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.