The man accused of murdering Shropshire peace campaigner Hilda Murrell said yesterday he blamed MI5 for killing the elderly spinster because he did not want to be beaten up by prisoners while he was on remand in jail.

Andrew George (37) denies murdering the 78-year-old whose murder 21 years ago, the court was previously told, led to a series of theories about who carried out the attack.

One of the theories was that Miss Murrell had been the victim of a conspiracy.

Richard Latham QC, prosecuting at Stafford Crown Court yesterday, put it to George, who was on the witness stand for a second day: "You encouraged the notion in prison that you were George the Spy and this was MI5?" George replied: "I did not encourage anyone. I just let them think what they wanted."

Mr Latham described the MI5 theory as "absolute rubbish" which had nothing to do with 78-year-old Miss Murrell's death. George replied: "I don't know."

George, of Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury, pleaded not guilty to the kidnap and murder of Miss Murrell in March 1984.

Miss Murrell, a worldrenowned rose grower who had a flower named after her, was found three days later dumped in a wood at Haughmond Hill about six miles from her home.

She had three stab wounds on her body and one in her arm. She was partly undressed and died after five to 10 hours from hypothermia.

George said he was arrested seven days after Miss Murrell's death in connection with another burglary. "My part in what happened to Hilda Murrell was a small part," said George.

He agreed the police asked him "what he had been up to" on March 21in relation to Miss Murrell and the burglary of her house. "I told them half the truth. I did not know Miss Murrell had died until I was arrested," he said.

George claimed that he and his brother, Steven, burgled Miss Murrell's house. He said Steven tried to rape the woman and encouraged him to have sex with her. He said his brother attacked Miss Murrell and the last he saw of them was when Steven took her from the house and drove off in her car.

Mr Latham said: "You have turned and twisted and given any story to get away with this. That is what you have done. You chose your brother as a fall guy because he did not have a job and was drifting around Shrewsbury."

George replied: "No, not at all."

The trial continues.