Frederick Walter Stephen ‘Fred’ West (29 September 1941 – 1 January 1995), was an English serial killer.
Between 1967 and 1987, he and his wife Rosemary tortured, raped and murdered at least 12 young women and girls, many at the couple’s homes. The majority of the murders occurred between May 1973 and September 1979 at their home in Gloucester.
Rosemary West also murdered Fred’s stepdaughter (his first wife’s biological daughter) Charmaine, while he was serving a prison sentence for theft.
Fred West was born into a poor family of farm workers in Bickerton Cottage, Much Marcle, Herefordshire, to Walter Stephen West (5 July 1914–28 March 1992) and Daisy Hannah Hill (1922-6 February 1968). He was the second of their six children. West would later claim that his father had incestuous relationships with his daughters. It has been suggested that incest was an accepted part of the household, and that his father taught him bestiality from an early age. West recalled, in police interviews, that his father had said on many occasions “Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it”. It is also alleged that his mother Daisy began sexually abusing him from the age of 12.
At school, West showed an aptitude for woodwork and artwork, but did not excel academically. He left school at the age of 15 in December 1956, two years later, in November 1958, he suffered a fractured skull and a broken arm and leg in a motorcycle accident. The accident put him into an eight-day coma. His family reported that after the accident he became prone to sudden fits of rage. Two years later, he was unconscious for 24 hours after hitting his head in a fall from a fire escape.
At age 20, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted, but escaped a sentence of imprisonment. His family effectively disowned him thereafter.
In September 1962, the 21-year-old West became re-acquainted with a former girlfriend, Catherine Costello, who was now better known as Rena from her time working as a prostitute. Costello was already pregnant by another man, and she and West married on 17 November before moving to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. Her daughter, Charmaine Carol, was born on 22 February 1963. Costello and West claimed they had adopted Charmaine, whose father was from Pakistan. In July 1964 Costello bore West a daughter named Anne Marie. During this period in Coatbridge, West worked as an ice cream van driver. On 4 November 1965, he ran over and killed a four-year-old boy with his van.
The family, along with Isa McNeill who looked after the couple’s children and Costello’s friend Anne McFall, moved into the Lakeside caravan park in Bishop’s Cleeve Gloucestershire at the end of 1965 when West feared for his safety following the ice cream van incident. To escape from West’s sadistic sexual demands, Costello and McNeill moved to Scotland in 1966 while McFall, who had become infatuated with West, and the two children remained with him. Costello continued to visit the children every few months. In August 1967 McFall, who was eight months pregnant with West’s child, vanished. McFall was never reported missing and her remains were found in June 1994.
In September 1967, Costello returned to live with West, but left again the following year, putting the children in West’s care.
While still married to Costello, 27-year-old West met his next wife, Rosemary Letts, on 29 November 1968, on her 15th birthday. On her 16th birthday she moved in with him and a few months later they moved from the caravan to a two-story house in Midland Road, Gloucester. On 17 October 1970, Rosemary gave birth to their daughter, Heather Anne. Fred West was imprisoned for theft on 4 December 1970 and remained so until his release on 24 June 1971.
It is believed that Rosemary killed Charmaine (Fred’s stepdaughter from his first marriage) shortly before West’s release in June 1971. According to Anne Marie, both sisters were subject to frequent beatings, but Charmaine infuriated Rosemary by her refusal to cry no matter how severe they got. Charmaine disappeared in mid June, with Rosemary explaining Costello had called and taken her back to Scotland. Costello turned up in late August to collect Charmaine, and also disappeared.
On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary West married in Gloucester, and on 1 June of that year, Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. Around this time West encouraged his wife into prostitution. Rosemary eventually had seven children, of which three were mixed race. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell St, where West converted the upper floor to bedsits. “Rose’s Room”, the room Rosemary used for prostitution had peepholes so he could watch and a red light outside the door for warning the children not to enter when she was “busy”. Like West, Rosemary came from a family where incest was common; Rosemary’s father, Bill Letts, with Fred’s approval, would often visit their home to have sex with Rosemary.
In October 1972 the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as the children’s nanny. She rejected Fred and Rosemary’s advances into their “sex-circle” and left a few weeks later. On 6 December 1972 the Wests invited her to their home, where they both raped her. Fred allowed Roberts to leave the next day only after she promised she would return as their nanny. Roberts reported the rape to police but withdrew the accusation when the case came to court. The Wests pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of indecent assault and were fined £50.
In early 1973, the Wests took eight-year-old Anne Marie to the cellar, where they bound and gagged her before West raped her while Rosemary watched.
In 1979 Anne Marie became pregnant by West, but the pregnancy was terminated as it was ectopic. Unable to cope with her father any longer, she left home; West now began abusing Heather, who disappeared a few years later.
In May 1992, West filmed himself raping one of his other daughters, and twice again afterwards. She told friends at school what had happened. On 4 August one of the friends told her mother and she went to the police.
On 6 August 1992, the police decided to investigate, eventually leading to West being charged, with Rosemary as an accomplice, with rape. She was also charged with child cruelty and the remaining children were placed in foster care. The rape case against the Wests collapsed when the two main witnesses declined to testify at the court case on 7 June 1993. The police continued investigating the disappearance of their daughter Heather.
After taking statements from social workers about a joke about “Heather being buried under the patio” and the children themselves, they obtained a further search warrant in February 1994, allowing them to excavate the garden in search of Heather. They started searching the house and excavating the garden on 24 February 1994.
After West’s arrest the following day, the police uncovered human bones. He confessed, retracted and then re-confessed to the murder of his daughter, denying that Rosemary was involved. Rosemary was not arrested until April 1994, initially on sex offences but later charged with murder. Further bodies were found and, on 4 March 1994, West admitted that he had carried out nine more murders, including those of his first wife and Ann McFall.
Fred and Rosemary West were brought before a magistrates’ court in Gloucester on 30 June 1994; he was charged with 11 murders and she with 10. Immediately afterwards, Fred West was re-arrested on suspicion of murdering Ann McFall, whose body was found on 7 June 1994. On the evening of 3 July 1994, he was charged with her murder.
On 1 January 1995, Fred West hanged himself while on remand in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. His funeral was held in Coventry on 29 March 1995. West was cremated with only three people present.
The evidence against Rosemary was circumstantial; unlike her husband, she did not confess. She was tried in October 1995 at Winchester Crown Court, found guilty of all 10 murders and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge recommended that she should never be released and 18 months later the then serving Home Secretary Jack Straw agreed with this recommendation.
In October 1996, the Wests’ house, along with the adjoining property, was demolished and the site made into a pathway. Every brick was crushed and every timber was burned to discourage souvenir hunters.
In a 1998 interview with Charlie Rose, English novelist Martin Amis revealed that he was a cousin of the Wests’ victim Lucy Partington, who disappeared in 1973.
