Fred and Rosemary in the mid-1980s
|Born||Frederick Walter Stephen West
29 September 1941
Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England
|Died||1 January 1995
Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, England
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Criminal penalty||(Committed suicide
10 months before murder trial)
|Spouse(s)||Catherine "Rena" Costello (1962–1971, her death)
(1972-1995, his death)
|Conviction(s)||Earlier convictions for:
Span of killings
|July 1967–June 1987|
|24 February 1994|
Frederick Walter Stephen "Fred" West (29 September 1941 – 1 January 1995) was an English serial killer. 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 12, including their own family members. 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 homes at 25 Midland Road and later 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, with many bodies buried at or near these homes.
The pair were apprehended and charged in 1994. Fred West killed himself before going to trial, while Rose West was imprisoned for life with a recommendation that she never be released, 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.
Fred West was born into a poor family of farm workers in Bickerton Cottage, Much Marcle, Herefordshire. His parents were Walter Stephen West (5 July 1914 – 28 March 1992) and Daisy Hannah Hill (20 May 1922 – 6 February 1968). He was the second of their six children. West would later claim that his father had incestuous relationships with his daughters. It has been suggested that incest was an accepted part of the household, and that his father taught him bestiality from an early age. In police interviews, West recalled that his father had said on many occasions "Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it". 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. In 2014 West's surviving brother Doug, in a Channel 5 documentary, said that his claims of incest and bestiality, as well as the slitting of a pig's throat, had all been pure fantasy.
At school, West showed an aptitude for woodwork and artwork, but did not otherwise excel academically. He left school at the age of 15 in December 1956.
At the age of 17, in November 1958, he was involved in a serious crash on his motorcycle, suffering a fractured skull, a broken arm and leg, and did not regain consciousness for a whole week. His family reported that, after the accident, West became prone to sudden fits of rage. Two years later, he hit his head in a fall from a fire escape and was unconscious for 24 hours.
During 1960, at the age of 19, West was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted, but escaped a sentence of imprisonment. His mother sent him to live with her sister Violet in Much Marcle, while the rest of the family effectively disowned him.
Marriage to Catherine "Rena" Costello
In September 1962, the 21-year-old West became re-acquainted with a former girlfriend, Catherine Costello, who was 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 a Pakistani bus driver. 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.
At the end of 1965 West feared he might suffer reprisal attacks over the ice cream van accident if he stayed in Coatbridge. As a result, 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 at Bishop's Cleeve, Gloucestershire. In 1966, to escape from West's sadistic sexual demands, Costello and McNeill moved back to Scotland. McFall remained to care for the girls, as she had become infatuated with West. 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 buried in a local field by police 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
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; 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 West is believed to have killed Charmaine (Fred's step-daughter from his first marriage) shortly before Fred West's release in June 1971, as she was last seen alive while Fred West was still in prison. According to Anne Marie West, 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 disappeared.
On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary married in Gloucester. On 1 June, Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. Around this time, West encouraged his wife to work as a prostitute. Rosemary eventually had seven children. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell Street, 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 to warn the children not to enter when she was "busy". Like West was alleged to be, 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.
In October 1972, the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as the children's nanny. They had picked up the girl one night on a secluded country road and she told them she wished to escape her cruel step-father; 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 by this time, explained to Roberts that she was a "masseuse" when the younger woman inquired about the men frequently visiting her. According to Caroline, while she worked there Fred had informed her that if ever she needed an abortion he was well equipped to provide one. 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. She rejected Fred's and Rosemary's advances into their "sex-circle" and left a few weeks later.
On 6 December 1972, the Wests picked Roberts up again along the same secluded road as before and apologised profusely for what had happened. They invited her to their home to make amends with a "cup of tea". 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". When she screamed, Rosemary smothered her with a pillow and she was bound further around the neck. Fred threatened her that they would keep her locked up in the cellar and let some of the black men who "visited" Rosemary "use" her and that when they had finished, they would bury her under the paving stones of Gloucester. Fred boasted that they had killed hundreds of young girls and the police would never find them. Quickly realising that they would kill her, Caroline gave in to them and let them do whatever they wanted without a fight. 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.
In early 1973, the Wests took their eight-year-old daughter Anne Marie to the cellar, where they bound and gagged her before Fred raped her, while Rosemary watched.
Heather Ann West, their 16-year-old daughter (possibly sired by Rosemary's abusive father, Bill Letts) became the focus of Fred’s attentions after Anne Marie left home at 15. Heather complained to friends about the abuse, and when this got back to Fred and Rose, they decided to kill her. In June 1987, Fred and Rose killed Heather. 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, indirectly led to the Wests' arrests in 1994.
Investigation, arrest and charges
In May 1992, West filmed himself raping one of his seven daughters, and four times again afterwards. She told friends at school what had happened. On 4 August, one of the friends told her mother, who went to the police. On 6 August 1992, the police began an investigation, eventually leading to West being charged with rape, with Rosemary as an accomplice. 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, about a joke about "Heather being buried under the patio", they obtained a search warrant in February 1994, which allowed 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. 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. Additional bodies were found and, on 4 March 1994, West admitted that he had carried out nine more murders, including that of his first wife, whose body was found on 10 April 1994.
