Rosemary West

Crime Files

Infamous

Rosemary Pauline West was the fifth child of electrician Bill and his wife Daisy Letts. Though not diagnosed at the time, it was later speculated that Bill was a schizophrenic. His wife, Daisy, however, was known to suffer from deep depression. Depression so bad that even though she was expecting Rose, she was given a very traumatic treatment:“...her mother was apparently being treated with electro compulsive therapy when she was pregnant with Rose.” - Dr. Raj Dargee, Forensic PsychiatristSome suspect that Rose may have suffered prenatal injury as a result.Rose was born on 29 November 1953. The family lived in a little seaside town called Northam in Devon;“It was very picturesque - quite remote in the winter - but in the summer absolutely idyllic.” - Jane Carter Woodrow, Author“...It was all farmland, fields, we had the sea...and there was always a big meal on the table; it was great.”- Gill Job, Former Neighbour of the Letts Family

But this was not the reality or routine of the Letts family. DOZY ROSIE The father, Bill, was a ‘despot’ in ‘very dysfunctional house.’ “...the children...well, they didn’t have a good life. They never went out very much...They were never allowed to get dirty...That’s why they just walked around the garden. They didn’t play in the garden, just walked around all sort of stiff armed...they weren’t allowed out of that wall.”-Gill JobIt was said that Bill made his daughters clean the carpet with their toothbrushes.“...people would see this very charming man but behind closed doors he was very violent to his wife Daisy; he was violent to some of the children. Rose was, to some extent, protected from that.” -Jane Carter WoodrowOne reason Bill wasn’t as mean to Rosie was because he knew there was something not quite right with her. Her school performance was poor, she was bullied because she was chubby and other children called her ‘Dozy Rosie’: The other reason could have been because he was sexually abusing her. Whatever was done to her was so damaging, that even as an adult, she couldn’t confront it:“When I took a proof of evidence from her it was a sanitised version of her early life that she gave where the darker sinister side was dealt with by symbols almost.  You know there was this man in a dark cape and dark hat, almost a shadow following her as a child when she’d walk. And that was about as near as she’d get.” - Lee Goatley, Rose West’s Former SolicitorOne theory is that Rose learnt to use sex to placate the worst excesses of her father. Aged thirteen, the family moved to the village of Bishops Cleeve, in Gloucestershire. And it was there just a few years later that Rose would meet Fred West...

Timeline

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

We will never know the real number of victims

Rosemary West launched an appeal against her conviction in 1995.In 1996, the Lord Chief Justice rejected it.That year, 25 Cromwell Street was demolished. A walkway replaced it. There is no memorial or marker to the horror that took place there.In 2000, Rose considered appealing her conviction. In 2001, she abandoned it saying she felt she would never be free, even if released. Bizarrely, in 2003, she came close to marrying a session bass player with the rock band Slade. Just days after the wedding plans were announced, however, adverse publicity meant it was all called off.For relatives and friends of those who died and for the others that disappeared around the time and in the area of the Wests killings, the uncertainty over how their loved ones met their end is still painful:“If I could have one wish it would be for her to just tell the truth about what she does know. Whether that be she has took part in murders or she knew these young girls were going to be disposed of. Whatever, she’s doing her life sentence so why not just come out and tell the truth?  A confession would help a lot of people. People who don’t know.”-Caroline Roberts, Wests’ former nanny

And there was, also, that near decade gap in the Wests killings – between the murder of Shirley Robinson in 1978 and that of Heather in 1987. This is only supposed from the fact that no victims have been found that died during this period.Most experts believe, however, that it is unlikely that a sexual serial killer like Fred, or Rose, could have relented for eight years.This means it is unlikely we will ever know the true number of West victims.Rose West is currently serving her sentences in HMP Low Newton.She will never be released.She has still not admitted her guilt.

The Trial

How much did Rose know?

