Fred and Rosemary in the mid 1980s
|Born||Rosemary Pauline Letts
29 November 1953
Northam, Devon, England, UK
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment (whole life tariff)|
|Spouse(s)||Fred West (1972–1995; his death)|
|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 9 young women between 1973 and 1987, whereas Rose was judged to have murdered her 8-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine, in 1971. The majority of these murders were committed 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 Northam, Devon, to William Andrew "Bill" Letts (25 February 1921– 24 May 1979) and Daisy Gwendoline Fuller (1919–) after a difficult pregnancy. 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 who performed poorly at school.
Rosemary's parents split up when she was a teenager. She 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, a paranoid schizophrenic, was prone to violence and repeatedly sexually abused her. At the onset of puberty, Rosemary reportedly became fascinated by her developing body, and would purposefully parade naked or semi-naked around the house in the presence of her younger brother, Graham. On numerous occasions, she would also creep into Graham's bed at nightfall, and masturbate him.
In 1969, at the age of 15, Rosemary began dating Fred West, who was at the time living at the Lake House Hotel Caravan Park in 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 a Pakistani bus driver). 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 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.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Rosemary West regularly worked as a prostitute, often while her husband watched. She also actively encouraged Fred to sexually abuse her stepdaughter, Anne-Marie, beginning when the child was just eight years old; Rose would also sexually abuse the girl herself. Later, Anne-Marie was forced to prostitute herself within the household—being told by Rose she was a "lucky girl" for doing so.
One of the most frequent visitors to the now demolished 25 Cromwell Street, was her abusive father; others are reported to have been local authority figures. She was often pregnant and was the mother of eight children. Five of her children were fathered by Fred West, while three were fathered by clients she met through her prostitution.
It is reported that, even after Rosemary had given birth to her fourth child, her father, William Letts, would still visit his daughter for sex. He was also reported to have raped Fred's daughter Anne-Marie.
The majority of the crimes for which Rosemary West was convicted occurred between April 1973 and August 1979. She murdered Charmaine West, the daughter of Fred's previous wife Rena, sometime on or after 15 June 1971, and stored her body in the cellar at their previous home at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester, while Fred West was serving nearing the end of a six-and-a-half month prison sentence for the theft of car tyres and a vehicle tax disc. (Shortly after Fred's release on 24 June, he buried the body.) One of the bodies found at 25 Cromwell Street was that of their daughter, Heather, who was also murdered by Rose in June 1987 at the age of 16, after being abused by her parents all her life. Barry, her younger brother, would later describe watching 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. 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 husband's 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 Charmaine 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 subjected to 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 died in 2002. At the start of her sentence, West was held at the same prison as Hindley. Subsequently, serial killer Joanna Dennehy became the third to receive a whole life tariff.
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.
- Burn, Gordon (1998). Happy Like Murderers. Faber and Faber (London). ISBN 0-571-19546-6.
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- Partington, Marian (2012). If You Sit Very Still. Vala Publishing Co-operative. ISBN 978-1-908363-02-2.
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- BBC Article with detail of the 12 accusations. Retrieval Date: 14 August 2007.
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- Cresswell, Kim (2016). Garden of Bones - The Story of Fred and Rosemary West. KC Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9780995057807. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "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.
- Fred & Rose p. 52
- Bennett, Will (22 November 1995). "Step-daughter Charmaine was first to die – News". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
- "Surviving Fred and Rose". 24 February 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2016 – via bbc.co.uk.
- Insider. "Born To Kill". Tvsa.co.za. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
-  Archived 14 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- Fred & Rose p. 170
- 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.
- Fred & Rose p. 111
- Sounes, Howard (1995). Fred & Rose: The Full Story Of Fred and Rose West And the Gloucester House of Horrors. London: Time Warner. pp. 112–114.
- Fred & Rose p. 197
- Ferguson, Ian (2004-02-15). "There's nobody home...". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
- 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.