Fred West

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This article is about the English serial killer. For the American basketball player, see Fred West (basketball).
Fred West
FredandRoseWest.jpg
Fred and Rosemary in the mid-1980s
Born (1941-09-29)29 September 1941
Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England, UK
Died 1 January 1995(1995-01-01) (aged 53)
Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, England, UK
Cause of death
Suicide by hanging
Criminal penalty
(committed suicide
before murder trial)
Conviction(s) earlier convictions for:
Child molestation
Sexual assault
Theft
Killings
Victims 13+
Span of killings
July 1967–June 1987
Country United Kingdom
Date apprehended
24 February 1994

Frederick Walter Stephen West (29 September 1941[1] – 1 January 1995) was a serial killer in England. Between 1967 and 1987, West – alone and later with his second wife, serial killer Rosemary West – tortured and raped numerous young women and girls, murdering at least 11 of them, including their own family members. The crimes often occurred in the couple's homes in the city of Gloucester, at 25 Midland Road and later 25 Cromwell Street, with many bodies buried at or near these homes.

Fred killed at least two people before collaborating with Rose, while Rose murdered Fred's stepdaughter (his first wife's biological daughter) when he was in prison for theft. The majority of the murders occurred between May 1973 and August 1979, in their home at 25 Cromwell Street.

The pair were finally apprehended and charged in 1994. Fred West committed suicide before going to trial, while Rose West was jailed for life, in November 1995, after having been found guilty on 10 counts of murder. Their house at Cromwell Street was demolished in 1996 and the space converted into a landscaped footpath, connecting Cromwell Street to St. Michael's Square.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Fred West was born into a poor family of farm workers in Bickerton Cottage, Much Marcle, Herefordshire, to Walter Stephen West (5 July 1914 – 28 March 1992) and Daisy Hannah Hill (1922-6 February 1968). He was the second of their six children.[2] West would later claim that his father had incestuous relationships with his daughters.[3] It has been suggested that incest was an accepted part of the household, and that his father taught him bestiality from an early age. West recalled, in police interviews, that his father had said on many occasions "Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it".[4] It has also been alleged that his mother Daisy began sexually abusing him from the age of 12, although this was never proven nor admitted by West.[5]

At school, West showed an aptitude for woodwork and artwork, but did not excel academically. He left school at the age of 15 in December 1956. Two years later, in November 1958, a motorcycle accident caused a fractured skull, a broken arm and leg, and a coma which lasted for seven days. His family reported that, after the accident, West became prone to sudden fits of rage. Two years later, he was unconscious again, for 24 hours, after hitting his head in a fall from a fire escape.[6]

At the age of 19, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted, but escaped a sentence of imprisonment.[7] His mother sent him to live with her sister Violet in the English village of Much Marcle, while the rest of the family effectively disowned him.[8]

Marriage to Catherine "Rena" Costello[edit]

In September 1962, the 21-year-old West became re-acquainted with a former girlfriend, Catherine Costello, who was now better known as Rena from her time working as a prostitute. Costello was already pregnant by another man, and she and West married on 17 November before moving to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. Her daughter, Charmaine Carol, was born on 22 February 1963. Costello and West claimed they had adopted Charmaine, whose father was from Pakistan. In July 1964 Costello bore West a daughter named Anne Marie. During this period in Coatbridge, West worked as an ice cream van driver. On 4 November 1965, he ran over and killed a four-year-old boy with his van.[9]

The family, along with Isa McNeill who looked after the couple's children and Costello's friend Anne McFall, moved into the Lakeside Caravan Park in Bishop's Cleeve, Gloucestershire, at the end of 1965 when West feared for his safety following the ice cream van incident. To escape from West's sadistic sexual demands, Costello and McNeill moved to Scotland in 1966 while McFall, who had become infatuated with West and the two children, remained. Costello continued to visit the children every few months. In August 1967 McFall, who was eight months pregnant with West's child, vanished. She was never reported missing and her remains were found in June 1994.

In September 1967, Costello returned to live with West, but left again the following year, leaving the children in West's care.

Marriage to Rosemary "Rose" Letts[edit]

While still married to Costello, 27-year-old West met his next wife, Rosemary Letts, on 29 November 1968, on her 15th birthday. On her 16th birthday she moved in with him and a few months later they moved from the caravan to a two-storey house in Midland Road, Gloucester. On 17 October 1970, Rosemary gave birth to their daughter, Heather Ann. Fred West was imprisoned for theft from 4 December 1970 until 24 June 1971.

