Five victims were murdered and buried in the cellar at Cromwell Street between November 1973 and April 1975. The first of these victims, 15-year-old Carol Ann Cooper, was abducted on 10 November 1973. Cooper lived in the Pines Children’s Home in Worcester, and was abducted after spending the evening at a cinema with her boyfriend. She had been waiting for a bus in Warndon when she vanished, and was likely dragged into Fred’s car, where her face was bound with surgical tape and her arms bound with braiding cloth before she was driven to Cromwell Street. At the Wests’ address, Cooper was suspended from the wooden beams of the cellar ceiling before her abuse and murder. As had been the case with Lynda, Cooper died from strangulation or asphyxiation, before her body was dismembered and buried in a shallow, cubical grave in the cellar. Over the following 17 months, four further victims between the ages of 15 and 21 suffered a similar fate to that endured by Gough and Cooper, although the disarticulation conducted upon each successive victim, plus the paraphernalia discovered in each shallow grave, suggests each victim was likely subjected to greater abuse and torture than those previously murdered. Over the following 17 months, four further victims between the ages of 15 and 21 suffered a similar fate to that endured by Gough and Cooper, although the disarticulation conducted upon each successive victim, plus the paraphernalia discovered in each shallow grave, suggests each victim was likely subjected to greater abuse and torture than those previously murdered.
Frederick Walter Stephen West was born on 29 September 1941 at Bickerton Cottage, Much Marcle, Herefordshire, a village in England, the first surviving child born to Walter Stephen West (5 July 1914 – 28 March 1992) and Daisy Hannah Hill (20 May 1922 – 6 February 1968). His was a poor family of farm workers, close-knit and mutually protective; his father was a disciplinarian and his mother overprotective. In 1946, the family moved to Moorcourt Cottage at Moorcourt Farm, where Fred’s father worked as a milking herdsman and harvest hand. The cottage had no electricity and was heated by a log fireplace. By 1951, Fred’s mother had given birth to eight children, six of whom survived, but Fred was always his mother’s favourite. He was seen as a mother’s boy, and relied mostly on his siblings for companionship.
The West children were expected to perform assigned chores, and all six did seasonal work, the three girls picking hops and strawberries, the three boys harvesting wheat and hunting rabbits. The necessity of working to earn a living, or even just to survive, instilled a strong work ethic in Fred, who also developed a lifelong habit of petty theft. Classmates recall Fred as scruffy, dim, lethargic, and regularly in trouble. Throughout his life, he remained scarcely literate, yet displayed an aptitude for woodwork and artwork. Some say he seemed like any other young boy growing up, with his aunt eventually telling the press that he “has always been such a nice boy.” One neighbour described him as “a bit cheeky, a bit mouthy, but that was the way these kids were.” He left school in December 1956 at age 15, initially working as a labourer at Moorcourt Farm. Fred claimed he was introduced to sex by his mother at 12, to have engaged in acts of bestiality with animals in his early teens, and that his belief in incest being normal stemmed from his father’s incest with Fred’s sisters. Fred’s youngest brother, Doug, dismissed these claims as fantasy on Fred’s part.
By 1957, Fred and his brother John frequently socialised at a youth club in nearby Ledbury, where his distinct and guttural Herefordshire accent marked him as a “country bumpkin”. He aggressively pestered women and girls, whom he objectified as sources of pleasure to be used as he saw fit, and would abruptly approach and fondle them. When a girl acquiesced to his advances, she would find his sexual performance unsatisfying, as his primary objective was his own gratification. Shortly after his 17th birthday, Fred bought a motorcycle, and two months later suffered a fractured skull, a broken arm, and a broken leg in an accident. He was unconscious for seven days and walked with braces for several months; A metal plate was placed in his head that may have affected his behavior and impulse control according to some experts and he developed an extreme fear of hospitals. Two years later a girl he groped on a fire escape outside the Ledbury Youth Club punched him, sending him falling two floors. West incurred another head injury, and possibly permanent brain damage
In June 1961, Fred’s 13-year-old sister, Kitty, told her mother that Fred had been raping her since the previous December, and had impregnated her. Arrested the same month, Fred freely admitted to police he had been molesting young girls since his early teens and asked, “Doesn’t everybody do it?” He was tried on 9 November at Herefordshire Assizes. Though disgusted by her son’s actions, Daisy had been prepared to testify in his defence. Kitty refused to testify and the case collapsed. Much of Fred’s family effectively disowned him, his mother banished him from the household, and he moved into the Much Marcle house of his aunt Violet. By mid-1962, he had reconciled with his parents, but his relationship with most of his family remained fraught.
