a child – she had moved to Senegambia from her native Ghana in a bid to earn enough money to set up her own hair salon.

West, who was still heart-broken over the death of his first wife, was holidaying in Senegambia alone in 2000.

A friend had suggested he take a break on “The Smiling Coast” to take his mind off the death of his first wife – which had left him devastated.

He was enjoying a solitary beer at the Ali Baba Restaurant in the centre of the popular sea-side district when he met Atori.

A favourite haunt of local prostitutes, it is packed every summer with foreign tourists.

West is believed to have been flattered by her initial interest in him – although there is no suggestion he actually knew very much about her background.

He was however so taken in by her that he vowed to help her start a new life in the UK.

At the time, he was becoming increasingly involved in a number of charitable ventures in the poor African country and was in the process of setting up his own charitable foundation.

But his friends and relatives – including his disabled 79-year-old Finglas-based brother Joseph – were still reeling in shock last night over how what started as a casual holiday friendship and eventually led to marriage would ultimately end with his cruel death.

As one said: “How scared must he have felt in the moments before his death?”.

A retired civil engineer who had amassed a £1 million fortune through property deals, investments and a computer business, he was initially reported missing by Atori at the start of a three-week July break at the couple’s holiday home in the remote Gambian village of Sanyang.

The couple had flown there from his palatial £750,000 UK home which she had moved into not long after meeting him in 2000.

Atori initially told police the last thing he said before he “vanished” was that he was going to buy cigars in a local shopping precinct.

She then flew back to the couple’s home in Hastings, East Sussex at the beginning of July – claiming she had thought that that is where he must have gone back to.

However, suspicious friends immediately contacted UK and Gambian police and Atori was persuaded to return to The Gambia.

Sussex detective inspector Paul Phelps recalled: “She was visibly upset, crying and kept repeating over and over ‘I just want my husband back, I just want my husband back’.”

West’s accountant David Jenkins flew to The Gambia with her and days later, she eventually led police to West’s badly burned body – dumped in a bin bag near the fence bordering their remote holiday villa.

Among the African men arrested in connection with West’s death was one of Atori’s ex-boyfriends.

Describing his feelings later, Jenkins said: “I was very close to Kate during the time that the body was recovered.

“Obviously there was deep sadness but all I can remember feeling is empty. A couple of people have asked me if I felt angry but I didn’t.

“It was a cold emptiness.”

Sussex police have since seized a computer from the couple’s home, along with records for both a mobile phone and a landline.

A team of forensic experts is expected to be flown over from the UK to The Gambia later this week to help formally identify West’s body.

Omar Jagne, one of West’s Gambian friends from London, said: “When Kate told me Jar had gone missing, I just didn’t believe her.

“The last thing he said to me was that he would call me when he got to The Gambia, but he never did call.

“I rang his mobile repeatedly but there was no reply and I had been suspicious of that ever since, so when she later claimed he was missing, I just had to call in the police.”

Why she wanted dead the very man who had done just about everything in his power to help her start a new life is still not clear.

But the fact that a copy of his will was found in her handbag when she was arrested may well be the best clue.

In 2005, he had agreed that she would get the bulk of his estate when he died.

He also requested that his body be cremated and his ahses mixed with those of his first wife and scattered into a particular river that had meant something to the couple.

At the time of his death, he has put his Hastings home up for sale and was planning to put his Gambian home on the market – having gone there in June to begin working on the property.

According to police sources, he was effectively planning to “downsize”.

Jagne also believes he intended to devote more of his time to his charitable ventures in Gambia.

As well as buying the couple’s holiday in home Sanyang, West had also bought Atori’s mother Yayo a home in Nigeria and he was also planning to buy another property.

He said: “Jar realised that with very little you can make a big difference in a country like Gambia.

“He had already given away more than £10,000 and had become committed to really trying to make a difference to people’s lives there.”

He added: “Jat saw The Gambia as being very similar to Ireland decades ago and thought there was a great chance to invest in property.”