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, appearing in court the following morning.
On 1 January 1995, Fred West committed suicide by asphyxiation while on remand in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. His funeral was held in Coventry on 29 March 1995. Contrary to many reports at the time, West did not hang himself.
Often I read or it's been said that he hanged himself. He didn't hang himself at all. He asphyxiated himself, having over a period of time made a rope out of a blanket. He couldn't really use anything other than the handles on the door and a catchment on the window to bind this piece of rope round. But what he successfully did was bound it round his neck and sank to his knees.— Detective Superintendent John Bennet of Gloucestershire Police (leader of the murder investigation), Television interview, Crimes That Shook Britain, Season 5 (broadcast 7 September 2014)
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 on 22 November and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge recommended that she never be released and nearly two years later the Home Secretary Jack Straw agreed with this recommendation.
On 27 January 1996, the body of the Wests' former friend and housemate, Terrence Crick, was found in his car in Hackness, near Scarborough. Crick had been called as a defence witness for Rosemary during the trial, in an attempt to prove her husband had been working alone. He had reported Fred to the authorities on several occasions after being shown "gruesome images of body parts and surgical instruments" allegedly used during illegal abortions, but believed that this information was not acted on as Fred was a police informant. The stress and guilt led Crick to take his own life; an inquest later recorded a verdict of suicide. In May 2014, his widow put a complaint forward to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
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. The site was redeveloped as 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; the book was published after her body was found but before Rosemary West went on trial.
- Charmaine West (born 22 February 1963), is believed to have been killed in June 1971 (aged 8) by Rose West while Fred was in prison, the motive said to be Rose's wish to break links with Charmaine's mother, "Rena".
- Catherine Bernadette "Rena" Costello (born 14 April 1944), was killed in August 1971 (aged 27). Rena had called on the Wests at 25 Midland Road to take Charmaine away with her, and it is believed Fred West killed her to avoid an investigation into Charmaine's whereabouts, as she was believed to have been killed by this stage.
- Lynda Gough (born 1 May 1953), was killed in April 1973 (aged 19). A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Gough and Rosemary shared 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. Despite this, no police investigation into Lynda Gough's disappearance was launched at the time.
- Carol "Caz" Ann Cooper (born 10 April 1958), was killed in November 1973. Aged 15 at the time, she was living in a children's home in Worcester and disappeared while walking home from the cinema.
- Lucy Katherine Partington (born 4 March 1952), was killed in late December 1973 or early January 1974 (aged 21). She spent Christmas with her family in Cheltenham and visited a friend. She disappeared after leaving to catch a bus home. Her precise date of death can never be known. However, at twenty-five past midnight on 3 January 1974 Fred West admitted himself into the casualty unit at Gloucester Royal hospital with a serious laceration of his right-hand that required several stitches, leading to speculation that she could have been kept alive and tortured for several days in the cellar of the Wests' home in Cromwell Street before finally being murdered. Whatever the truth, her remains were discovered there on 6 March 1994 alongside the knife Fred West used to dismember them. Partington, a university student, was the cousin of novelist Martin Amis and the sister of author Marian Partington. The latter wrote about her sister's disappearance and the discovery of her remains in her memoir If You Sit Very Still (2012).
- Therese Siegenthaler (born 27 November 1952), was a Swiss student, and is believed to have died in April 1974 (aged 21). She had been living in South London but left to hitch-hike to Ireland and was then reported missing.
- Shirley Hubbard (born 26 June 1959), went missing in October 1974. Aged 15, she 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), was killed in April 1975 (aged 18). A former lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Mott was living with a family friend in Newent when she disappeared.
- Shirley Anne Robinson (born 8 October 1959), was killed in May 1978 (aged 18). A lodger at 25 Cromwell St, Robinson was a prostitute for the Wests. She disappeared after becoming pregnant with Fred's child at the age of 18.
- Alison Chambers (born 8 September 1962), was killed in August 1979 just before her 17th birthday. This was the last of the killings where a sexual motive was established.
- Heather Ann West (born 17 October 1970), was killed in June 1987 at the age of 16, and was the last of the 12 victims. Heather became the focus of Fred's attentions after her sister 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 she risked exposing their abuse and potentially their murders. Heather was probably sired by Rose's abusive father, Bill Letts. 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 that Rosemary may have initiated her death. Barry West gave a different account on what happened to Heather. Barry, who was just seven at the time, described both parents sexually and physically abusing her, followed by Rosemary West kicking her in the head multiple times until she stopped moving. The Wests told their children that Heather had left for a job in Devon; later, when she failed to contact or visit her siblings, the parents claimed that Heather had run off with a lesbian lover. 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 pond dug by his son Stephen. The police investigation into the disappearance of Heather West in 1994 led to the arrest of both Fred and Rose West, and the eventual discovery of the bodies of their earlier victims.