Fred became re-acquainted with Catherine (“Rena”) Bernadette Costello, a Scottish girl who had a police record for burglary and prostitution. in September 1962, when he was 21. He had first met Costello — who came from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire — at a Much Marcle dance hall in 1960, and dated her for several months before she returned to Scotland. By now, Costello was pregnant by a Pakistani bus driver, and she may have relocated from Glasgow to England due to the stigma of her baby’s mixed ancestry. She married Fred in Ledbury on 17 November, the sole guest being Fred’s younger brother John. The couple initially lived in Fred’s aunt’s home, then moved to Coatbridge, where Fred worked as an ice cream van driver. Rena’s daughter, Charmaine, was born in March 1963; to explain the child’s mixed ancestry, Rena and Fred claimed that she had suffered a miscarriage and that Charmaine was adopted. Shortly thereafter, the couple relocated to Savoy Street, in the Bridgeton district of Glasgow. In July 1964, Rena bore Fred a daughter, Anna Marie. The child was born at the couple’s Savoy Street home. The family nanny, Isa McNeill, and neighbours of the Wests, recall Rena as a considerate mother “struggling to bring up two children”; Fred treated the children harshly. He kept the girls in the bottom of a bunk bed with bars fitted to the space between the bunks, effectively caging them; they were allowed out only when he was at work. Via McNeill, the Wests became acquainted with 16-year-old Anne McFall, a friend of McNeill’s, who was despondent over the death of her boyfriend in a workplace accident. McFall spent a great deal of time at the Wests’ flat
Fred later admitted to having engaged in numerous affairs in the early years of his marriage, and fathered one illegitimate child with a woman from the Gorbals. When Rena discovered her husband’s infidelity, she began an affair with a man named John McLachlan. On one occasion, Fred discovered the pair in an embrace. He punched Rena, making her scream. In response, McLachlan punched Fred, who drew a knife and grazed McLachlan’s stomach. When punched by McLachlan a second time, Fred stopped defending himself. Years later, McLachlan recollected this incident: “He couldn’t tackle a man, but he wasn’t so slow in attacking women.” He and Rena continued their affair, and McLachlan became increasingly aghast at Rena’s bruises and black eyes. On each occasion it became apparent Fred had beaten his wife, McLachlan extensively beat Fred. Another time, McLachlan witnessed Charmaine — little older than a toddler — ask Fred for an ice cream from his van; in response, Fred struck her across the head, triggering another beating from McLachlan, he later stated “Any ordinary man would have given the child some ice cream, but instead he smashed her round the head with his hand … He was a violent and sadistic bastard who enjoyed beating up women and kids“. On 4 November 1965, Fred accidentally ran over and killed a small boy in Glasgow with his van. Fred was cleared of any wrongdoing by police, but feared the hostile reaction and potential reprisals for the accident from the locals, whom he relied upon to make his living. In December, he returned to Gloucester with Charmaine and Anna Marie, renting a caravan at the Timberland Caravan Park in Bishop’s Cleeve. Rena joined him in February 1966, accompanied by Isa McNeill and Anne McFall, who also moved into Fred’s caravan. (McNeill and McFall both came from impoverished backgrounds; both hoped to find work in England.) Shortly after the move south, Fred found employment driving a lorry for a local abattoir.
