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Fred West

Crime Files
Fred West

Fred West pure evil?

Fred West was born to Walter and Daisy West on 29 September 1941 in Much Marcle, a Herefordshire village. Unlike many individuals who go on to become serial killers, West actually enjoyed very good relationships with both his mother and father, although poor application and a troublesome nature led to him leaving school prematurely to become a farm labourer. He did claim later that his father had incestuous relations with his sisters, although this was never substantiated.When he was seventeen, a motorcycle accident left him comatose with serious head injuries, and a metal plate in his head that may, according to some experts, have affected his impulse control. Another head injury incurred when falling off a fire escape at a local youth club caused additional injury, and possibly permanent brain damage to the young West.

When he was seventeen, a motorcycle accident left him comatose with serious head injuries, and a metal plate in his head that may, according to some experts, have affected his impulse control. Another head injury incurred when falling off a fire escape at a local youth club caused additional injury, and possibly permanent brain damage to the young West.

His subsequent behaviour became erratic, and he became known to the police for various petty crimes, which escalated until, in 1961, he was accused of impregnating a 13-year-old girl who was a friend of the West family, causing his banishment from the family home. He became a construction worker, and was soon caught pilfering from his employers, and again having sex with minors. At his trial, for the rape of the young family friend, he escaped a jail sentence, as it was claimed that he was suffering fits as a result of his head trauma, but he was convicted of child molestation.

He became involved with Rena Costello, a Scottish girl of dubious reputation who had a police record for burglary and prostitution, who was at the time pregnant with another man’s child. They were married in November and a mixed race child was born in March 1963, whom they called Charmaine. Despite Rena’s sexual experience, she was not prepared for West’s unusual and voracious sexual appetite, and his new job as an ice cream van driver gave him steady access to young teenagers, who fell prey to his sincere manner and interest in them.In 1964, Rena bore West's child, a daughter named Anne-Marie. It was also at this time that they met Ann McFall, a friend with whom they moved to Gloucester, where West found a job in a slaughterhouse. According to some researchers, this profession probably catalysed his morbid obsession with death, mutilation and dismemberment.

A colour photo of Fred West imposed over a larger black and white photo
Image Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Photograph of Fred West. Photograph taken in 1994.


Born Fred West 29 September 1941 Rosemary Letts 29 November 1953The Victims 1967 - Ann McFall 1970 - Rena Costello 1972 - Charmaine West, 8 1973 - Linda Gough, 21 (seamstress from Gloucester). 1973 - Lucy Partington, 21 (university student, from Cheltenham). 1974 - Carol Cooper, 15 (schoolgirl from Worcester). 1975 - Juanita Mott, 19 (from Newent, Gloucestershire) 1975 - Shirley Hubbard, 15 (schoolgirl from Worcester) 1977 - Therese Siegenthaler, 21 (Swiss hitchhiker) 1977 - Alison Chambers, 17 (originally from Swansea) 1978 - Shirley Robinson, 18 (lodger and Fred's lover. Heavily pregnant) 1987 - Heather West, 16Arrested 1 March 1994 - Fred West 25 April 1994 - Rose WestTrial Rose West - 3 October 1995Convicted Rose West - 22 November 1995Died Fred West - 1 January 1995

The Aftermath

The West's awful Legacy

Rose West’s sentence was later extended to a “whole life” sentence by the Home Secretary, effectively removing any possibility of parole.There remains a widespread belief that Fred and Rose West’s victims numbered far more than the twelve with which they were charged.She refused to accept her fate, and launched appeals in 1996 and 2000, claiming variously that new evidence clearing her had come to light, and then that the huge media interest had prevented her from receiving a fair trial, but both of these appeals were rejected, and she remains incarcerated at Winchester Prison.No 25 Cromwell Street, or the “House of Horrors”, as it was dubbed by the media, was eventually razed to the ground in October 1996, and in its place is a pathway that leads to the town centre.Rose was again the focus of media attention in January 2003, when it was claimed that she was to marry Dave Glover, the bass player of rock band Slade, following a year-long courtship via letters, but Glover pulled out when the media attention became overwhelming.

The Trial

Insanity is finally over

Rose West went on trial on 3 October 1995 in the glare of media frenzy. Witnesses including her daughter Anne Marie and Caroline Owens, one of their first victims, testified to her participation in sexual assaults on young women. Her defence counsel tried to argue that evidence of assault was not evidence of murder but, when Rose testified on her own behalf, her violent nature and dishonesty became clear to the jury, and they unanimously found her guilty on ten separate counts of murder on 22 November 1995. She was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail.

The Arrest

"A Family affair"

Given that the West’s vicious sex acts did not result in murder every time, and the sheer number of attacks, it was inevitable that someone would expose their activities, which resulted in them coming to the attention of Detective Constable Hazel Savage, who led a search at Cromwell Street in August of 1992 that found pornography and clear evidence of child abuse. West was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor, and Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor.In the course of the investigation DC Savage uncovered the abuse of Anne-Marie, as well as the disappearances of Charmaine and Heather, which warranted further investigation, as well as rumours about what might be buried under the patio. The younger West children were taken into care, and Rose attempted suicide at this time, although she was found by her son, Stephen, and revived.The case against the Wests collapsed when two key witnesses decided not to testify against them, but DC Savage continued to pursue her search for Heather, questioning the West children repeatedly, but they had been well trained by their abusive parents and failed to cooperate.On 24 February 1994 a warrant was obtained to search the Cromwell Street house and garden, and police found the remains of two dismembered and decapitated young women, one of whom the police suspected might be Shirley Robinson. West claimed sole responsibility for the murders and, when Rose heard of the confession, she denied all knowledge of Heather’s death.