The first time the Wests were in court together was at Gloucester Magistrates Court in 1973. That time they were accused of indecent assault against their former nanny and lodger, Caroline Roberts. The persuasive Fred and pretty and pregnant Rosemary had talked their way out of jail time and escaped with £100 fines. By their next appearance, in June 1994, again at Gloucester, everything had changed. The 41-year-old bespectacled Rosemary West was now a mother of eight. And a long period of comfort eating had changed her into a dumpy housewife. As the defendant, she faced multiple murder charges.  These included the murder of her 16-year-old daughter, her eight-year-old stepdaughter and her husband’s pregnant lover. The killer couple hadn’t seen each other for several months. Fred was desperate for acknowledgement.Rose blanked him.

The effect on Fred was huge. He declined fast.The Court braced itself for what was being billed as the trial of the century. The world’s press were there:“It was an absolute media scrum... We were not spared any of the graphic details about what had become of these poor girls. There was the pathological evidence which all pointed up to some form of sadistic behaviour against them whilst they were still alive - culminating in their death.”-Paul Stokes, JournalistBut the evidence displayed didn’t seem to affect Rosemary West. She appeared to show little emotion in the dock, apart from on one occasion:“The time that she did show tears or drop her head was when there was reference to Heather, her daughter. Whether this was play acting, whether it was real, it was very hard to tell.”-Paul Stokes, JournalistOn New Year’s Day 1995, the news broke that Fred had slowly asphyxiated himself using a blanket as a rope:“It not only had him cheating justice himself, it left the legal system with a problem. He and Rose had been jointly charged with most of the murders but now it was Rose alone.”-Paul StokesAnd so the trial of Rosemary West began on the 3 October 1995 at Winchester Crown Court. She was charged with the murder of ten young women and girls.Against advice, Rose took the stand. Dressed in black and easily angered by the prosecution, she did not come across well. Witness testimony and exhaustive forensic evidence combined to give a damning prosecution case. The methodology used to bind, torture and kill victims was shown to be similar to those used on survivors. It all combined to form what is termed ‘similar fact evidence’:“Similar fact evidence is circumstantial evidence...it’s the smoke rather than the fire.”-Leo Goatley, Rose West’s Former Solicitor’Most chilling was the evidence given by Fred’s own daughter, Anne Marie. And most damaging was that of former nanny, Caroline Roberts. She bitterly regretted not having given evidence back in 1973:“When I went into the witness box I could see her up to the left and all I had in my mind was, ‘I’m going to face her this time.’ Because I felt so guilty about not getting them a prison sentence the first time around. If I’d got them a prison sentence, probably none of these girls would’ve died.”This time, it would be Rose for whom there was no escape. On three of the ten murder charges, Rose was found guilty. And after another night of deliberations, on 22 November 1995, Rose was found guilty of the remaining seven charges.The judge, Mr Justice Mantell, actually praised the jury for enduring the previous 31 days of trial:“You will never have had a more important job to do in your life...You deserve my thanks and the country’s for the part you have played.”Rose West’s solicitor, Leo Goatley, believes justice was served;“Would I have found her guilty? Well possibly, possibly.  Put it this way, I wouldn’t sleep at night if I was convinced she was innocent - and I do sleep quite well at night.”Rose was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that she never be released.

The Arrest

West's reign of terror comes to an end

Summer 1992, A police officer patrolling Cromwell Street in Gloucester was approached by some children. One said they believed the Wests’ children were being abused. A meeting was called that day and as a result a joint team of social workers and police took away the children and began searching the premises.It was the beginning of the city’s biggest ever criminal investigation.At the time, the West children were aged between 11 and 15.The investigating team had to win their trust and establish the facts.As a result, their parents were charged.Fred was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor, and Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor.