By early 1966, Fred had begun to exhibit dominance and control over all three women. He was also prone to violent mood swings, and Rena and McNeill typically bore the brunt of his fury; Fred also physically attacked his stepdaughter more than once. He is also reported to have begun sexually abusing Charmaine, and to have encouraged Rena to turn to prostitution to supplement his meagre income. To escape Fred’s domestic abuse and increasingly sadistic sexual demands, Rena phoned McLachlan, begging him to rescue her, McNeill and her children. Together, McLachlan, Rena, and McNeill devised a plan; he and Isa’s boyfriend, John Trotter, would secretly drive to Bishop’s Cleeve in McLachlan’s Mini and discreetly take Rena, her children and McNeill back to Scotland. McFall had by this stage become infatuated with Fred, who had promised to marry her. It is likely she informed Fred of the plan, as he arrived at the meeting time, and McFall was “oddly calm” as she informed McNeill she intended to remain with Fred to work as the children’s nanny. An altercation ensued between Fred and McLachlan, resulting in Fred being struck several times. Police were called and McLachlan, Trotter, McNeill, and Rena left, with Fred threatening to kill Rena should he ever see her again. To ensure her daughters’ well-being, Rena frequently travelled to England to visit Charmaine and Anna Marie while they lived with Fred at Bishop’s Cleeve. Despite initially maintaining her friendship with McFall, Rena soon began to resent her matriarchal presence around her daughters. On 11 October, in an act of resentment, Rena stole some belongings from Fred’s caravan and returned to Glasgow. She was arrested the following month and returned to Gloucester to face trial. On 29 November, Rena was sentenced to three years’ probation. Fred testified at the hearing, admitting he and McFall were living together, but falsely claiming McFall intended to return to Scotland imminently. After the trial, McFall moved into a caravan at the Timberland Caravan Park; Rena alternated between living with Fred and returning to Glasgow. Letters McFall posted to her family and McNeill in Glasgow between 1966 and 1967 indicate she believed a relationship with Fred could offer her a better life than that she had experienced in Scotland, and she tried to persuade Fred to divorce his wife in order that he could marry her.
In July 1967, McFall, aged 18 and eight months pregnant with Fred’s child, vanished. She was never reported missing, but her dismembered remains were found buried at the edge of a cornfield between Much Marcle and Kempley in June 1994. Her limbs had been carefully disarticulated, and many phalange bones were missing from her body — likely to have been retained as keepsakes; her unborn child may also have been cut from her womb. Fred initially denied he had killed McFall, but confided to one visitor following his arrest that he had stabbed her to death following an argument. This explanation is inconsistent with the fact that her wrists were found with sections of dressing gown cord wrapped around them, suggesting she had been restrained prior to her murder. The following month, Rena returned to live with Fred, and the couple relocated to the Lake House Caravan Park. Their relationship initially improved, but Rena left the following year, again leaving the children in his care. On these occasions when Fred had no woman to supervise and care for the girls, he temporarily placed them in the care of Gloucester social services.
Rosemary Letts was born on 29 November 1953 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 electroconvulsive therapy while pregnant; some have argued that this treatment may have caused prenatal injuries to her daughter. Growing up, Rosemary was sexually abused by her father. Because she wasn’t very bright and a bit overweight, she was often teased and responded by attacking her bullies aggressively. Rosemary grew up into a moody yet precocious teenager, prone to daydreaming and performing poorly at school where she was called ‘Dozy Rosie’. The marriage of Rose’s parents was a turbulent one, her father was a paranoid schizophrenic prone to violent behaviour, serving as a terrifying, dictatorial presence. It was said that Bill made his daughters clean the carpet with their toothbrushes. “…people would see this very charming man but behind closed doors he was very violent to his wife Daisy; he was violent to some of the children. Rose was, to some extent, protected from that.”
At the onset of puberty, Rose 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. Because her father’s rules prevented her from dating boys her own age, she pursued relationships with older men where she lived; one of them took advantage of her and raped her. When Rosemary was fifteen her parents separated. Daisy took Rose and moved in with one of her adult daughters and her husband, she attended Cleeve School for six months and started spending even more time with male companions. Later she surprising moved back in with her father in Bishop’s Cleeve, near Cheltenham.
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 Bishops Cleeve. Rose was repulsed by Fred’s unkempt appearance, and deduced he was a tramp, but she quickly became flattered by the attention Fred continued to lavish on her over the following days as he invariably sat alongside her at the same bus stop. Rose twice refused to go on a date with Fred, but allowed him to accompany her home. In their initial conversations, Fred quickly discovered that although Rose had never had a boyfriend, she was overtly promiscuous. He also extracted a degree of sympathy from her by claiming he and his two daughters had been abandoned by his wife, and that he wished for more children. Having discovered Rose worked in a nearby bread shop, a few days after their first encounter, Fred persuaded an unknown woman to enter the premises and present her with a gift accompanied by the explanation that a “man outside” had asked her to present this gift to her. Minutes later, Fred entered the premises and asked Rose to accompany him on a date that evening; an offer she accepted. Shortly thereafter, Rose began a relationship with Fred, becoming a frequent visitor at the Lake House Caravan Park, and a willing childminder to Charmaine and Anna Marie, whom she noted were neglected and whom she initially treated with care and affection.