- Charmaine West (born 22 February 1963): Killed in June 1971 by Rosemary West while Fred was in prison. No motive has been put forward.
- Catherine Bernadette “Rena” West (born 14 April 1944): Killed August 1971. Rena had called to take Charmaine away with her and it is believed Fred killed her to avoid an investigation into Charmaine’s whereabouts.
- Lynda Gough (born 1 May 1953): Killed April 1973. A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Gough and Rosemary would share lovers. Following her disappearance Gough’s mother called to visit and Rosemary, wearing Gough’s clothes, told her she had moved in order to work in Weston-super-Mare.
- Carol Ann Cooper (born 10 April 1958): Killed November 1973. Cooper was living in a children’s home in Worcester when she disappeared while walking home from the cinema.
- Lucy Katherine Partington (born 4 March 1952): Killed December 1973. Spent Christmas with her family in Cheltenham and visited a friend, and disappeared after leaving to catch a bus home. There is strong evidence that she had been kept alive for at least several days. A week after she disappeared, Fred went to a hospital in the early hours of 3 January 1974 to get a serious laceration stitched. A knife matching the cut was found with Partington’s body and police surmise he sustained the injury while dismembering the body. Partington, a university student, was the cousin of novelist Martin Amis.
- Theresa Siegenthaler (born 27 November 1952): Killed in April 1974. A student in South London who left to hitch-hike to Ireland and disappeared.
- Shirley Hubbard (born 26 June 1959): Killed November 1974. Left a work experience course in Droitwich to return home but did not arrive. When her remains were found her head was completely covered in tape with only a three-inch rubber tube inserted to allow her to breathe.
- Juanita Marion Mott (born 1 March 1957): Killed April 1975. A former lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Mott was living with a friend of her mother’s in Newent when she disappeared.
- Shirley Anne Robinson (born 8 October 1959): Killed May 1978. A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Robinson was a prostitute for the Wests. Disappeared after becoming pregnant with Fred’s child.
- Alison Chambers (born 8 September 1962): Killed August 1979. Last known sexually-motivated killing.
- Heather Ann West (born 17 October 1970) Killed June 1987. Heather became the focus of Fred’s attentions after Anne Marie left home. Fred West claimed he had not meant to kill her but she had been sneering at him and he “had to take the smirk off her face”. Rosemary told an inquiring neighbour the following day that she and Heather had had a “hell of a row” so it is believed Rosemary may have initiated her death. The Wests told their children Heather had left for a job in Devon, but later changed the story to her having run off with a lesbian lover when she failed to contact or visit them. Later still Fred would threaten the children that they would “end up under the patio like Heather” if they misbehaved. Heather’s body was found under the patio that Fred had inexplicably built over the fish pond his son Stephen had dug.
Their only known victim after 1979 was their daughter Heather, although the police believe the couple murdered more. There were no known murders in the years 1976–1977, 1980–1986 and 1988-1992. During questioning after being arrested, Fred West had confessed to murdering up to 30 people, but the police believed the pair may have killed only 13. As well as the 12 confirmed they believe West also killed 15-year-old Mary Bastholm in 1968, but to date no body has been found. West’s son, Stephen, has said he firmly believed the missing Gloucester teenager was an early victim of his father, as Fred West had reportedly boasted of committing Miss Bastholme’s murder while on remand in prison during 1994.
Although no forensic evidence linked Fred West to the murder of Anne McFall, the state of the body (missing finger and toe bones as was the case with the other bodies) and the dimensions of the grave site match aspects of West’s modus operandi.
24 February 1994 was a nondescript Thursday afternoon. In the newsroom of the local evening newspaper, the Gloucester Citizen, reporters were sitting around trying to come up with story ideas.
Someone from the paper’s circulation department came up to the newsroom to pass on a tit-bit of information.
One of the newspaper boys had reported seeing policemen digging up the back garden of a house in a side street not far from the city centre. The journalists swung into action.
They discovered that the house in question was number 25 Cromwell Street and looking it up in the electoral register they found the householders recorded as Frederick and Rosemary West.
The names meant nothing.
But someone looked the names up in the paper’s conscientiously well-kept cuttings library. In a small brown envelope a reporter found a single cutting from a copy of the Citizen dated the previous summer.
It referred to the delight of a Gloucester couple, Frederick and Rosemary West, who had been cleared of sexually assaulting a young girl after the key witness declined to give evidence. Alarm bells rang in the Citizen newsroom.
Asked why they were digging up the Wests’ garden, Gloucestershire Police would only say they were investigating the disappearance of their 16-year-old daughter. A Citizen reporter dashed to the city’s register office and found a birth certificate belonging to a Heather West, born in 1971.
Gloucestershire Police confirmed the name but at the time nobody realised the dig would trigger one of the biggest police inquiries Britain had ever seen. Heather had disappeared in May 1987, shortly after leaving school, but had not been reported missing by her parents. They claimed she had left home to go and work at a holiday camp in Devon. But an in-joke began to develop among the West children. They would mutter about Heather being “buried under the patio” at 25 Cromwell Street.
In the summer of 1993, when the allegations of sexual impropriety were made against the Wests, their six youngest children were taken into council care.
Under the patio
Reports of Heather being “under the patio” reached the ears of Detective Constable Hazel Savage, a veteran Gloucester police officer who had dealings with Fred West going back to the late 1960s. She decided to follow it up.
Det Con Savage discovered that Heather’s national insurance number had never been used, indicating that she had never worked or claimed benefit since her disappearance. She had simply vanished into thin air.
Other inquiries strengthened Det Con Savage’s belief that foul play was involved and in February 1994 she finally persuaded her superiors to obtain a search warrant and dig up the Wests’ back garden.
The Wests’ eldest son, 20-year-old Stephen, was at home (it was his day off) when the police knocked on the door with the search warrant.
In his book, Stephen West (who had been convinced by his father that his older sister was living in the Midlands) recalls: “I told one of the detectives that they were going to end up making fools of themselves and he just replied ‘That’s up to us’. “I wanted to know the reasons why they thought Heather was buried there but they wouldn’t tell me.” Stephen and his mother tried frantically to contact his father, who was working on a building about 20 minutes’ drive from Gloucester.
They finally got hold of him at 1.50pm and he said he was on his way home, but he did not arrive until 5.40pm.
It has never been explained what Fred West did during those four hours. He himself claimed he pulled over and passed out and blamed fumes from the painting he had been doing.
But several authors and criminologists have speculated that he may have spent the time disposing of incriminating evidence, including grisly souvenirs from the bodies of his victims, or even visiting an as-yet-undiscovered burial ground somewhere in south Gloucestershire.
We will never know.
As police officers toiled in their back garden Fred and Rose West stayed up most of that night discussing what to do.