Rosemary killed Charmaine (Fred's stepdaughter from his first marriage) shortly before West's release in June 1971. According to Anne Marie, both sisters were subject to frequent beatings, but Charmaine infuriated Rosemary by her refusal to cry no matter how severely she was beaten. Charmaine disappeared in mid June. Rosemary explained this by claiming that Costello had called and taken her back to Scotland. Costello turned up to collect Charmaine in late August, and she too then disappeared.

On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary West married in Gloucester, and on 1 June of that year, Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. Around this time West encouraged his wife into prostitution. Rosemary eventually had seven children, of whom three were mixed race. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell Street (51°51′42″N 2°14′36″W / 51.86167°N 2.24333°W / 51.86167; -2.24333), now replaced by a paved pathway, where West converted the upper floor to bedsits. "Rose's Room", the room Rosemary used for prostitution, had peepholes so he could watch and a red light outside the door for warning the children not to enter when she was "busy". Like West, Rosemary came from a family where incest was common; Rosemary's father, Bill Letts, with Fred's approval, would often visit their home to have sex with Rosemary.[10]

In October 1972 the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as the children's nanny. They had picked up the girl during the night time along a secluded country road and after she informed them that she wished to escape her stepfather; a week later she moved into 25 Cromwell Street to look after their three children at the time. Rosemary, who had begun prostitution in her bedroom at this time, explained to Roberts that she was a "masseuse" when Roberts had inquired about the men frequently visiting her.[11] While there, according to Caroline, Fred had informed her that if ever she needed an abortion he was well equipped to do so. She became suspicious when Fred boasted that many of the women he had treated with an abortion were so overjoyed that they would offer him sexual services as a reward.[11] She rejected Fred's and Rosemary's advances into their "sex-circle" and left a few weeks later.[12]

On 6 December 1972 the Wests picked her up again along the same secluded road as before and apologized profusely for what had happened and invited her to their home to make amends with a "cup of tea".[11] Roberts had believed they had been genuinely courteous in what they said in their apology to her and obliged, believing that they had simply mistaken what the job had entailed. Back at 25 Cromwell Street, soon after they made her welcome with the promised cup of tea, Rose started kissing her, bound her heavily with bondage tape, and both Fred and Rose raped her. According to Roberts, Fred had remarked that "her vagina was unusual" and that he "would have to change that".[11] When she screamed, Rosemary smothered her with a pillow and she was bound even further around the neck. Fred threatened her that they would keep her locked up in the cellar and let Rosemary's black male visitors "use" her and that when they had finished they would bury her under the paving stones of Gloucester.[11] Fred boasted that they had killed hundreds of young girls and the police would never find them.[11] Quickly realising that they would kill her, Caroline gave into them and let them do whatever they wanted without a fight.[11] Fred allowed Roberts to leave the next day only after she promised she would return as their nanny. Roberts reported the rape to police but withdrew the accusation when the case came to court. The Wests pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of indecent assault and were fined £50.[13]

In early 1973, the Wests took eight-year-old Anne Marie to the cellar, where they bound and gagged her before West raped her while Rosemary watched.[14]

In June 1987, Fred and Rose killed Heather Ann West, their sixteen-year-old daughter (possibly sired by Rosemary's abusive father, Bill Letts[15]). Heather had became the focus of Fred’s attentions after Anne Marie left home. Heather complained to friends about the abuse, and when this got back to Fred and Rose, they decided to get rid of her.[15] Her disappearance, Fred and Rosemary's changing stories about Heather's whereabouts, and the threats to their other children that they would "end up under the patio like Heather" if they misbehaved, would indirectly lead to the Wests' arrests in 1994.

Investigation, arrest and charges[edit]

In May 1992, West filmed himself raping one of his other daughters, and twice again afterwards. She told friends at school what had happened. On 4 August one of the friends told her mother and she went to the police. On 6 August 1992, the police began an investigation, eventually leading to West being charged, with Rosemary as an accomplice, with rape. She was also charged with child cruelty and the remaining children were placed in foster care. The rape case against the Wests collapsed when the two main witnesses declined to testify at the court case on 7 June 1993.

The police continued investigating the disappearance of their daughter Heather. After taking statements from social workers, and the children themselves, about a joke about "Heather being buried under the patio", they obtained a search warrant in February 1994, allowing them to excavate the garden in search of Heather. They started searching the house and excavating the garden on 24 February 1994.