On several occasions in the early days of their courtship, Rose insisted she and Fred take the girls on excursions to gather wild flowers. Within weeks of her first meeting Fred, Rose left her job at the bread shop in order to become the nanny to Charmaine and Anna Marie; this decision was made with the agreement that Fred would provide her with sufficient money to give to her parents on Fridays to convince them she was still obtaining a salary at the bread shop. Several months later, Rose introduced Fred to her family, who were aghast at their daughter’s choice of partner. Rose’s mother, Daisy, was unimpressed with Fred’s arrogance and correctly concluded he was a pathological liar; her father, Bill a registered schizophrenic — vehemently disapproved of the relationship, threatening Fred directly and promising to call social services if he continued to date his daughter.
With Rose dating the 28-year-old Fred, her father disapproved of the relationship and even went to the trailer park where he lived with his two daughters and threatened to call social services on him. Rose’s parents forbade their daughter from continuing to date Fred, but she defied their wishes, prompting them to visit Gloucestershire social services to explain that their 15-year-old daughter was dating an older man, and that they had heard rumours that she had begun to engage in prostitution at his caravan. In response, Rose was placed in a home for troubled teenagers in Cheltenham in August 1969 and only allowed to leave under controlled conditions. When allowed to return home to visit her parents at weekends, Rose almost invariably took the opportunity to visit Fred. On her 16th birthday, Rose left the home for troubled teenagers to return to her parents (Fred at the time serving a 30-day sentence for theft and unpaid fines). Upon Fred’s release, Rose left her parents’ home to move into the Cheltenham flat Fred then lived in. Shortly thereafter, Fred collected Charmaine and Anna Marie from the social services. Bill Letts made one final effort to prevent his daughter from seeing Fred, and Rose was examined by a police surgeon in February 1970, who confirmed she was pregnant. In response, Rose was again placed into care, but was discharged on 6 March on the understanding she would terminate her pregnancy and return to her family. Instead, Rose opted to live with Fred, resulting in her father forbidding his daughter from ever again setting foot in his household.
Three months later, the couple vacated the Cheltenham flat and relocated to the ground floor flat of a two-storey house in Midland Road, Gloucester. On 17 October 1970, Rose gave birth to their first child: a daughter they named Heather Ann (speculation remains that Heather may have been sired by Rose’s own father). Two months later, Fred was imprisoned for the theft of car tyres and a vehicle tax disc. He remained imprisoned until 24 June 1971. As he served this six-and-a-half-month sentence, Rose, having just turned 17, looked after the three girls, with Charmaine and Anna Marie being told to refer to Rose as their mother.
According to Anna Marie West, she and Charmaine were frequently subjected to criticism, beatings, and other forms of punishment throughout the time they lived under Rose’s care at Midland Road, but although Anna Marie was generally submissive and prone to display emotion in response to the physical and mental hardships she and her sister endured, Charmaine repeatedly infuriated Rose by her stoic refusal to either cry or display any sign of grief or servitude no matter how severely she was physically punished. Despite the years of neglect and abuse, Charmaine’s spirit had not been broken, and she talked wistfully to Anna Marie of the belief she held her “mummy will come and save me”. Anna Marie later recollected her sister repeatedly antagonised Rose by making statements such as: “My real mummy wouldn’t swear or shout at us” in response to Rose’s scathing language. A childhood friend of Charmaine’s named Tracey Giles, who had lived in the upper flat of Midland Road, would later recollect an incident in which she had entered the Wests’ flat, unannounced, only to see Charmaine, naked and standing upon a chair, gagged and with her hands bound behind her back with a belt, as Rose stood alongside the child with a large wooden spoon in her hand. According to Tracey, Charmaine had been “calm and unconcerned”, while Anna Marie had been standing by the door with a blank expression on her face. Hospital records reveal Charmaine had received treatment for a severe puncture wound to her left ankle in the casualty unit of the Gloucester Royal Hospital on 28 March 1971. This incident was explained by Rose to have resulted from a household accident.
