An undated photo of Fred and Rose, likely taken between 1983 and 1989
Rosemary Pauline Letts
29 November 1953
Northam, Devon, England
|Spouse(s)||Fred West (1972–1995; his death)|
|Conviction(s)||Sexual assault, murder|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment (whole life order)|
Span of crimes
|June 1971–May 1987|
Rosemary Pauline "Rose" West (née Letts; born 29 November 1953) is a British serial killer, now an inmate at HM Prison New Hall, Flockton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, after being convicted in 1995 of ten murders.
Rose was judged to have murdered her 8-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine, in 1971. 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 nine young women between 1973 and 1987. The majority of these murders were committed at the couple's home, 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester.
Early life and marriage to Fred West
Rosemary Letts was born in Northam, Devon to William Andrew "Bill" Letts (25 February 1921 – 24 May 1979) and Daisy Gwendoline Fuller (1919 –) after a difficult pregnancy. She was the fifth of seven children born into a poor family. Her mother suffered from depression and was given ECT while pregnant; some have argued that this treatment may have caused prenatal injuries to her daughter. Rosemary grew up into a moody yet precocious teenager, prone to daydreaming and performing poorly at school.
Rose's parents separated when she was a teenager. Rose lived with her mother and attended Cleeve School for six months, later moving in with her father at the age of 16 in Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham; her father, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was prone to extreme violence and repeatedly sexually abused her and her oldest sister Patricia.
Rose was raped by her father from the age of ten. At the onset of puberty, Rose reportedly, fascinated by her developing body, would deliberately parade naked or semi-naked around the house in the presence of her younger brother, Graham (born 1957). On numerous occasions, at the age of 13, she would also creep into 9-year-old Graham's bed at nightfall and molest him and her youngest brother Gordon. Rose also raped Graham, when he was 12 years old.
In 1969, 15-year-old Rose met Fred, 27, while waiting at a Cheltenham bus stop. Initially, Rose was not interested in Fred, who was at the time living at a caravan park in Bishop's Cleeve. However, Fred promised her a few nights out and she agreed. When Rose began dating the now 28-year-old Fred, her father disapproved of the relationship and threatened to call social services on him. Rose then left her father's household and moved into Fred's caravan, where she proceeded to care for Fred's daughter Anna Marie and his stepdaughter Charmaine. Charmaine briefly attended Bishop's Cleeve County Primary School on Tobyfield Road. However, by 1970, Rose became pregnant by West and they moved to a flat at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester. Their daughter Heather was born October 17, 1970. During this time, Fred was arrested and sent to jail for a short period of time. Some believe that caring for three young children, while still a child herself, could have fueled Rose's dark desires. It was during this time that criminologists believe she murdered Fred’s eldest daughter, Charmaine. When Fred was released from prison they disposed of the body, and when Charmaine’s mother came looking for her, the couple murdered her as well.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Rose regularly worked as a prostitute, often while her husband watched. She also actively encouraged Fred to sexually abuse Anna Marie, beginning when the child was just eight years old; Rose would also sexually abuse the girl herself. Later, Anna Marie was forced to prostitute herself within the household — being told by Rose she was a "lucky girl" for doing so. One of Rose's most frequent visitors was her father Bill, who had been having sex with her since she was thirteen. Bill died in 1979. Others are reported to have been local authority figures. Rose was often pregnant and was the mother of eight children. Five of her children were fathered by Fred, while three were fathered by clients she met through her prostitution. It is reported that even after Rose had given birth to her fourth child, Bill would still visit Rose for sex. He was also reported to have raped Anna Marie, his step-granddaughter.
Fred and Rose were convicted of sexual assault in January 1973. They were fined for indecent assault of Caroline Owens, 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.
The majority of the crimes for which Rose was convicted occurred between April 1973 and August 1979. She is believed to have murdered 8-year-old Charmaine single-handedly sometime on or after 15 June 1971, and stored her body in the cellar at their previous home at Midland Road, while Fred was near the end of a six-and-a-half month prison sentence for the theft of car tyres and a vehicle tax disc. 17-years-old Rose became overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of three children and could not cope with any more of Charmaine's stoicism in reaction to her abuse. After Charmaine's death, a friend named Tracey Giles visited the Wests' flat and asked to play with her. Rose responded by stating that Charmaine moved away with her birth mother. Fred buried the body after his release on 24 June. When Charmaine's mother Catherine (Rena) Costello West later attempted to retrieve her daughters, Fred killed her as well.
Another murder that Rosemary committed was that of Shirley Robinson. Fred confided to his appropriate adult, Janet Leach, that Rose murdered Robinson and had assisted in her dismemberment, personally removing Robinson's fetus from the womb in the process. Another body found at 25 Cromwell Street was that of their daughter, Heather, who was murdered in June 1987 at the age of 16, after being abused by her parents all her life. Her dismembered body was placed under their family's patio. It is said that Heather began to tell her friends about the abuse occurring in her home. Barry, her younger brother, would later describe watching as a 7-year-old, his mother kick Heather repeatedly in the head until she was no longer moving. The Wests told friends and concerned parties that Heather had left home to work at a Devonshire holiday village and on one occasion, fabricated a phone call, supposedly from Heather, to allay her siblings' suspicions regarding their sister's disappearance. Fred would even taunt his children when they misbehaved by jokingly stating, "If you don't behave, you'll end up under the patio like Heather." 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 five of the Wests' younger 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.
After police found human remains and apparent signs of torture in their home, Rosemary West, along with her husband, Fred West, were arrested in February 1994. During her trial, West denied murdering any of the victims. West proceeded to tell the jury how her husband committed these crimes himself, and she had nothing to do with it. She further claimed to have tried to stop one of the sexual assaults her husband committed.
Rosemary West continued to profess ignorance of her husband's murderous activities but the circumstantial evidence that mounted against them during early 1994 was considered sufficient to prosecute her for ten murders: those of the young women whose bodies were found at 25 Cromwell Street, and of Charmaine West. Fred West was charged with two further murders committed during the 1960s before his association with Rosemary.
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 the second instance of a whole life tariff imposed on a woman in Britain in modern times. The first was serial killer Myra Hindley in 1990.
Almost immediately after being found guilty, Rosemary West lodged an appeal against her 10 murder convictions with the High Court, claiming that her husband (who had confessed to police during questioning that he had murdered up to 30 people) had committed the murders single-handedly. West also claims that she had even tried to prevent one of the sexual assaults her husband committed and she too felt like a victim. On 18 March 1996, however, the Court of Appeal refused to consider her application for an appeal to be heard.
In late 2001, Rosemary West announced her intention not to appeal against her convictions, 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 footpath.
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