Geoffrey Wansell, whose book An Evil Love was written after he obtained exclusive access to 150 hours of Fred West’s tapes and other documents, believes they cooked up a “pact”. He says: “Frederick West would have told her that he would ‘sort it out’ with the police the following day, and that she ‘had nothing to worry about’ as he ‘would take all the blame’.”
Mr Wansell says of the pact: “Though he would renege on it during his bleakest hours in prison, it was to bind him to her for the rest of his life.”
On 25 February Fred West was taken into Gloucester police station for questioning. He immediately admitted having killed Heather but told Det Con Savage: “The thing I’d like to stress is that Rose knew nothing at all.”
Later that day the police diggers made a discovery which would catapult the inquiry from one of purely local interest, to one which would ultimately draw reporters and film crews from all over the world…
They unearthed human remains in the garden but Professor Bernard Knight, the eminent pathologist who had been called on to assist the police, pointed out there was a third leg bone. It was clear there was more than one body buried in the garden of 25 Cromwell Street.
Fred West began a damage limitation exercise.
He agreed to go back to the garden and point out exactly where he had buried the two other girls, Shirley Robinson and Alison Chambers, who had vanished in the late 1970s. But he kept quiet about the six other bodies buried beneath the cellar and bathroom of 25 Cromwell Street.
It seems that his main motive for this silence, was not that he feared becoming tagged a serial killer, but the idea that his beloved house would be torn apart by the police. The key to unlocking the true horror of that house was a middle-aged Gloucestershire housewife who found herself pushed into the centre of a worldwide media circus.
Janet Leach was a volunteer “appropriate adult” whose job it was to befriend and assist people, usually juveniles, who were taken into police custody. But she soon found herself becoming a confidante to a serial killer. Mrs Leach said the police had not been able to get West to admit there were other bodies but she was able to get him to reveal the truth.
“Are there any more bodies?” she asked.
West admitted there were and he went on to sketch a map of the cellar and bathroom, showing six more bodies.
But he was unable to identify many of his victims.
One he described as “Scar Hand”, because she had a burn on her hand, another he referred to as “Tulip” because he thought she was Dutch, in fact she was Swiss. Later West admitted he had buried another victim, an eight-year-old girl born to his first wife but fathered by another man, at another house in Gloucester.
He also confessed to having dumped two other bodies in fields near his childhood home at Much Marcle, on the Herefordshire-Gloucestershire border. They were his first wife, Rena, and a former lover, Ann McFall, both of whom hailed from Scotland. West’s victims were a mixture of hitch-hikers, lodgers and teenage runaways who had been either lured to 25 Cromwell Street or abducted.
One of these was Lucy Partington, a 21-year-old university student from a respectable middle-class family. Her cousin was the novelist Martin Amis. She was picked up as she waited for a bus on the outskirts of Cheltenham one night in December 1973. It is almost certain she would not have accepted a lift from Fred West on his own. She only accepted a lift because of the presence of his wife, Rose.
Detectives were convinced from the start that Rose West was involved in the murders. But she denied everything and feigned shock at her husband’s confessions.
She was bailed to a police safe house in Cheltenham, where she lived with Stephen and her eldest daughter Mae, but remained under suspicion. The house was bugged by police but she never said anything to implicate herself. On 18 April 1994 she was finally charged with a sex offence, the murder charges would come later and taken into custody.
House of Horrors
Throughout the spring and summer of 1994 the world’s media flocked to Gloucester to feast on the revelations coming out daily from what became known as the “House of Horrors”. Hugh Worsnip, a veteran journalist and columnist on the Gloucester Citizen, said: “It had a tremendous impact on the city.
“The world’s attention was turned to an obscure street in Gloucester.
“American and Japanese film crews were in the city and I was doing interviews for TV and radio stations all over the world.”
He said the revelations about what had been happening at 25 Cromwell Street came as a terrible blow to Gloucester’s civic pride: “It was regarded by many people in Gloucester as a sleight on the town.”
Mr Worsnip, who began working on the Citizen in the 1960s, said the fact that a serial killer had been operating in the city for 20 years came as a huge shock to everyone, journalists included. But he said that, with the exception of Lucy Partington, West had deliberately chosen people whose disappearance would not be unduly noticed.
“They were the type of people who were drifting in society and were not easily traceable,” he said.
But the case was about to take a turn for the worse…
On New Year’s Day 1995, just as the media hubbub was beginning to die down, Fred West hanged himself in Birmingham’s Winson Green prison, where he was awaiting his trial on twelve murder charges. His death spawned a new raft of gruesome revelations, but the full truth could not be published until Rose West had faced justice.
In October 1995 she was tried at Winchester Crown Court for ten murders, those of Rena Costello and Ann McFall pre-dated her appearance on the scene and must have been committed by Fred alone. It was one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.
Every day witnesses appeared in court with stories to tell which were shocking, gruesome and as far as Rose West was concerned, absolutely damning. There were to be many moments of high drama during the trial.
One of these moments of drama was when Fred West’s eldest daughter, Anne-Marie, fixed her stepmother with a glare across the packed court before describing how her parents had together embarked on a campaign of sexual abuse when she was aged eight.
The second day of Anne-Marie’s evidence was delayed for several hours after it became clear she had taken an overdose of pills during the night.
The trial was delayed for several days after Mrs Leach, under enormous stress, fell ill during her testimony.
Another witness, Caroline Raine, a former beauty queen, told the court of the night in 1972 when Fred and Rose abducted and sexually assaulted her as she hitch-hiked across Gloucestershire.
Her evidence was key. Prosecutor Brian Leveson, QC, suggested to the jury it was a blueprint for how the Wests were to pick up their victims. Caroline Raine was allowed to live and the Wests were later prosecuted and fined over the incident. Clearly they made up their minds that future victims would not be allowed to live to tell their tales.
By the end of the trial the jurors had been convinced of Rose West’s guilt.
She was found guilty on all ten counts by unanimous decision and was jailed for life. The home secretary has since told her that she will never be allowed out.
In October 1996, Gloucester City Council finally demolished 25 Cromwell Street.
There were calls for a memorial garden to be built on the spot but there were fears it would be turned into a ghoulish shrine. Today the spot where nine bodies were found is simply a landscaped footpath leading to the city centre.
But the legacy of the House of Horrors continues to take its toll.
Fred West’s brother John hanged himself as he waited to find out if a jury would find him guilty of raping Anne-Marie. She herself has struggled to come to terms with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and stepmother.
In November 1999 she was rescued after throwing herself into the water from a bridge near Gloucester in an apparent suicide bid. In January 2002 Stephen West attempted suicide at his home in Bussage, near Stroud after his girlfriend left him.
In a chilling echo of the death of his father and uncle, Stephen tried to hang himself but he survived when the rope snapped.
Eight years after police found the first body there continues to be speculation that Fred West claimed more victims and buried them somewhere in Gloucestershire.
Mrs Leach said Fred had admitted killing Mary Bastholm, a 15-year-old who went missing in Gloucester in 1968. She said: “Fred said that there were two other bodies in shallow graves in the woods but there was no way they would ever be found.
