Fred and Rosemary in the mid 1980s
29 November 1953 |
Barnstaple, Devon, England, UK
|Conviction(s)||Sexual assault, murder|
Span of killings
|June 1971–May 1987|
Rosemary Pauline "Rose" West (née Letts; born 29 November 1953) is a British serial killer, now an inmate at HMP Low Newton, Brasside, Durham, after being convicted of 10 murders in 1995. Her husband Fred, who committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial, is believed to have collaborated with her in the torture and murder of at least 10 young women, many at the couple's home in Gloucester, England.
Fred West is known to have carried out 12 murders. Rosemary West had no involvement in the first two.
Early life and marriage to Fred West
Rosemary Letts was born in Barnstaple, Devon, to William Andrew and Daisy Gwendoline Letts after a difficult pregnancy. Her mother suffered from depression and was given ECT while pregnant; some have argued that this may have caused prenatal injury to her daughter. Rosemary grew up into a moody teenager and performed poorly at school.
Rosemary's parents split up when she was a teenager. She lived with her mother and attended Cleeve School, later moving in with her father at the age of 16 in Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham; her father, a paranoid schizophrenic, was prone to violence and repeatedly sexually abused her. At around this time, she began dating West who was living at Lake House Hotel Caravan Park, Stoke Road, Bishops Cleeve. Her father disapproved of the relationship, threatening to call social services and threatening West directly. Rosemary was caring for West's daughter Anne-Marie (by his previous marriage to Rena Costello) and his stepdaughter, Charmaine (daughter of Rena Costello and another man). West and Rosemary moved in together at the Lake House Hotel Caravan Park; Charmaine briefly attended Bishops Cleeve County Primary School on Tobyfield Road. However, by 1970, Rosemary became pregnant by West and they moved to Midland Road, Gloucester.
Rosemary West and her husband were convicted of sexual assault in January 1973. They were fined for indecent assault of Caroline Roberts (née Owen), who escaped the couple's home after being attacked and reported them to the police. The Wests' typical pattern was to pick up girls from bus stops in and around Gloucester and imprison them in their home for several days before killing them.
Rosemary West also periodically worked as a prostitute, often while her husband watched. One of the most frequent visitors to 25 Cromwell Street, now demolished, was her abusive father. She was often pregnant and was the mother of eight children. Five of these were fathered by Fred West, while three were fathered by clients she met through prostitution.
It is reported that, even after Rosemary had given birth to her fourth child, her father William Letts would still visit her for sex. He was also reported to have raped Fred's daughter Anne-Marie.
Other possible victims
The crimes for which Rosemary West was convicted occurred mainly between April 1973 and August 1979. She murdered Charmaine West, the daughter of Fred's previous wife Rena, in June 1971, and buried her in their previous home at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester, while Fred West was serving a prison sentence for petty theft. One of the bodies found at 25 Cromwell Street was that of their daughter, Heather, who was murdered by Fred in June 1987 at the age of 16, after being abused by Rosemary while Fred raped her. The Wests told friends and concerned parties that Heather had gone away to work at a holiday village. This was the last known murder that the pair committed.
In August 1992 Fred West was arrested after being accused of raping his 13-year-old daughter three times, and Rosemary West was arrested for child cruelty. This case against them collapsed in June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court. All of the Wests' children were removed from their custody to foster homes. This case brought to light the disappearance of Heather West, who had not been seen since 1987, and triggered the major investigation that followed.
Rosemary West continued to profess ignorance of her husbands murderous activities but the circumstantial evidence was considered sufficient to prosecute her for ten murders: those of the young women whose bodies were found at 25 Cromwell Street, and of Charamaine West. She went on trial in October 1995, nine months after her husband's suicide. He had hanged himself in Winson Green Prison with a knotted bed-sheet on 1 January of that year, despite being on suicide watch.
The jury's verdict was unanimous. On 22 November 1995, West was found guilty of 10 murders. The judge, Mr Justice Mantell, sentenced her to life imprisonment, saying, "If attention is paid to what I think, you will never be released."