Rose is believed to have killed Charmaine shortly before Fred’s prison release date of 24 June 1971. She is known to have taken Charmaine, Anna Marie and Heather to visit Fred on 15 June. It is believed to be on or very shortly after this date that Charmaine was murdered. As well as forensic odontology confirmation that Charmaine had died while Fred was still incarcerated, further testimony from Tracey’s mother, Shirley, corroborated the fact that Charmaine had been murdered before Fred had been released on 24 June. In her later testimony at Rose’s trial, Mrs Giles stated she and her family had lived in the upper flat of 25 Midland Road in 1971, and that her two daughters had been playmates of Charmaine and Anna Marie. Mrs Giles stated that after her family had vacated the upper flat of Midland Road in April 1971, on one day in June, she had brought Tracey to visit Charmaine, only for Tracey to be told by Rose: “She’s gone to live with her mother, and bloody good riddance!” before Tracey began to weep.
As with the Giles family, Rose explained Charmaine’s disappearance to others who enquired about her whereabouts by claiming that Rena had called and taken her eldest daughter to live with her in Bristol; she informed staff at Charmaine’s primary school that the child had moved with her mother to London. When Fred was released from prison on 24 June, he allayed Anna Marie’s concerns for her sister’s whereabouts by claiming her mother had collected Charmaine and returned to Scotland. In her autobiography, ‘Out of the Shadows’, Anna Marie recollected that when she asked why her mother had collected Charmaine but not her, Fred callously replied: “She wouldn’t want you, love. You’re the wrong colour.” Charmaine’s body was initially stowed in the coal cellar of Midland Road until Fred was released from prison. He later buried her naked body in the yard close to the back door of the flat, and he remained adamant he had not dismembered this victim. A subsequent autopsy suggested the body had been severed at the hip; this damage may have been caused by building work Fred conducted at the property in 1976. Several bones—particularly patellae, finger, wrist, toe and ankle bones—were missing from her skeleton, leading to the speculation the missing parts had been retained as keepsakes (this proved to be a distinctive discovery in all the autopsies of the victims exhumed in 1994).
Rena maintained sporadic contact with her children on each occasion she and Fred separated. She is also known to have visited Moorcourt Cottage to enquire as to her children’s whereabouts and welfare in the latter half of August 1971. Fred’s sister-in-law, Christine, later recollected Rena was depressed and extremely anxious about her children’s welfare. Being provided with Fred’s Midland Road address, Rena sought to confront him—likely to discuss or demand custody of her daughters. This was the final time Rena was seen alive. She is believed to have been murdered by strangulation, possibly in the back seat of Fred’s Ford Popular and likely while intoxicated. When her body was discovered, a short length of metal tubing was found with her remains, leaving an equal possibility she had been restrained and subjected to a sexual assault prior to her murder. Rena’s body was extensively dismembered, placed into plastic bags, and buried close to a cluster of trees known as Yewtree Coppice at Letterbox Field.
On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary wed. The ceremony took place at Gloucester Register Office, with Fred incorrectly describing himself as a bachelor upon the marriage certificate. No family or friends were invited. Several months later, with Rose pregnant with her second child, the couple moved from Midland Road to an address nearby: 25 Cromwell Street. Initially, the three-storey home was rented from the council; Fred later purchased the property from the council for £7,000. To facilitate the Wests’ purchasing the property from the council, many of the upper floor rooms were initially converted into bedsits, to supplement the household income. To maintain a degree of privacy for his own family, Fred installed a cooker and a washbasin on the first-floor landing in order that their lodgers need not enter the ground floor where the West family lived, and only he and his family were permitted access to the garden of the property. On 1 June, Rose gave birth to a second daughter. The date of her birth led Fred and Rose to name the child Mae June.
Shortly after giving birth to her second child, Rose began to work as a prostitute, operating from an upstairs room at their residence and advertising her services in a local contact magazine. Fred encouraged Rose to seek clients in Gloucester’s West Indian community through these advertisements. As well as being a prostitute, Rose had sex with male and female lodgers in the household, and with people Fred encountered via his work; she also bragged to several people that no man or woman could completely satisfy her. 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. Others are reported to have been local authority figures.