“He said there were 20 other bodies spread around and he would give the police one a year.”
If he was telling the truth, he has taken his secrets to the grave and Rose West is showing no signs of wanting to reveal any more about the murders as she serves her life sentences.
- 1967 – Ann McFall (Scottish nanny and Fred’s lover. Was eight months pregnant with his child). Body found in “letterbox field” near Much Marcle.
- 1970 – Rena Costello (Fred’s first wife, also Scottish). Body found in “fingerpost field” near Much Marcle.
- 1972 – Charmaine West, 8 (Rena’s eldest child). Body found beneath 25 Midland Road, Gloucester.
- 1973 – Linda Gough, 21 (seamstress from Gloucester). Body found beneath 25 Cromwell Street
- 1973 – Lucy Partington, 21 (university student, from Gotherington, near Cheltenham). Body found beneath 25 Cromwell Street.
- 1974 – Carol Cooper, 15 (schoolgirl from Worcester). Body found beneath 25 Cromwell Street.
- 1975 – Juanita Mott, 19 (from Newent, Glos) Body found beneath 25 Cromwell Street.
- 1975 – Shirley Hubbard, 15 (schoolgirl from Worcester). Body found beneath 25 Cromwell St.
- 1977 – Therese Siegenthaler, 21 (Swiss hitchhiker). Body found beneath 25 Cromwell St.
- 1977 – Alison Chambers, 17 (originally from Swansea). Body found in garden of 25 Cromwell St.
- 1978 – Shirley Robinson, 18 (lodger and Fred’s lover. Heavily pregnant). Body found in garden of 25 Cromwell St.
- 1987 – Heather West, 16 (Fred and Rose’s eldest daughter). Body found in garden of 25 Cromwell St.
February 24, 1994 was the beginning of the end — the end of the extraordinary things that had been going on in the ordinary three-story house in central Gloucester. But it was also the beginning of a discovery as the layers of secrets hidden at 25 Cromwell Street were slowly peeled away.
That afternoon, the police came to find the owner of the house, Frederick West. Instead, they found his heavy set, sullen wife Rosemary, who called her husband the minute they handed her the warrant. “You’d better get back home,” she told Fred when he answered the cellular phone in his van. “They’re going to dig up the garden, looking for Heather.”
The dark-haired, simian-looking man was not worried except that the police wouldn’t clean up the mess they were sure to make lifting up the patio stones in his garden, looking for the body of their daughter. He stopped by the police station on his way home from work. He told them he and Rose had no idea where Heather was, but he was not worried. “Lots of girls disappear,” he explained, “take a different name and go into prostitution.” He said she was a lesbian and had problems with drugs.
Rose, who was interviewed at the house, told a similar story. Heather disappeared at the age of sixteen, back in 1987. She repeated the story about Heather being a disagreeable and lazy person and a lesbian to boot.
That night Fred and Rose stayed up all night and talked. The next morning, he stepped into the police car. “I killed her,” he told Detective Constable Hazel Savage. When he got to the station, he told the police in minute detail how he had cut Heather’s body into three pieces and buried them. He kept repeating that Rose had known nothing about the murder at all.
Twenty minutes later he completely denied everything he had just told them. “Heather’s alive and well, right. She’s possibly at the moment in Bahrain working for a drug cartel. She had a Mercedes, a chauffeur and a new birth certificate.” He told the police that they could dig all they wanted but they wouldn’t find Heather.
The police found three human bones, but they didn’t belong to Heather. When Fred heard that human bones had been found, he confessed once again to murdering his daughter, but he denied that there were the bones of anyone else buried there.
Fred told how it all happened. The argument with the headstrong Heather, slapping her for her insolence and grabbing her throat to stop her from laughing at him. He must have grabbed too hard because she turned blue and stopped breathing. He tried to revive her, but he didn’t have the training, so he dragged her over to the bathtub and ran cold water over her. He took off her clothes, lifted her out of the tub and dried her off. Then he tried to put her in the large garbage bin, but she didn’t fit.
So it was back in the bathtub where he knew he would have to make her smaller. But first, he strangled her with some tights just to make sure that she was dead. ” I didn’t want to touch he while she was alive. I mean…if I’d have started cutting her leg or her throat and she’d have suddenly come alive…”
He closed Heather’s eyes before he dismembered her. “If somebody’s sat there looking at you, you’re not going to use a knife on that person are you?”
When he cut off her head, he found the sound — a “horrible noise…like scrunching” — very unpleasant. But, once her head was off, he started on her legs, twisting her foot until he heard “one almighty crack and the leg come loose, like.” Cut into pieces, she fit nicely into the garbage bin.
That night after the remainder of his family was asleep, he buried Heather’s body in the garden, where she lay undiscovered for seven years.
Fred West came from a long line of Herefordshire farm labourers. He was born in 1941 in the village of Much Marcle, approximately 120 miles west of London, to Walter and Daisy West. Fred began life as a beautiful baby with huge piercing blue eyes and blond hair.
Despite the war and the poverty in which the Wests lived, they had six more children, one after another within a ten-year-period. Fred and his mother enjoyed a very close relationship. He was her pet and did everything she asked. Fred also had a reasonably good relationship with his father, who he admired as a role model.
The beautiful baby grew up into a scruffy-looking boy. His blond hair turned to a dark brown and became curly and unkempt. He had inherited some of his mother’s less attractive facial features: an overly large mouth and a gap between his large teeth. He looked distinctly like a Gypsy.
Fred was not a promising student and was constantly in trouble for which he was caned. Daisy, seriously overweight and dressed unattractively, would go to the school to yell at the teacher for disciplining her favourite son — an action that made Fred the butt of many jokes. He was a “mamma’s boy.” He left school at age fifteen almost illiterate and went to work as a farm hand.
By the time he was sixteen, he cleaned himself up enough to be attractive to girls. He was extremely aggressive with the opposite sex and went after any girl that caught his fancy.
Fred claimed that his father had sex with his daughters, using the logic, “I made you so I’m entitled to have you.” But then, Fred was a notorious liar. It’s hard to say if his father ever was ever guilty of incest or that Fred made his sister pregnant as he later claimed.
When Fred was seventeen, he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident which left him in a coma for a week and resulted in having a metal plate put into his head. His leg was broken and was permanently shorter than the other leg. Some thought that this head injury made him prone to sudden fits of rage and that he seemed to have lost control over his emotions.
After his recovery from the accident, Fred met the pretty 16-year-old Catherine Bernadette Costello, nicknamed Rena, who had been in trouble with the police since early childhood. By the time she met Fred she was an accomplished and experienced thief. They became lovers almost immediately, but the affair ended when she went back home a few months later to Scotland.
