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The Investigation

Crime Files

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 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.



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.