With Fred jailed and her children in care, Rose attempted suicide. She tried an overdose of pills.She failed.Later, she found solace in comfort food and children’s movies. But then, the charges against the Wests were dropped.None of the children would agree to give evidence.The social workers involved noted that the children talked about why they must not talk about the family outside the family. None of them wanted to end up under the patio, like Heather, the Wests’ first daughter.Interviews with Fred and Rose suggested Heather had left after suggestions she came out as a lesbian.But police could find no trace of her. She’d either left the country, or she’d never left the Wests’ house:“All enquiries to trace Heather had failed...And so an application was made for a warrant to go and search the garden- dig up the patio.”-Tony Butler, Former Chief Constable, Gloucestershire Constabulary

The Crimes

"Under the paving stones of Gloucester"

After one too many bizarre sexual suggestions, Caroline Roberts had decided to end lodging with the Wests. But a month later, she again accepted a lift from them. And during the journey, Rose was very apologetic for what had occurred before. But as Caroline tried to exit the car, Fred punched her unconscious. 

Caroline awoke to find herself bound and on the way back to Cromwell Street. Once there, Rose started to kiss and touch her. But to Caroline, Rose was more like a mother-figure. Rose’s actions were abhorrent to her. So when Caroline resisted, they threatened her.It was the beginning of twelve hours of sexual abuse and torture.At one point, Caroline heard a knock on the door. She risked shouting for help.So Rose covered her face with a pillow. Then Fred picked up her by the throat:“...and I’ve got Fred’s face in my face...and he said, ‘we’re going keep you in the cellar and let our black friends use you and when we’ve finished with you, we’re going to kill you and bury you under the paving stones of Gloucester...there’s hundreds of girls there, police haven’t found them and they aren’t going to find you.”And just when Caroline thought she was about to be killed, Rose went downstairs to look after the children.Fred then raped Caroline:“After he had raped me, he started crying. And he apologised for what he’d done, and he said, ‘please don’t tell Rose, if she finds out she’ll kill you and me.”Caroline played along with both the Wests. But when she escaped, she went to the police.Lacking the confidence that they believed her story, she decided not to give evidence.In 1973, when the case came to court, the Wests escaped with a fine.And with the lesson learnt that they couldn’t afford to let their rape victims escape.That year, they murdered Lynda Gough.  In November, they abducted 15-year-old Carol Ann Cooper. After they had killed her they dismembered and buried her under their home.

SEXUALLY SADISTIC SERIAL KILLERSCaroline Roberts had been right to suspect she was not their first or only victim. As she thought, Anne Marie, Fred’s eight-year-old daughter was being raped by Fred. And to help him, Rose would hold her step-daughter down.It took place in the cellar which Fred was rapidly modelling into his own tailored torture chamber. He enlarged it and hooks were attached to the ceiling so victims could be hung.The Wests were, in fact, turning the entire house into their own twisted playground. Holes were drilled in the toilet and bedroom walls to provide peepholes for them both. Intercoms allowed those in the kitchen to hear what went on the bedroom. Whips and other sexual paraphernalia began to litter the house.The Wests developed a party reputation as the place to go for sex, drink and drugs.But it was a trap.For the next twenty years, the Wests would rape, torture and murder.And Rose was crucial to luring the young girls and women into the cellar of Cromwell Street. Her presence would initially reassure female victims. For no matter how odd Fred may have been – for example, he liked to munch on raw onions like they were apples - surely no harm would come to them as long as Rose was there.But once trapped, what was done to them is almost unimaginable. Victims were bound and gagged with clothing. This ensured they remained quiet – as they were sexually assaulted and tortured to death.One victim had a mask made of tape and tubes. This bespoke bondage left the victim disorientated and only just able to breathe. Until the time the Wests decided they had no further use for them.“What we know about sexually sadistic homicides is that...they enjoy the humiliation. They enjoy degradation. They enjoy the suffering of the victim.”-Dr. Raj Dargee, Forensic PsychiatristOnce dead, victims were then dismembered and often beheaded. Sometimes, small bones such as fingers, toes, and kneecaps were removed.Their victims would often be buried under the cellar floor on which they were killed.In April 1978, 18-year-old Shirley Robinson was seen for the last time. She had become pregnant by Fred and had boasted of marrying him. She was eight months pregnant when she was buried under the garden of Cromwell Road - the cellar now being too full to accommodate her. It’s suspected that Rose had insisted that there would only ever be one Mrs West.But her killing was never about sexual fidelity - Rose would eventually have eight children and not all of them by Fred – it was as much to do with Rose reacting and becoming like her father, controlling and paranoid.For nearly the next ten years the Wests deeply depraved lifestyle continued but, almost unbelievably, there would be no evidence of them murdering anyone during this period. Their next killing, though truly sickening, would eventually be their undoing.In 1987, Heather West, Rose’s first child, resisted her father’s sexual advances. He still raped her but Heather wasn’t scared of the threats made about what would happen if she talked about what was happening in Cromwell Street.For daring to break the West conspiracy of silence, she was killed, dismembered and buried in the back garden.Rose and Fred told people that their 16-year-old headstrong, lazy, lesbian daughter had simply run off.It would be seven years before the truth would be known.

