A JURY has heard how there were more than 500 contacts between Christopher Taylor and 29-year-old Maggie Smythe in the weeks before he killed her.

After 29-year-old mum Maggie went missing in January Taylor, aged 40, was arrested and denied having been in touch with his former partner for weeks.

But an analysis of the phone he had been using showed that there were hundreds of calls, attempted calls and messages between them between January 2 and 23.

Then, on the night of January 25, there were 97 contacts between the phones, the last one being at 4.39am the following morning, shortly before CCTV filmed them walking together towards the Red Bridge Tavern at Breightmet.

Maggie's torso was found on February 1, buried under rubble in the car park of the derelict pub, which Taylor was helping to develop for residential accommodation. Despite an extensive search the bus cleaner's head has never been found.

Taylor, of Greenroyd Avenue, Breightmet, admits manslaughter but denies murder. His brother, Brian Ottley, aged 29, of the same address, denies assisting an offender and perverting the course of justice.

Today a jury of six men and five women were told about a series of police interviews conducted with Taylor and Ottley while Maggie was still missing and after her body was found.

In his first interview Taylor claimed she had been missing before. "Maggie's a free spirit unfortunately," he said, describing her as "feisty".

"If I slapped Maggie I would get a punch back, it's as simple as that," he said.

He said he had no idea where his missing former girlfriend could be.

"If I could find ... I'd find her myself," he said.

Taylor had been arrested on January 30 on suspicion of murdering Maggie, four days after she went missing.

He continually denied having anything to do with her disappearance, but on February 1 he was informed that her body had been found at the pub and, in subsequent interviews, sat with a blanket covering his head, answering "no comment" to questions.

Taylor was charged with murder and at the end of March his solicitor informed police that he wished to cooperate by helping them recover Maggie's head, which he said had been buried in mud at The Bunk lodge. Nothing was found.

In a defence statement Taylor admitted killing Maggie, who he said he had met for sex at the Red Bridge Tavern and she had died after he punched her once to the forehead.

Ottley was also arrested but, in police interviews, he repeatedly answered "no comment" to all questions.

Instead, he gave officers written statements denying any involvement with Maggie's disappearance and death.

He claimed he had been asleep on the sofa when Taylor's former phone, which he had also been using, was exchanging messages with Maggie. He added that he had accompanied Taylor to the Red Bridge Tavern on January 27 to move building materials but did not know a body was there.

The trial continues.