Fred quickly turned his attentions elsewhere and stuck his hand up the skirt of a young woman standing with him on a fire escape at a local youth club. She was impressed enough with the gesture to knock him off the fire escape. In the fall, he banged his head and lost consciousness. The lasting impact on Fred’s behaviour suggested that between this incident and the motorcycle accident, he had suffered some brain damage.
In 1961, Fred and his friend stole a watch strap and cigarette cases from a jewellery store and were caught with the merchandise on them. Fred and his colleague were both fined. This was just the beginning of his troubles. A few months later, he was accused of impregnating a 13-year-old girl who was a friend of the West family. Fred was surprisingly uncooperative and didn’t see that there was anything wrong with molesting little girls. “Well, doesn’t every one do it?”
This attitude and the ensuing scandal caused a serious breach with his family. Fred was ordered to find somewhere else to live. Distanced now from his family, he went to work on construction projects. It wasn’t long before he was caught stealing from the construction sites and having sex with young girls.
At Fred’s trial for having sex with the 13-year-old girl, his physician claimed that he was suffering from epileptic fits. Consequently, he got off without a jail sentence, but the die was cast. At age 20, Fred West was a convicted child molester and petty thief — and a total disgrace to his family.
In 1962, Fred’s parents relented and let him come back to live with them at Much Marcle. That summer, his girlfriend Rena Costello came back from Scotland and took up with Fred immediately. They seemed well matched. Rena was not your average girl, but rather an experienced delinquent that as a teenager had a record for prostitution and burglary. That Rena was pregnant by an Asian bus driver introduced a complication into their relationship and to his parents’ acceptance of her as his mate.
Secretly, they married in November of that year and moved immediately to Scotland. His parents believed that the baby she was carrying was Fred’s. In March of 1963, when Charmaine was born, Fred had Rena write to his mother saying that their baby had died in childbirth and that she had adopted a mixed-race child.
Even though Rena had been a prostitute at various times, she was not happy to be a prisoner to the voracious sexual appetite of Fred West. Colin Wilson in The Corpse Garden tells how Fred’s interest in “normal sex” was minimal. “He wanted oral sex, bondage and…sodomy…at all hours of the day and night.
Fred drove an ice cream truck which afforded him unlimited access to many young women. For someone as highly sexed as Fred, it seemed like paradise. His politeness, apparent trustworthiness and sincerity, and his ability to spin interesting tales made him attractive to the teenagers who flocked around his ice cream truck. His continual seductions turned Rena and Charmaine into afterthoughts. Despite Fred’s almost daily infidelities, he was very possessive of Rena and Charmaine.
In 1964, Rina bore Fred’s child, a daughter they named Anna Marie. “On again, off again” characterized their roller coaster marriage for several years. During that time, Rena and Fred met Anna McFall, whose boyfriend had been killed in an accident. At that time, Fred was involved in an accident with the ice cream truck that killed a young boy. While Fred wasn’t at fault, he was concerned that he would lose his job. So, he and Rena and their two children, plus Anna McFall moved back to Gloucester. Fred had a job in a slaughterhouse.
Colin Wilson sees this job in the slaughterhouse as having a profound affect on Fred. “One thing is clear: that at some stage, West developed a morbid obsession with corpses and blood and dismemberment. There is no evidence that he had shown any such interest so far. It seems, then, that Fred West’s sexual perversion became slowly more obsessive in the period following his marriage, and the evidence suggests that necrophilia and desire to mutilate corpses began during his period as a butcher.”
Rena and Fred’s marriage became increasingly unstable. Rena wanted to take the two children back with her to Glasgow, but Fred refused, so she went back to Scotland alone. But she was miserable without her daughters and, in July of 1966, returned to Gloucester to find Fred and Anna McFall living together in a trailer.
Rena told Constable Hazel Savage that her husband was a sex pervert and unfit to raise their children. Coincidentally, there were eight sexual assaults committed in the Gloucester area committed by a man of Fred’s description.
In early 1967, Anna McFall became pregnant with Fred’s child. She was trying unsuccessfully to get Fred to divorce Rena and marry her. Fred responded to the stress of her demands by killing her and burying her near the trailer park sometime in July.
Not only did he kill his mistress and their unborn child, he slowly and methodically dismembered her corpse and buried her along with the fetus. Oddly enough, he cut off her fingers and toes, which were missing from the grave site. It would be his ritualistic signature in future crimes.
Fred acted very nervous after McFall’s disappearance. Then Rena moved back into the trailer and Fred became his old self again. Fred happily sent Rena out to earn some pocket money as a prostitute and began to openly fondle the young Charmaine.
In January of 1968, pretty 15-year-old Mary Bastholm was abducted from a bus stop in Gloucester. Howard Sounes believes that Fred was responsible because in later years, he abducted other women in a similar fashion from bus stops.
There were a number of links between Fred and Mary Bastholm: he was a customer at the Pop-In [where Mary worked] and Mary often served him tea; Fred had been employed to do some building work behind the café; Mary had been seen with a girl fitting the description of Fred’s former lover, Anna McFall; and one witness claims to have seen Mary in Fred’s car. (Sounes)
In February, Fred’s mother died of complications of a gallbladder operation. He launched into a series of petty thefts, which caused him to change jobs frequently. On November 29, 1968, while he was working as a bakery delivery driver, he met the girl who would become his next wife and longtime soul mate, Rose Letts.
Rosemary Letts was born in November 1953 in Devon, England with a less than auspicious heritage. Her father, Bill Letts was a schizophrenic. Her mother, Daisy Letts, suffered from severe depression. Bill Letts was a violent domestic tyrant who demanded unconditional obedience from his wife and children. He enjoyed disciplining them and seemed to look for reasons to beat them. Given Bill’s psychotic episodes and rigid Victorian behavior, he was not an ideal employee and drifted through a series of low-paying, unskilled jobs. The family was always short of money.
His son Andrew recalled, ” If he felt we were in bed too late, he would throw a bucket of cold water over us. He would order us to dig the garden, and that meant the whole garden. Then he would inspect it like an army officer, and if he was not satisfied, we would have to do it all over again…We were not allowed to speak and play like normal children. If we were noisy, he would go for us with a belt or chunk of wood. He would beat you black and blue until mum got in between us. Then she would get a good hiding.”
After giving birth to three daughters and a son and trying to cope with her violent husband, Daisy’s deepening depression resulted in hospitalization in 1953. She was treated with the controversial electroshock therapy. Shortly after a number of these treatments, which delivered electric currents into the brain, Daisy gave birth to Rosemary. The effect of the electroshock therapy upon the daughter growing in her womb was unknown.
However, Howard Sounes in his book, Fred & Rose, describes how Rose was different from other children:
She developed a habit of rocking herself in her cot; if she was put in a pram without the brake on, she rocked so violently that the pram crept across the room. As she became a little older, Rose only rocked her head, but she did this for hours on end. It was one of the first indications that, in the family’s words, she was ‘a bit slow.’…As Rose grew from a baby to a toddler to a little girl, she would swing her head for hours until she seemed to have hypnotized herself into semiconsciousness.”