The Investigation

The awful truth comes out

On 24 February 1994, a warrant was obtained to search 25 Cromwell Street and dig up the garden. During the excavation, an unexpected question by a journalist to Fred West suggested his daughter wasn’t simply missing; “A local reporter had got to the scene and had shouted out, ‘What’s happened to your daughter, Heather?’ And there was an unusual response to that by Fred West...it wasn’t, ‘I don’t know’ or, ‘I’m as concerned as anyone else’...What he said was...’I haven’t murdered my daughter.” Paul Stokes, Journalist. 

On the afternoon of the 26 February, a human femur – the thigh bone - was discovered under the patio; then human hair; then other human remains. When the Home Office pathologist investigated further, he found two more femurs. Three human femurs meant there was more than one person buried there. That evening, after intensive questioning, Fred West claimed responsibility for murdering not just Heather, but two other women. His confessions were confusing and contradictory. At one stage he tried to suggest that a lot of the killings were simply sex games that went wrong; He admitted that one of the women was Shirley Robinson. He said that despite Shirley being a lesbian, and unbeknownst to Rose, he got her pregnant. But he knew Rose would never let Fred and Shirley become a family, so he killed her. This was just one of many of Fred’s stories that would evolve and change - the only constant being that Fred always maintained Rose was innocent.

 

INNOCENT ROSE On this one issue, Rose was always consistent. She maintained she was not involved in the murders. But the discovery of Heather’s body cast doubt on Rose’s position. How could she have not noticed her husband murder, dismember and dispose of her own daughter under the patio? But proving that beyond all reasonable doubt would be difficult:“That was a challenge for the investigation; just because the bodies were found in the house doesn’t mean to say she had anything to do with it.” Tony Butler, Former Chief Constable, Gloucestershire Constabulary.

Fred then signed a note saying that there were another nine victims: Among them - Linda Gough, missing since 1973 - and Rena and Charmaine, Fred’s first wife and daughter. The West house was methodically and forensically taken to pieces. Between 26 February and 8 March, nine sets of remains were found and removed in black plastic boxes. The remains of Shirley Robinson’s unborn child were found with her bones. But despite Fred claiming responsibility for his daughter Charmaine’s murder, detectives worked out he must be lying. In November 1970 Fred was sent to Leyhill Prison to serve 10 months for theft. Charmaine was dead before he was released. The discovery of her body, on 4 May, allowed a forensic comparison of the teeth with a photograph taken of the child before her disappearance. The forensic evidence provided a timeline that proved Fred was lying.Rena’s body was discovered in a field some fifteen miles from Gloucester. Nearby were the remains of Ann McFall. She was a former girlfriend of Fred’s. Ann was six months pregnant with Fred’s child when she was killed. She had been buried in some old curtains. As for Rose, she severed all contact with Fred. She didn’t write to him or reply to his letters. Her defence would be that she was just another victim of Fred West.