Then, inexplicably, West admitted the presence of the bodies in the cellar to the police, who discovered the remains of nine individuals. Establishing the identities of each victim was a mammoth task.Continuing in his spirit of cooperation, West revealed the whereabouts of the remains of first wife Rena, lover MacFall and daughter Charmaine, who were all buried away from the Cromwell Street house.As the case against them developed, Rose tried increasingly to distance herself from West, claiming that she was also a victim, but police were not convinced of her innocence, given the sheer number of murders which had occurred, and her participation in the rapes.On 13 December 1994, West was charged on twelve counts of murder, and he was taken into custody at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, pending trial where, on 1 January 1995, he hanged himself in his cell with knotted bed sheets.

The Crimes

Unhealthy Relationship

Whilst living in Gloucester, there were eight reported incidents of assault where the perpetrator description fitted West, but he was not linked to these crimes at the time. The West marriage became increasingly unstable, and Rena returned to Scotland, leaving her children with West & Ann McFall, but she returned some months later to find them living together in a caravan.Early in 1967, Ann McFall became pregnant with West's child, urging him to divorce Rena and marry her instead. West, unwilling to do so, killed the heavily pregnant McFall that July, and buried her near the caravan park, cutting off her fingers and toes, a signature mutilation that was to become a common feature in his future crimes. Rena moved back into the caravan following McFall’s disappearance.Within six months of McFall’s death, West may have been linked to another disappearance, that of 15-year-old Mary Bastholm, who was abducted from a bus stop in Gloucester in January 1968, although only circumstantial evidence has ever been produced to corroborate this. In November 1968 he became acquainted with Rose Letts, who went on to become his next wife, and life-long accomplice.Rosemary Letts was born in Devon on 29 November 1953, the result of a difficult pregnancy. Electro-convulsive therapy, administered to her pregnant mother for deep-seated depression, may have caused prenatal injury that contributed to her poor school performance and bouts of aggression growing up. She had a weight problem in adolescence, but it did not stifle an inherent sexual precocity, which manifested itself in an interest in older men.Rose’s parents’ marriage was a turbulent one, with her father prone to violent behaviour that resulted in her mother, Daisy, moving out of the family home, taking Rose with her. Rose, however, decided to move back in with her father again, which occurred around the same time that she became intimate with Fred West, aged just 16.

Her father objected strongly to her relationship, and resorted to contacting Social Services and threatening West directly, but to no avail; she was soon pregnant with West’s child and found herself looking after his two children by Rena Costello, when West was sent to prison on various petty theft and fine evasion charges. She gave birth to daughter Heather in 1970.The pressure of caring for three children, whilst still a child herself, caused Rose to exhibit violent erratic tendencies, and it is believed that she murdered Charmaine, West’s eldest child, in 1971, during one of these violent outbursts.Whatever the circumstances, Charmaine suddenly disappeared and, as West was in jail at the time, it is likely that her body was hidden by Rose until West’s release. He agreed to hide the body, again removed the fingers and toes, as with his first victim, before burying her. This knowledge of Rose’s murderous act undoubtedly gave West a significant hold over Rose.When West’s first wife, Rena, came in search of her daughter, her fate was inevitable: she was strangled, dismembered and also had her fingers and toes removed, before being buried in the same general area as West’s first victim, Ann McFall.Fred and Rose West were married in Gloucester in January 1972, and their second daughter, named Mae, was born in June of the same year. With a growing family, they moved to No 25 Cromwell Street, which was large enough to enable them to take in lodgers to assist with the rent.They were both indulging their unconventional sexual appetites by this time, with Rose earning extra money as a prostitute (often while West watched) and West exercising an almost insatiable appetite for bondage and violent sex acts on underage girls. He fitted out the cellar at No 25 as a torture chamber, and his 8-year-old daughter, Anne-Marie, became one of its first occupants, subjected to a horrifically brutal rape by her father whilst her stepmother held her down. This became a regular occurrence, and the child was threatened with beatings if she told anyone of her ordeal.Their behaviour extended beyond the family circle when, in late 1972, they engaged a 17-year-old called Caroline Owens as a nanny. She was incarcerated, stripped and raped. Despite threats that she would be killed and buried in the cellar, Owens reported the Wests to the police, and charges were brought against them. Incredibly, and despite his existing criminal record, West was able to convince a magistrate, when the case came to court in 1973, that she had consented to the activities, and the Wests both escaped with fines. Rose was pregnant at the time with their first son, Stephen, who was born in August.Over the next five years their good fortune was to prove misfortune for Lynda Gough, Lucy Partington, Juanita Mott, Therese Siegenthaler, Alison Chambers, Shirley Robinson and 15-year-old schoolgirls Carol Ann Cooper and Shirley Hubbard, all of whom became victims of the West couple’s insatiable appetite for violent sex. After brutal sexual attacks, all were murdered, dismembered and buried in the cellar under No 25, having first had their fingers and toes removed.Rose produced children with alarming frequency and daughter Louise was born in November 1978, bringing their offspring to six, although not all were fathered by West. Barry joined the brood in June 1980, with Rosemary Junior following in 1982 and Lucyanna in 1983. They were aware to some extent of the activities in the house, but West and Rose exercised strict control over them.West’s sexual interest in his own daughters didn’t wane either, and when Anne-Marie moved out to live with her boyfriend, he switched his attentions to younger siblings, Heather and Mae. Heather resisted his attentions and, in 1986, committed the cardinal sin of telling a friend about the goings on in the house. The Wests responded by murdering and dismembering her, and burying her in the back garden of No 25, where son Stephen was forced to assist with digging the hole.