When engaging in sexual relations with women, Rose would gradually increase the level of brutality to which she subjected her partner with acts such as partially suffocating her partner, or inserting increasingly large dildos into her partner’s body. If the woman resisted or expressed any pain or fear, this would greatly excite Rose, who would typically ask: “Aren’t you woman enough to take it?” To many of these women, it became apparent Rose and her husband (who regularly participated in threesomes with his wife and her lovers) took a particular pleasure from seeking to take women beyond their sexual limits — typically via sessions involving bondage, as the Wests openly admitted to taking a particular pleasure from any form of sex involving a strong measure of dominance, pain and violence. To cater to these fetishes, they amassed a large collection of bondage and restraining devices, magazines and photographs — later expanding this collection to include videos depicting bestiality and graphic child sexual abuse.
Rose controlled the West family finances, Fred giving her his pay packets. The room Rose used for prostitution was known throughout the West household as ‘Rose’s Room’, and had several hidden peepholes allowing Fred — a longtime voyeur — to watch her entertain her clients. He also installed a baby monitor in the room, allowing him to listen from elsewhere in the house. The room included a private bar, and a red light outside the door warned when Rose was not to be disturbed. Rose carried the sole key to this room around her neck, and Fred installed a separate doorbell to the household which Rose’s clients were instructed to ring whenever they visited the household. Much of the money earned from Rose’s prostitution was spent on home improvements. By 1977, Rose’s father had come to tolerate his daughter’s marriage, and to develop a grudging respect for Fred. Together, he and Fred opened a café they named The Green Lantern, which was soon bankrupt. When Bill Letts discovered Rose’s prostitution, he became one of Rose’s most frequent visitors, he’d been having sex with her since she was thirteen. He was also reported to have raped Anna Marie, his granddaughter, Bill died in 1979. By 1983, she had given birth to eight children, at least three of whom were conceived by clients. Fred willingly accepted these children as his own, and falsely informed them the reason their skin was darker than that of their siblings was because his great-grandmother was a black woman.
When each of the West children reached the age of seven, they were assigned numerous daily chores to perform in the house; they were seldom allowed to socialise outside the household perimeters unless either Fred or Rose were present, and had to follow strict guidelines imposed by their parents, with severe punishment — almost always physical — being the penalty for not conforming to the household rules. The children feared being the recipients of violence from their parents, the vast majority inflicted by Rose, occasionally by Fred. The violence was sometimes irrational, indiscreet or just inflicted for Rose’s gratification; she always took great care not to mark the children’s faces or hands in these assaults. Heather, then her younger brother Stephen (born 1973), ran away from home; both returned to Cromwell Street after several weeks of alternately sleeping rough or staying with friends, and both were beaten when they returned home. Between 1972 and 1992, the West children were admitted to the Accident and Emergency department of local hospitals 31 times; the injuries were explained as accidents and never reported to social services. On one occasion, as Stephen was mopping the kitchen floor with a cloth, Rose accidentally stepped into the bowl of water he had been using. In response, Rose hit the boy over the head with the bowl, then repeatedly kicked him in the head and chest as she shouted: “You did that on purpose, you little swine!” On another occasion, Rose became furious about a missing kitchen utensil, then grabbed a knife she had been using to cut a slab of meat, repeatedly inflicting light scour marks to Mae’s chest until her rib cage was covered with light knife wounds. All the while, Mae screamed, “No, Mum! No, Mum!” as Stephen and Heather stood by, helplessly sobbing. Even Fred occasionally became the recipient of Rose’s violence. On one occasion in August 1974, Rose chased after Fred with a carving knife in her hand; Fred was able to slam shut the door of the room into which he had run as Rose lunged at him with the knife, resulting in the knife embedding itself in the door, and three of Rose’s fingers sliding down the blade, almost severing them from her hand. In response, Rose calmly wrapped her hand in a towel and said: “Look what you done, fella. You’ve got to take me to the hospital now.”