Rose & Fred

A Match Made in... Hell

TWO OF A KINDRose Letts was waiting at a bus stop when she first met Fred West. It was November 1968 and Rose’s future soul mate was already a convicted child molester and unbeknownst to the authorities, a murderer. Fred was, Rose remembered, ‘smelly’ with ‘ganky green teeth’. Despite this, there was an attraction and they soon discovered the shared experience of a deeply, damaged childhood:“When it came to meeting Fred, who came from an even more extreme background than Rose, it was just – it was a perfect storm, it was an accident waiting to happen.”-Jane Carter 

Fred was not only 12 years older than Rose, he was far more experienced than the sheltered girl from Devon. Fred West had worked as far away as Scotland, in the slums of the Gorbals. He had married a Scottish woman, Rena Costello and had a daughter, Charmaine - although it appears Fred was not, in fact, Charmaine’s father. A year after Charmaine, a second daughter arrived – Anne Marie. The family moved to the South West but after a turbulent few years of marriage, Fred found himself bringing up the two girls on his own.In March 1970, soon after meeting Fred, Rose moved in with him and his two daughters into their caravan. Fred soon initiated her into a world of pornography, prostitution and sadism. Because of her abused childhood, it was a world that was all too reassuringly familiar to Rose. A year later and with Rose pregnant, Fred and his growing family moved to their new home at 25 Midland Road. Rose gave birth to Heather. The 17-year-old Rose was now effectively mother to three girls. It was not a healthy household: “Fred would want to spy on (Rose), to push her to have sex with friends...you’ve got a seventeen year old whose got a baby...and then two little girls to look after...what chance did she have?” - Jane Carter WoodrowFred supported his makeshift family partly by being an unsuccessful petty criminal. He stole everything from scrap metal to scaffolding. He was often caught. In November 1970, Fred West was sent to Leyhill Prison to serve a ten month sentence for theft.CHARMAINE: ROSE’S FIRST VICTIM? With Fred away, 17-year old-Rose was left in charge of Fred’s eldest daughter, 7-year-old Charmaine. Rose struggled to control her. Sometime in March 1971 Charmaine went missing. It’s probable that during a violent outburst, Rose had killed her and hidden the body. It is likely that when Fred was released Rose confessed to the killing. At that point, if not before, Fred could have confessed to having killed a pregnant former lover, Anne McFall. What is certain is that he dealt with the disposal of Charmaine and Anne’s body in the same manner. He removed the fingers and toes from the body before burial. In August 1971, when West’s first wife, Rena, came for Charmaine, she shared her fate. The story Rose and Fred told was that his daughter had gone back to live with her mother. MR AND MRS MURDERIn January 1972, Rose married Fred, even though no record’s been found of him ever divorcing his first wife. But theirs was always a very unconventional partnership. Fred prostituted Rose and sometimes liked to watch her with clients. The family moved to 25 Cromwell Street. The terraced property – with its three floors and cellar – though cramped and small, was still more than they could afford. So Fred started converting the property to accommodate lodgers. He placed multiple interior walls inside the rooms to create little cells where people could sleep. And one of those lodgers would bring both the West’s to the attention of the police.“I met Fred and Rose when I was hitch-hiking back in 1972.  This car pulled up with a couple in. And the girl opened the window and started asking me where I was going, and she seemed really friendly- not much older than me.  And they said, ‘Oh, we’ll give you a lift as far as Gloucester.” - Caroline Roberts, Former Nanny for the West FamilyThat lift turned into an offer of a room and employment as the family nanny. Caroline, quite taken by Rose, accepted:“I actually got on quite well with Rose straight from the start; I suppose it was because there was just a slight age difference.  She was quite tactile as well, she’d like to play; you know she’d look at my hair and say ‘oh I love your hair and you’ve got lovely hair, lovely eyes.’ She was very tactile.”But Fred’s behaviour soon made Caroline regret her decision to join the West household.“...he was forever grabbing hold of (Rose). He would sometimes grope her...or put a hand up her skirt...But worst was his bragging. He seemed to brag about really strange things as well, like he told me ‘if you ever get pregnant don’t you worry because I can do abortions, I’ve done them before’.  But it wasn’t until about a week before I left there that he mentioned Anne Marie, who was eight. He said that she wasn’t a virgin...Anne Marie was in the room at the time, and I saw her head go down. And then I thought ‘I think maybe there might be some kind of abuse going on’.When Fred asked Caroline to take part in an orgy, she left. But Rose and Fred were far from finished with her.