After West's arrest the following day, the police uncovered human bones.[16] He confessed, retracted and then re-confessed to the murder of his daughter, denying that Rosemary was involved. Rosemary was not arrested until April 1994, initially on sex offences but later charged with murder. Further bodies were found and, on 4 March 1994, West admitted that he had carried out nine more murders, including that of his first wife. However, he frequently denied killing Anne McFall. The remains of McFall and Costello were subsequently unearthed in fields near the village of Kempley.

Fred and Rosemary West were brought before a magistrates' court in Gloucester on 30 June 1994; he was charged with 11 murders and she with 10. Immediately afterwards, Fred West was re-arrested on suspicion of murdering Anne McFall, whose body had been found on 7 June 1994. On the evening of 3 July 1994, he was charged with her murder.

Death[edit]

On 1 January 1995, Fred West hanged himself while on remand in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham.[17] His funeral was held in Coventry on 29 March 1995. West was cremated with only four mourners present, after a five minute service.[citation needed] His ashes were later scattered on the beach at Barry Island near Cardiff.[citation needed]

Aftermath[edit]

The evidence against Rosemary was circumstantial; unlike her husband, she did not confess. She was tried in October 1995 at Winchester Crown Court, found guilty of all 10 murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.[18] The trial judge recommended that she never be released and 18 months later the then-serving Home Secretary Jack Straw agreed with this recommendation.

In October 1996, the Wests' house in Cromwell Street, which was next to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, along with the adjoining property No. 23, was demolished and the site made into a landscaped pathway. Every brick was crushed and every timber was burned to discourage souvenir hunters.

Novelist Martin Amis was a cousin of the Wests' victim Lucy Partington, who disappeared in 1973; he dedicated his novel The Information (published in 1995) to her.[19]

The victims[edit]

  • Charmaine West (born 22 February 1963): Killed in June 1971 by Rose West while Fred was in prison, the motive said to be Rose's wish to break links with Charmaine's mother, "Rena".[15]
  • Catherine Bernadette "Rena" Costello (born 14 April 1944): Killed August 1971. Rena had called to take Charmaine away with her and it is believed Fred West killed her to avoid an investigation into Charmaine’s whereabouts.
  • Lynda Gough (born 1 May 1953): Killed April 1973. A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Gough and Rosemary would share lovers. Following her disappearance Gough’s mother called to visit and Rosemary, wearing Gough’s clothes and slippers, told her she had moved to find work in Weston-super-Mare.
  • Carol "Caz" Ann Cooper (born 10 April 1958): Killed November 1973. Cooper was living in a children’s home in Worcester when she disappeared while walking home from the cinema.
  • Lucy Katherine Partington (born 4 March 1952): Killed December 1973. Spent Christmas with her family in Cheltenham and visited a friend, and disappeared after leaving to catch a bus home. There is strong evidence that she had been kept alive for at least several days. A week after she disappeared, Fred went to a hospital in the early hours of 3 January 1974 to get a serious laceration stitched. A knife matching the cut was found with Partington's body and police surmise he sustained the injury while dismembering it. Partington, a university student, was the cousin of novelist Martin Amis and the sister of author Marian Partington, who wrote about her sister's disappearance and the discovery of her remains in her memoir If You Sit Very Still (2012).[20]
  • Therese Siegenthaler (born 27 November 1952): Killed in April 1974. A student in South London who left to hitch-hike to Ireland and disappeared.
  • Shirley Hubbard (born 26 June 1959): Killed November 1974. Left a work experience course in Droitwich to return home but did not arrive. When her remains were found her head was completely covered in tape with only a three-inch rubber tube inserted to allow her to breathe.
  • Juanita "Nita" Marion Mott (born 1 March 1957): Killed April 1975. A former lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Mott was living with a friend of her mother's in Newent when she disappeared.
  • Shirley Anne Robinson (born 8 October 1959): Killed May 1978. A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Robinson was a prostitute for the Wests. Disappeared after becoming pregnant with Fred’s child.
  • Alison Chambers (born 8 September 1962): Killed August 1979. Last known sexually motivated killing.
  • Heather Ann West (born 17 October 1970) Killed June 1987. Heather became the focus of Fred’s attentions after Anne Marie left home. She complained to friends about the abuse, and when this got back to Fred and Rose, they decided to eliminate her as Heather now risked exposing them.[15] Also, Heather was probably sired not by Fred, but by Rose's abusive father, Bill Letts.[15] Fred West claimed he had not meant to kill her but she had been sneering at him and he "had to take the smirk off her face". Rosemary told an enquiring neighbour the following day that she and Heather had a "hell of a row" so it is believed Rosemary may have initiated her death. The Wests told their children Heather had left for a job in Devon, but later changed the story to her having run off with a lesbian lover when she failed to contact or visit them. Later still Fred would threaten the children that they would "end up under the patio like Heather" if they misbehaved. Heather's body was found under the patio that Fred had built over the fishpond dug by his son Stephen. Heather's murder indirectly led to the Wests' arrests almost seven years later.