“Dozy Rosie,” as she was called, was not very intelligent, but she had very pretty features: big brown eyes, a clear complexion and attractive brown hair. As she got older, she developed a tendency towards chubbiness.
Rose was smart enough, however, to make herself her father’s pet, always doing whatever he wished immediately. Thereby, she alone received paternal affection and escaped the beatings.
Given her lack of intellectual gifts, Rose was not a star performer in school. Also, she was overweight, which made her the butt of cruel jokes by her peers. She lashed out at them and attacked anyone who teased her. Consequently, she became known as an ill tempered, aggressive loner.
As a teenager, Rose showed signs of being sexually precocious, walking around naked after her baths and climbing into bed with her younger brother and fondling him sexually. Her father’s rules forbade her to date boys her own age and her heaviness and temperament kept boys from being interested in her. She focused her interest in sex on the older men of the village.
In January of 1968, Rose and other girls of the community began to fear for their safety. A fifteen-year-old girl named Mary Bastholm disappeared from a bus stop in Gloucester. Mary had been on the way to visit her boyfriend, carrying a Monopoly set. All that the police found at the bus stop were a few pieces of the Monopoly set. The disappearance was thought to be linked to several other rapes in the area.
Rose was cautious for awhile, but her boredom and loneliness drove her to seek out male companionship. On one occasion, an older man, who had taken advantage of her naïveté, raped her.
Early in 1969, Daisy Letts became tired of being her husband’s punching bag, took fifteen-year-old Rose, and moved in temporarily with her daughter Glenys and her husband. Without her father watching her, Rose spent a lot of time out at night. Her brother-in-law, Jim Tyler claimed that Rose carried on with a number of men much older than she was and that Rose had even tried to seduce him.
In mid-1969, Rose moved back with her father, an action that surprised everyone. Some said that Rose and her father had an incestuous relationship and that Bill Letts had a reputation for molesting young girls, but all of this was unsubstantiated rumour.
Thus in her early teens, Rose Letts seemed destined for a dull and unhappy life: she was not very smart and not very pleasant tempered. She was an underachiever, a rebel against authority and unfocused toward any productive goal, aside from finding a lover older than herself.
Then she met Fred West.
Love and Death
However limited Bill Letts was as an ideal parent, he saw Fred West as a completely undesirable boyfriend for Rose. When Bill found that Rose was sleeping with Fred, he raised a fuss with the Social Services. When that was ineffective, he showed up at Fred’s trailer park and threatened him.
Meanwhile West was sent to prison for various thefts and failure to pay fines for previous offenses. Rose went back to stay with her father until he found that she was pregnant with Fred’s child. At age 16, Rose left her father’s house to take care of Charmaine and Anna Marie, as well as deal with Fred, who seemed to always be in trouble with the law.
In 1970, she gave birth to Heather. With three children to care for, a boyfriend in jail and constant money problems, Rose’s temper flared constantly. She resented having to take care of Rena’s children and treated them badly.
One day in the summer of 1971, Charmaine was suddenly missing and Rose told her sister Anna Marie that Rena had come to get her. Colin Wilson believes that Rose “simply lost her temper, and went further than usual in beating or throttling her. She was, as Anna Marie said, a woman entirely without self-control; when she lost her temper, she became a kind of maniac.”
Since Fred was in jail when Charmaine was murdered, his involvement probably extended to burying her body under the kitchen floor of their home on Midland Road where it lay undiscovered for over 20 years. Before he buried Charmaine, he took off her fingers, toes and kneecaps. Fred would hold this criminal secret over Rose for the rest of her life.
When her father came to take her away from Fred, Fred reminded her: “Come on, Rosie, you know what we’ve got between us.” Bill Letts noticed that that statement upset Rose. “You don’t know him!” she told her parents. “You don’ t know him! There’s nothing he wouldn’t do — even murder!”
Gloucester had a large population of West Indians that created entertainment and extra income for both Rose and Fred. Rose invited many West Indian men over to their house on Midland Road to have sex with her — either for cash or fun. Fred, the voyeur encouraged this behavior and watched through a peephole. As over-sexed as he was, Fred was not at all interested in ordinary sex. It had to involve bondage, vibrators, acts of sadism or lesbianism to get him involved. Fred took erotic photos of Rose and ran them as ads in magazines for “swingers.”
When Rose murdered Charmaine, she created both a problem and an opportunity for Fred regarding his first wife Rena. It was just a matter of time before Rena came around looking for Charmaine. In fact, in August of 1971, Rena sought out Walter, Fred’s father, in hopes that he could tell her what happened to Charmaine.
Fred saw that he had no choice but to kill Rena. In all likelihood, he probably got her very drunk and then strangled her at his house on Midland Road. He then dismembered her body and mutilated it in the same odd way that he had Anna McFall’s body: he cut off Rena’s fingers and toes. Then he put her remains into bags and buried her in the same general area as he buried Anna McFall.
Later that year, Fred and Rose became friendly with their new neighbour, Elizabeth Agius, who babysat for them several times. When Fred and Rose returned home, Elizabeth asked them where they had been. The surprisingly candid answer was that they were cruising around looking for young girls, hopefully young virgins. Fred thought that with Rose in the car that a young woman would not fear taking a ride with them. Elizabeth assumed at the time that they were joking. Another time, Agius was openly propositioned by Fred. And still another time, she was, according to Colin Wilson, drugged and raped.
In June of 1972, Rose had another daughter by Fred. They named her Mae West. This time, the child was legitimate, Fred and Rose having married in January of that year at the Gloucester Registry Office.
Fred and Rose decided they needed a house to raise their growing family and also accommodate Rose’s prostitution business. Number 25 Cromwell was just the place. The house was not much to look at on the outside, but the inside was large and had a garage and a good-sized cellar. They took in lodgers to help pay the rent.
Fred had plans for the cellar and told Elizabeth Agius that he was either going to make it into a place for Rose to entertain her clients or he would soundproof it and use it as his “torture chamber.”
The first client was his eight-year-old daughter, Anna Marie. He and Rose undressed her and told her that she was lucky that she had such caring parents who were making sure that when she got married she would be able to satisfy her husband. Anna Marie’s hands were tied behind her and a gag put in her mouth.
Then while Rose held the girl down, her father raped her. The pain was so severe that the girl could not go to school for several days. She was warned that she would be beaten if she ever told anyone about the rape. Another time, Anna Marie was strapped down while her father raped her quickly on his brief lunch hour.
In late 1972, Fred and Rose picked up a 17-year-old girl named Caroline Owens and hired her as a nanny. They promised Caroline’s family that they would watch out for her while she lived with them.