The Lord Chief Justice later decided that she should spend at least 25 years in prison, but in July 1997 Home Secretary Jack Straw subjected West to a whole life tariff. This was only the second instance, in modern times, of a British woman being condemned to die in prison. The other was serial killer Myra Hindley, who has since died. At the start of her sentence, West was held at the same prison as Hindley.
In 2001 West announced her intention not to appeal, while maintaining her innocence.
The house at Cromwell Street (along with the adjoining property) was demolished in 1996. The site is now occupied by a public walkway.
- Bennett, John (2005). The Cromwell Street Murders: The Detective's Story. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-4273-8.
- Carter Woodrow, Jane (2011). Rose West: The making of a Monster. Hodder & Stoughton (UK). ISBN 978-0-340-99247-0.
- Burn, Gordon (1998). Happy Like Murderers. Faber and Faber (London). ISBN 0-571-19546-6.
- Masters, Brian (1996). She Must Have Known: Trial of Rosemary West. Doubleday (London). ISBN 0-385-40650-9.
- Roberts, Caroline (2005). The Lost Girl: How I Triumphed Over Life at the Mercy of Fred and Rose West. Metro Books (London). ISBN 1-84358-088-8.
- Sounes, Howard (1995). Fred and Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors. Warner Books (London). ISBN 0-7515-1322-9.
- Wansell, Geoffrey (1996). An Evil Love: The Life of Frederick West. Hodder Headline (London). ISBN 0-7472-1760-2.
- West, Anne Marie (1995). Out of the Shadows: Fred West's Daughter Tells Her Harrowing Story of Survival. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-71968-8.
- Wilson, Colin (1998). The Corpse Garden. True Crime Library (London). ISBN 1-874358-24-9.
- Partington, Marian (2012). If You Sit Very Still. Vala Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 978-1-908363-02-2.
- BBC Article with detail of the 12 accusations. Retrieval Date: 14 August 2007.
- "Gloucester Police Media Information Pack". Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- "Biography – Rosemary West on Crime and Investigation Network". Crimeandinvestigation.co.uk. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=jFodEFpOGwQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Jane Carter Woodrow, Rose West: The Making of a Monster, Hodder & Stoughton, 2011
- "As [criminologist Jane] Carter Woodrow discovered, Bill Letts was a paranoid schizophrenic who bullied and beat his wife into depression and tormented and abused Rose and his other six children." Smith, David James (4 September 2011). "Rosemary West was more than just her husband's accomplice - she helped plot many of their murders". The Sunday Times (London). p. 20.
- Varma, Anuji (10 July 2011). "Rose West spurred on killing spree". Sunday Mercury (Birmingham). p. 29.
- Bennett, Will (22 November 1995). "Step-daughter Charmaine was first to die – News". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- by Insider. "Born To Kill". Tvsa.co.za. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- [dead link]
- Darbyshire, Neil (5 September 2011). "Glamorising of an evil nobody: Fred West drama was dangerous nonsense, says NEIL DARBYSHIRE - who is still haunted by the horrors of the case". Daily Mail (London).
- Burn 1998, pp. 225–227
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A18532514 "Fred and Rose West – Multiple Murderers". BBC. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- Staff (14 October 2000) "Chilling list includes torturers, rapists and serial killers" The Daily Telegraph
- Ford, Richard; Strange, Hannah (26 February 2008). "Bellfield joins list of those to die in jail – Times Online". The Times (UK). Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- Dyer, Clare (28 May 2002). "Law: The man who could free Myra Hindley | UK news | The Guardian". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- "BBC ON THIS DAY | 22 | 1995: Life sentence for Rosemary West". news.bbc.co.uk. 22 November 1995. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- Milmo, Cahal (1 October 2001). "Rosemary West drops appeal case". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 9 November 2008.
- Coughlan, Sean (5 April 2004). "What happens to the houses of horror?". BBC News. Retrieved 23 February 2010.
- BBC website about the West murder case at the Wayback Machine (archived June 15, 2006)
- BBC report of West's conviction
- CourtTV Crime Library- Fred and Rosemary West
- Transcript of police interview