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.