Heather West's murder in June 1987 was their only known murder committed in almost 15 years leading up to their arrest, compared to nine murders in the previous eight years committed by the pair as a couple. Police believe that the couple committed further murders. There were no known murders in 1976 or 1977, or from 1980 to 1986 or from 1988 until their arrest. During questioning after being arrested, Fred West confessed to murdering up to 30 people (which amounted to around 18 unsolved disappearances or murders), but the police believed there may only have been one other victim whose body was never found. In addition to 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. 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 Bastholm's murder. Police were unable to charge West with this crime as they had no evidence.
No forensic evidence linked Fred West to the murder of Anne McFall, and he always denied killing her. The state of the body (missing finger and toe bones) and the dimensions of the grave site match aspects of West's modus operandi.
Janet Leach, West's appropriate adult, who also visited him in prison, later wrote in her book that West told her that he and Rose West had been involved in at least 20 murders. Possible other victims (all missing or murdered women or girls) were frequently mentioned in the local and national media, but 20 years on, no further bodies have been found.
Adaptations and dramatisations
- Harold and Fred (They Make Ladies Dead) was a 2001 comic strip in Viz, also featuring serial killer Harold Shipman, which was criticised by 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."
- A 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 as an appropriate adult. West was portrayed by Dominic West (no relation) and Leach by Emily Watson. The TV film won awards.
- A three-part docudrama, Fred and Rose, aired on Channel 5 in November 2014. West was portrayed by Dan Carey and Rose by Lisa Allen and Cara Wilson.
- Births deaths and marriages for England and Wales - July 1996
- Fred West: Born to Kill, Channel 5, 26 July 2012
- "Fred and Rose West – Fred" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 3 July 2009
- Steven Morris (20 September 2007). "Serial Murder and the Psychology of a Sexual Sadist: Frederick West". New Criminologist. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
- Real Life Crimes and How They Were Solved. Eaglemoss Publications. 2002.
- Knight, Adam. "Fred West's brother denies incest claims (From Hereford Times)". Herefordtimes.com. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
- "The Biography Channel" The Biography Channel.com Retried 18 July 2007
- "Fred and Rose West – Fred" Crimelibrary.com, TruTV, Retrieved 13 July 2007
- 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.
- "Fred and Rose West – First blood", Crimelibrary.com, Retrieved 13 July 2007
- "Euan Ferguson on the Legacy of Fred West", The Guardian, 15 February 2004
- on YouTube
- The Lost Girl by Caroline Roberts
- "Surviving Fred and Rose". BBC News. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
- An Evil Love – Geoffrey Wansell
- "Rose West: The making of a Monster" by Jane Carter Woodrow
- 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, p.187.
- "Fred and Rose West – House of Horrors" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
- "1995: Serial killer West found hanged". British Broadcasting Corporation. 1 January 1995. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
- "Suicide in Birmingham saw Fred West cheat justice". Birmingham Mail. 16 Feb 2011. Retrieved 14 Oct 2014.
- "There's more to our Barry Island than a TV comedy". Wales Online. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
- "Fred and Rose West – Endgame" Crimelibrary.com Retrieved 13 July 2007
- "Witness in West trial 'killed himself'". The Independent. 23 January 1996. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- McCann, Jaymi (7 September 2014). "Fred West police ignored warning from my husband". Terry Crick suicide after Fred West Warning not acted upon by police. The Sunday Express. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/fred-west-house-to-be-demolished-1356745.html. Missing or empty
- "Amis pays tribute to victim", The Times, 17 April 1995.
- Marian Partington, If You Sit Very Still, Vala Publishing Co-operative (2012)
- Ferguson, Ian (15 February 2004). "There's nobody home...". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
- "Fred West 'admitted killing waitress', BBC News 25 March 1998". BBC News. 25 March 1998. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- Happy Like Murderers, Gordon Burn, pp146-147
- Scary Bitches: 15 of the Scariest Women You'll Ever Meet! - William Webb - Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- 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.
- "BBC News – Anger at Shipman Cartoon". news.bbc.co.uk. 1 February 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
- Bennett, John (2005). The Cromwell Street Murders: The Detective's Story. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-4273-8.
- Burn, Gordon (1998). Happy Like Murderers. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-19546-6.
- Carter Woodrow, Jane (2011). Rose West: The making of a Monster. Hodder & Stoughton (UK). ISBN 978-0-340-99247-0.
- Masters, Brian (1996). She Must Have Known: Trial of Rosemary West. London: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-40650-9.
- Roberts, Caroline (2005). The Lost Girl: How I Triumphed Over Life at the Mercy of Fred and Rose West. London: Metro Books. 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. London: Warner Books. ISBN 0-7515-1322-9.
- Wansell, Geoffrey (1996). An Evil Love: The Life of Frederick West. London: Hodder Headline. 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. London: True Crime Library. ISBN 1-874358-24-9.
- Partington, Marian (2012). If You Sit Very Still. Vala Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 978-1-908363-02-2.
- The West Murders: transcript of a documentary by DMP films
- MEDIA INFORMATION PACK (detailed report by police)
- "A Horror Story" by Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute
- on YouTube (part 1 of 4)
- Article on West in The New Criminologist[dead link]
- If You Sit Very Still by Marian Partington - the story of Lucy Partington's disappearance, by her sister.