Neighbours of West’s palatial home in the picturesque seaside town of Hastings describe him as a painfully polite but private man who “kept himself to himself”.

So little was known about West’s African wife that some neighbours thought she was little more than his home help.

They married in May 2002 at Edinburgh registry office in a brief ceremony attended by two random builders – Bill Davidson and David Hay – who West and his fiancee had asked to become witnesses.

Covered in dirt and still in their work clothes, West paid them £50 each to do the honours.

Davidson later recalled: “It was very suspicious. He seemed in a hurry. There was nothing normal about it.”

Back in Hastings, the neighbours didn’t quite know what to make of the couple.

One said: “I rarely saw them together and only really ever saw her taking his dogs for walks.

“Because she was so much younger than him, I just assumed she worked for him. I had no idea they were married.”

The couple rarely socialised and she is not known to have made any friends in the area.

The few times they were seen in public were when they took their dogs for a walk in the local park and when they used to attend 6pm mass on Saturday evenings at the nearby Catholic church of St Mary Star of the Sea.

A priest there remembers West as a jovial character who indulged in “polite chit chat from time to time about rugby and the weather”.

When West bought the house from a widow named Doris Taylor-Smith – whose husband Francis Thomas had died in 1986 – for around £20,000 in 1992 with a Mary Ann West (possibly his mother) it needed a lot of renovation done to it.

Doris had apparently told one neighbour she was going to leave the house to a cancer charity – but that neighbour checked for her will in London’s probate office three years after her death and failed to find any mention of a will.

The fact that there were squatters in the house when he bought it was apparently of little concern to him.

He later admitted to a neighbour that he just phoned “the heavy mob” and had them forcibly removed.

Another neighbour, retired Rhodesian Police officer Colin Osbourne, saw the eviction and had dubbed the pensioner the area’s “Fred West”.

Suspicious of West the moment he arrived on the street, it was him who travelled all the way to London to check out Doris Taylor-Smith’s wedding.

He said: “About four or five big burly blokes just turned up one morning and pretty much smashed their way into the house.

“The occupants boarded themselves into the upstairs rooms and tried to hang onto to the top floor but as West’s men moved in, all you could hear from across the road was screaming and the sound of furniture being smashed up.

“It was pretty full on and I remember a couple of local police officers turning up.

“I’m not too sure of they were there to protect the squatters or to act as some kind of support for West’s men.

“But whatever happened, the squatters left within a few hours.”

He added: “I kind of got the impression that despite his age, West was not a man who took being messed around lightly.”

Mr West’s first wife – who has been named as Doris in reports – is said to have died shortly after he moved into the house, and – according to Jagne – he never got over her death.

He is believed to have kept an urn of her ashes at his house in Hastings.

He said: “He used to tell me how loving she was, how much she had understood him and how much her death had left a void in his life.

“I don’t think he ever came to terms with her death.

“Whenever there were any disagreements between himself and Kate, he used to get really down about things and then he’d start talking about his first wife.

“He absolutely adored her and I know it was his intention that after his death, he wanted his ashes distributed over his wife’s grave.”

On Friday, West’s loyal handyman “Jim” arrived in the afternoon to check the couple’s postbox and turn on lights in the house, leaving ten minutes later.

He broke down in tears when asked about his former boss.

He said: “He was a lovely, decent man who had a very big heart and an absolute passion for Africa.

“He just did not deserve what has happened to him.

“I am so very upset about it. It’s still so hard to take it all in.”

Equally stunned by his death is 76-year-old Joyce Avard, who runs a school for the blind in The Gambia.

She first met West two years ago when he called out of the blue to ask her about her work in the country.

A near neighbour in Hastings, she said: “He was one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met.

“He recently transported about 80 boxes of supplies I needed to deliver to Gambia.

“He was bringing a container load of stuff over to the country and just offered to help.”

Additional reporting: Catherine Murphy.

Did you know William West, the Mary Ann West he bought his Hastings property with and Doris – his first wife? Call me.

ENDS