Caroline was very attractive, so much so that Rose and Fred competed with each other to seduce her. In short order, Caroline found the Wests repugnant and told them she was leaving. The couple abducted, stripped and raped her. Fred told her that if she didn’t do what he wanted, “I’ll keep you in the cellar and let my black friends have you, and when we’re finished we’ll kill you and bury you under the paving stones of Gloucester.” Terrified, she believed him. When her mother saw her bruises, she got the truth from her and called the police.
There was a hearing in January of 1973. Fred was thirty-one and Rose a mere nineteen — and pregnant once again. Fred was able to con the magistrate into believing that Caroline was a willing partner. Despite Fred’s criminal record, the magistrate did not believe the Wests were capable of violence and fined them each.
For some time, the Wests had been carrying on a friendship with seamstress Lynda Gough. Eventually, Lynda moved into 25 Cromwell Street to take care of the children. Something went amiss in the relationship and Lynda was murdered. Fred dismembered her and buried her in a pit in the garage. True to his ritual, he removed her fingers, toes and kneecaps. When Lynda’s family came looking for her, they were told that she had stayed there but had left.
A hideous pattern was emerging. Young women would come to stay at 25 Cromwell either as lodgers or friends or nannies, but so few ever made it out with their lives. The house was slowly becoming a monument to the depravity of its inhabitants.
House of Horrors
1973 was a year for the Wests to celebrate. They walked away from Caroline Owens’ rape and abduction charge with only a fine and they murdered Lynda Gough with no police repercussions at all. Then in August, their first son, Stephen, was born.
Emboldened by their success, they abducted fifteen-year-old Carol Ann Cooper in November and amused themselves with her sexually — that is, until she outlived her entertainment value and was snuffed out by strangulation or suffocation, dismembered and buried. She joined the growing city of the dead at 25 Cromwell Street.
Industrious Fred, persistent in his home improvements, had enlarged the cellar and was demolishing the garage to build an extension to the main house. No matter that these improvements were done at very strange hours.
A little over a month later, university student Lucy Partington had gone home to her mother’s house to spend the Christmas holiday. On December 27, she went to visit her disabled friend and left to catch a bus shortly after 10 P.M. She had the misfortune to meet up with Fred and Rose, who probably knocked her out and abducted her. Like Carol Ann Cooper, she was tortured for approximately a week and then murdered, dismembered and buried in Fred’s construction projects. He cut himself while dismembering Lucy and had to go to the hospital for stitches on January 3, 1974.
Lucy, like Carol Ann Cooper, was reported missing, but there was nothing to tie the two girls to the Wests.
Between April of 1974 and April of 1975, three young women — Therese Siegenthaler, 21, Shirley Hubbard, 15, and Juanita Mott, 18, met the same fate as Carol Ann Cooper and Lucy Partington. Their tortured and dismembered bodies were buried under the cellar floor of the West’s house.
Bondage was becoming a major thrill for Fred and Rose. Shirley’s head had been wrapped entirely with tape and a plastic tube was inserted in her nose so that she could breathe. Juanita was subjected to even more extreme bondage:
Juanita was gagged with a ligature made from two long, white nylon socks (similar to those worn by Rose), a brassiere and two pairs of tights, one within the other. She was then trussed up with lengths of plastic-covered rope, of the type used for washing line. The rope was used in a complicated way, with loops tied around her arms and thighs, both wrists, both ankles and her skull, horizontally and vertically, backwards and forwards across her body until she could only wriggle like a trapped animal. Then the Wests produced a seven-foot length of rope with a slipknot end forming a noose. This was probably used to suspend Juanita’s body from the beams in the cellar. (Sounes)
Incredibly enough with this charnel house in his cellar, Fred continued to attract the police with continuous thefts and fencing stolen goods. It was necessary for Fred to keep stealing to pay for his home improvement projects. His home improvement projects were necessary to keep the monstrous habits of his wife and himself covered up with layers of concrete.
In 1976, the Wests enticed a young woman, designated as Miss A by the courts, from a home for wayward girls. At Cromwell Street, Miss A was led into a room with two naked girls who were prisoners there. She witnessed the torture of the two girls and was raped by Fred and sexually assaulted by Rose.
One of the girls that Miss A saw was probably Anna Marie, Fred’s daughter who was a constant target of the couple’s sexual sadism. As if Fred’s rape and torture of his daughter was not enough, he brought home his friends to have sex with her.
In 1977, the upstairs of the house had been remodeled to allow for a number of lodgers. One of them was Shirley Robinson, 18, a former prostitute with bisexual inclinations. Shirley developed relationships with both Fred and Rose. Shirley became pregnant with Fred’s child after Rose was pregnant with the child of one of her black clients.
While Fred was pleased that Rose was carrying a mixed child, Rose was not comfortable with Shirley carrying Fred’s child. Shirley foolishly thought that she could displace Rose in Fred’s life and, in the process, jeopardized her own existence. Rose made it clear that Shirley had to go.
And go she did, seven months after Rose gave birth to Tara in December of 1977, Shirley joined the rest of the girls buried on Cromwell Street. The cellar being full, Shirley was put in the rear garden along with her unborn child. This time, Fred dismembered Shirley and their unborn baby.
In November of 1978, Rose and Fred had yet another daughter who they named Louise, making a total of six children in the bizarre and unwholesome household. Fred also impregnated his daughter Anna Marie, but the pregnancy occurred in her fallopian tube and had to be terminated.
In May of 1979, Rose’s father died of a lung ailment. Several months later, the Wests were up to their old tricks and murdered a troubled teenager named Alison Chambers after they raped and tortured her. Like Shirley, Alison was buried in the “overflow” cemetery in the rear garden.
The children were aware of some of the goings on in the home. They knew that Rose was a prostitute and that Anna Marie was being raped by her father. When Anna Marie moved out to live with her boyfriend, Fred focused his sexual advances on Heather and Mae. Heather resisted her father and was beaten for it.
In June of 1980, Rose gave birth to Barry, Fred’s second son. Then again, in April of 1982, Rose gave birth to Rosemary Junior, who was not Fred’s child.
In July of 1983, Rose gave birth to another daughter who they named Lucyanna. She was half-black, like Tara and Rosemary Junior. Rose became increasingly irrational and beat the children without provocation. The stress of so many children in the household took its toll on Rose’s already bad temper.
The Wests probably continued to carry on their sexual abductions, but did not bury any of these new victims at 25 Cromwell St.
In 1986, the wall of filial silence that has protected the Wests, was broken. Heather told her girlfriend about her father’s advances, her mother’s affairs and the beatings she received. The girlfriend told her parents, who were friends of the Wests, and Heather’s life was in jeopardy.
After her parents murdered her, they told the children that she left home. Fred asked his son Stephen to help him dig a hole in the rear garden, where Fred later buried Heather’s dismembered body.