Their only known victim between 1980 and their arrest in February 1994 was their daughter Heather in June 1987, compared to nine murders in the previous eight years committed by the pair as a couple. However, police believe the couple murdered more. There were no known murders in the years 1976–1977, 1980–1986 and 1988–1992. During questioning after being arrested, Fred West had confessed to murdering up to 30 people, but the police believed the pair may have killed only 13. As well as the 12 confirmed, they believe that West also killed 15-year-old Mary Bastholm in January 1968, but to date no body has been found.[5] West's son, Stephen, has said he firmly believed the missing Gloucester teenager was an early victim of his father, as Fred West had reportedly boasted, while on remand in prison during 1994, of committing Miss Bastholme's murder.[21]

Although no forensic evidence linked Fred West to the murder of Anne McFall, and he always denied killing her, in contrast to the other murders, the state of the body (missing finger and toe bones, as was the case with the other bodies) and the dimensions of the grave site match aspects of West's modus operandi.[22]

Janet Leach, West's appropriate adult who also visited him in prison, says West told her that he had been involved in at least 20 further murders, including children killed in a barn.[citation needed]

Cultural impact[edit]

Harold and Fred (They Make Ladies Dead) was a 2001 comic strip in Viz, also featuring serial killer Harold Shipman, which attracted criticism from the victims' families. The editor of Viz commented: "Yes, it is going a bit far and I don't need to defend it, but I'll make a half-hearted attempt. I'm sure Mel Brooks didn't think the Nazis were funny, but a lot of his comedy was based around them. The cover of Viz gives you a pretty good idea of what the content is going to be like and people that are offended by it, don't buy it."[23][24]

An award-winning two-part drama, Appropriate Adult, aired on ITV in September 2011, telling the story of Janet Leach, the woman asked by police to sit in interviews with Fred West. West was portrayed by Dominic West and Leach by Emily Watson.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Births deaths and marriages for England and Wales - July 1996
  2. ^ Fred West: Born to Kill, Channel 5, 26 July 2012
  3. ^ "Fred and Rose West – Fred" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 3 July 2009
  4. ^ Steven Morris (20 September 2007). "Serial Murder and the Psychology of a Sexual Sadist: Frederick West". New Criminologist. Retrieved 18 January 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Real Life Crimes and How They Were Solved. Eaglemoss Publications. 2002. 
  6. ^ "The Biography Channel" The Biography Channel.com Retried 18 July 2007
  7. ^ "Fred and Rose West – Fred" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
  8. ^ Sounes, Howard (1995), Fred and Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors, London: Warner Books. ISBN 0-7515-1322-9.
  9. ^ "Fred and Rose West – First blood" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
  10. ^ Euan Ferguson on the Legacy of Fred West The Guardian 15 February 2004
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Fred and Rose West- The House Of Horrors 3/4 on YouTube
  12. ^ The Lost Girl by Caroline Roberts, the nanny to the children
  13. ^ "Surviving Fred and Rose". BBC News. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2008. 
  14. ^ An Evil Love – Geoffrey Wansell
  15. ^ a b c d e "Rose West: The making of a Monster" by Jane Carter Woodrow
  16. ^ "Fred and Rose West – House of Horrors" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
  17. ^ "1995: Serial killer West found hanged". British Broadcasting Corporation. 1 January 1995. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  18. ^ "Fred and Rose West – Endgame" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
  19. ^ "Amis pays tribute to victim", The Times, 17 April 1995.
  20. ^ Marian Partington, If You Sit Very Still, Vala Publishing Co-operative (2012)
  21. ^ "Fred West 'admitted killing waitress', BBC News 25 March 1998". BBC News. 25 March 1998. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  22. ^ "Happy Like Murderers", Gordon Burn, pp146-147
  23. ^ Garrett, Jade (1 February 2001). "'Viz' pushes taste to its limits with Shipman cartoon – Media, News – The Independent". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 6 March 2009. 
  24. ^ "BBC News – Anger at Shipman Cartoon". news.bbc.co.uk. 1 February 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]