The partly naked body of Alice Rye was found with her hands tied together behind her back and a knife sticking from each eye.

"If there is consolation in this case it derives from the fact that the depraved act was more than probably committed after her death," said Mr Robert Fordham, QC, prosecuting.

Opening the case against her alleged killer, Kevin Morrison, at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday, Mr Fordham said it was 'no ordinary murder'.

Morrison, aged 59, of Pinfold Caravan Site, Wettenhall Road, Poole, Nantwich, Cheshire, has denied murdering Mrs Rye between December 10 and 11, 1996.

Mr Fordham told the crowded courtroom that Mrs Rye, a mother of three, was found murdered at her home in Poulton Road, Spital, the day after her death.

Her friend and neighbour, Mrs Kellett, who was 87 that day, called with another neighbour because she was concerned that unusually the gates to her driveway were open. They found her on a bed in the back bedroom. Her lower clothes had been removed and her hands were tied.

She had two stab wounds to the chest and two to her back, a pink towel forced into her mouth and knives sticking from her eye sockets, said Mr Fordham.

One of the chest wounds had penetrated her heart. The other chest wound had gone through her left lung.

Mr Fordham said that Mrs Rye's knickers had disappeared and it was inferred that the murderer had taken them 'by way of a trophy' or to remove relevant evidence.

A bag containing 14 pairs of knickers was found at a lock-up garage rented by Morrison in Ellesmere Port. These included a pair which DNA evidence suggested belonged to the victim, claimed Mr Fordham.

Findings also provided 'extremely strong' support that Morrison's semen was on them.

Mr Fordham said that after the murder no breakthrough had been made by May 1998, but in that month Morrison, who was a police informant, mentioned to the officer he dealt with that he had information about a job which had happened in Wirral.

He said he had information to do with Alice Rye and two small knives. Mr Fordham said that the horrifying details of Mrs Rye's eye wounds had never been made public.

At later meetings Morrison allegedly claimed that another man, Keith Darlington, had given him 'stuff' from a robbery on the day of the murder. It contained documents, cheap costume jewellery and a bloodstained, broken knife. He was given jewellery and a watch for minding the parcel, he claimed.

Morrison claimed that Keith Darlington had told him how he had gone looking for a woman living alone and after Mrs Rye let him in, he took her upstairs at knife-point. He tied and gagged her and then took property.

When she would not tell him her PIN number, he stuffed a towel in her mouth and poured water in over the towel. She still refused to reveal the number so he started choking her with a rope.

"She was staring at me, so I decided she could identify me, so I killed her."

He claimed Darlington also said: "I watch Cracker. They're going to do a psychological profile on this guy and they won't be looking for me, they'll be looking for a nutter."

The case continues.

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