Rose built up her prostitution business by advertising in special magazines. She and Fred were on the lookout for women who they could get to participate in their various perversions as well as prostitute herself under Rose’s direction. One such woman, Katherine Halliday, became a fixture in the West household and saw first hand the black bondage suits and masks that they had collected, plus the whips and chains. With good reason, Katherine became alarmed and quickly broke off her relationship with them.
As time went on, Fred and Rosemary became increasingly concerned about creating a minimum façade of respectability, not because they cared what people thought of them, but because they were concerned that knowledge of what had gone on in their house would jeopardize their freedom.
The West’s long run of luck was coming to an end. One of the very young girls that Fred had raped with Rose’s assistance told her girlfriend what happened. The girlfriend went to the police and the case was assigned to a very talented and persistent Detective Constable named Hazel Savage. Hazel knew Fred from his days with Rena and remembered the stories that Rena had told her about Fred’s sexual perversions.
On August 6, 1992, police arrived at 25 Cromwell Street with a search warrant to look for pornography and evidence of child abuse. They found mountains of pornography and arrested Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor. Fred was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor.
Hazel Savage went to work interviewing family members and friends of the Wests. When she talked to Anna Marie, she heard for the first time the shocking story about how she had been so severely abused. She also expressed her concerns about Charmaine, who Hazel had known from her experiences with Rena.
Hazel had all she needed to bring child abuse charges, but she needed to further investigate the disappearance of Charmaine, Rena and Heather. Hazel was not satisfied that Heather had disappeared without a trace. Insurance and tax records showed that Heather had not been employed nor had she visited a doctor in four years. Either she had left the country or was dead.
The younger children were taken from Rose and put into government care. With Fred in jail and the police closing in on her, Rose took an overdose of pills and attempted suicide. Her son Stephen found her and saved her life. Later, she escaped from her loneliness by stuffing herself with candy and watching Disney videos.
Fred didn’t do much better in prison. He was very depressed and sorry for himself. Actually, his luck was holding — for the time being. The case against the Wests collapsed when two key witnesses decided not to testify against them. But the seeds of their discovery had been sown. The strange, inexplicable disappearance of Heather was firmly implanted in Hazel Savage’s mind.
Hazel took over the case and launched an inquiry into Heather’s whereabouts. When no sign of the girl was found, Hazel feared that that the rumor was true that Heather was buried under the patio. The West children were questioned repeatedly. Fred had threatened them that if they didn’t keep their silence that they would end up under the patio like Heather.
Detective Superintendent John Bennett was in charge of the media-sensitive case. Finally the warrant to search the Cromwell Street house and garden was signed, but the logistics of digging up a fifteen by sixty-foot garden were nontrivial. Furthermore, Fred’s extension to the house was built over a portion of the garden. The search would be very expensive and be certain to attract attention of the media.
Things improved for the investigation after Fred confessed to killing his daughter and after human bones other than Heather’s were found in the garden. When Rose was informed of Fred’s confession, she claimed that Fred had sent her out of the house the day Heather disappeared and had no knowledge of Heather’s death.
The police set about the grim task of digging up the large garden. Fred had been released temporarily until there was evidence to hold him. But, as Fred watched the police dig up the garden, he knew it was a matter of time before they found Heather and the others buried in the rear garden.
Fred told his son that he had done something really bad and would be going away for awhile. Steve remembered that “He looked at me so evil and so cold. That look went right through me.”
Finally the police found the remains of a young woman, dismembered and decapitated. Then another victim was found. When the police heard about the disappearance of Shirley Robinson, the scope of the investigation widened.
To protect Rose, Fred claimed responsibility for the murders himself. He was charged with the murders of Heather, Shirley Robinson and the as yet unidentified third woman. Furthermore, an investigation was opened into the disappearance of Rena and Charmaine. For some reason, Fred decided to tell the police about the girls buried in his cellar. Fred admitted to murdering the girls, but not rape. These girls, he maintained, wanted to have sex with him.
As Fred chatted about his murders, the police tried to grapple with the evidence. Lining up bodies with names was not an easy task. Nine sets of bones were discovered in the cellar and the police did not know whose they were. Fred was not much help since he could not remember the names and details of some of the women he had picked up. Considering the many women who go missing every year, extensive work had to be done to match up missing person’s reports with the remains.
As the case developed, Rose abandoned Fred to save herself. She tried to position herself as the victim of a murderous man, but she was not particularly convincing. Police worked continuously to tie her in to the crimes.
The bodies of Rena, Anna McFall and Charmaine were found as Fred continued to cooperate with the police. On the Mary Bastholm case, Fred decided to quit cooperating and her body was not found.
At their joint hearing, Fred attempted to console Rose, but she avoided his touch. She told the police he made her sick. The great partnership in crime was over.
Rose’s rejection was devastating to Fred. On December 13, 1994, he was charged with twelve murders. Again, Rose brushed him off. He had written to her, “We will always be in love… You will always be Mrs. West, all over the world. That is important to me and to you.”
Just before noon on New Year’s Day at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, when the guards were having lunch, Fred hanged himself with strips of bedsheet. He had clearly planned his suicide well in advance so that he would not be discovered.
Despite the paucity of direct evidence linking her to the murders, Rose went to trial on October 3, 1995. A number of witnesses — including Caroline Owens, Miss A, and Anna Marie — testified to Rose’s sadistic sexual assaults on young women.
The goal of the prosecution, led by Brian Leveson QC, was to construct a tight web of circumstantial evidence of Rose’s guilt. The defense, led by Richard Ferguson QC, tried to show that evidence of sexual assault was not the same as evidence of murder. That Rose did not know what Fred was doing when he murdered the girls and buried them in various places.
Ferguson made the mistake of putting Rose on the stand. Her defiance came through very clearly to the jury. Furthermore, the prosecution learned to extract damaging testimony from her by making her angry. She left the jury with entrenched beliefs that Rose had treated the children badly and that she was completely dishonest.
Finally the defense played the recordings of Fred West describing how he had murdered the victims when Rose was out of the house. Unfortunately for Rose, Fred was shown to be lying on key issues, which threw his entire statement into doubt.
The most dramatic evidence was given by Janet Leach, who was called as the “appropriate adult” (witness) to Fred West’s police interviews. Privately, Fred had told her that Rose was involved in the murders — and that Rose had murdered Charmaine and Shirley Robinson without him — but that he made a deal with his wife to take all the blame on himself.
Janet was so stressed by this confidential confession that she suffered a stroke. It was only after Fred’s death that she felt that she could tell the police what he had said to her. After her testimony, she collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.
In his summary, Leveson called Rose the “strategist” and the dominant partner. “The evidence that Rosemary West knew nothing is not worthy of belief.” Ferguson, in his summary, stressed that the evidence only pointed to Fred.
The jury took very little time to find Rose guilty of the murders of Charmaine, Heather, Shirley Robinson and the other girls buried at the house. The judge sentenced her to life imprisonment on each of ten counts of murder.
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