In September 1972, the Wests led eight-year-old Anna Marie to the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street, where the child was ordered to undress, with Rose tearing her dress from her body upon noting the child’s hesitation. She was then stripped naked, bound to a mattress and gagged before Fred raped her with Rose’s active encouragement. After the rape, Rose explained to the child: “Everybody does it to every girl. It’s a father’s job. Don’t worry, and don’t say anything to anybody.” Making clear these sexual assaults would continue, Fred and Rose then threatened the child with severe beatings if they ever received word she had divulged the sexual abuse she endured at their hands. Rose occasionally sexually abused the girl herself, and later took extreme gratification in degrading her with acts such as binding Anna Marie to various items of furniture before encouraging Fred to rape her, and forcing her to perform household chores while wearing sexual devices and a mini-skirt. From the age of 13, Fred and Rose forced Anna Marie to prostitute herself within the household, with her clients being informed Anna Marie was 16. Rose was always present in the room when these acts occurred, to ensure the girl did not reveal her true age. On one occasion when Anna Marie was aged 13 or 14, Rose took her to a local pub, insisting she drink several glasses of barley wine. Several hours later, Fred arrived at the pub to collect Rose and Anna Marie. Once they had left the premises, Anna Marie was bundled into her father’s van and beaten by Rose, who asked her: “Do you think you could be my friend?” before she was sexually abused by her father and stepmother.
In October 1972, the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Owens as their children’s nanny. They had picked her up one night on a secluded country road as she hitchhiked from Tewkesbury to her Cinderford home, having visited her boyfriend. Learning that Owens disliked her stepfather and was looking for a job, the Wests offered her part-time employment as a nanny to the three children then in their household, with a promise she would be driven home each Tuesday. Several days later, Owens moved into 25 Cromwell Street, sharing a room with Anna Marie, whom Owens noted was “very withdrawn”. Rose, who had begun to engage in prostitution by this time, explained to Owens that she worked as a masseuse when the younger woman enquired about the steady stream of men visiting her. According to Owens, Fred also said he was a skilled abortionist, who was available should she ever need such a service. Owens also noted Fred talked about sex almost incessantly; her suspicions as to his sexual overtones were further heightened when Fred boasted that many of the women he claimed to have performed abortions upon were so overjoyed that they would offer him their sexual services as a reward. When Owens herself became the recipient of the Wests’ overt sexual advances, she announced her intentions to leave Cromwell Street and return home.
Knowing Owens’ habits of hitchhiking along the A40 between Cinderford and Tewkesbury, the Wests formulated a plan to abduct her for their shared gratification. Fred later admitted that the specific intent of this abduction was the rape and likely murder of Owens, but that his initial incentive was to determine whether his wife would be willing to at least assist him in an abduction. On 6 December 1972, the couple lured Owens into their vehicle with an apology for their conduct and the offer of a lift home. Initially, Owens believed the Wests had been sincere in their apologies to her and obliged, believing she had simply mistaken their earlier intentions. Rose joined her in the back seat, with the explanation she wanted a “girls’ chat” as Fred drove. Shortly thereafter, Rose began to fondle her, as Fred questioned whether she had had sex with her boyfriend that evening. When Owens began to protest, Fred stopped the car, referred to Owens as a “bitch”, and punched her into unconsciousness before he and Rose bound and gagged her with a scarf and duct tape. In her subsequent statement to police, Owens stated that, at Cromwell Street, she was given a drugged cup of tea to drink, then again gagged and subjected to a prolonged sexual assault from Fred and Rose. At one stage, Fred remarked that Owens’ clitoris was unusual then lashed her genitals with a leather belt. When Owens screamed, Rose again smothered her with a pillow and further restrained her about the neck, and performed cunnilingus on her. Quickly realising the gravity of her situation, Owens ceased resisting their sexual assaults.
The following morning, having noted Owens’ screaming when one of his children had knocked on the door of the room in which she was restrained, Fred threatened that he and his wife would keep her locked up in the cellar and allow his “black friends” to abuse her, and that when they had finished, he would bury her body beneath “the paving stones of Gloucester”. Fred then claimed he had killed hundreds of young girls, adding that Owens had primarily been brought to the house for “Rose’s pleasure”. He and Rose then calmly asked Owens whether she would consider returning to work as their nanny. Seeing her escape avenue, Owens agreed, and vacuumed the house to indicate her belief in becoming an extended member of the family. Later that day, Owens escaped from a launderette she and Rose had entered and returned home. Although initially too ashamed to divulge to her mother what had happened, when her mother noted the welts, bruises and exposed subcutaneous tissues on her daughter’s body, Owens burst into tears and confided what had happened. Owens’ mother immediately reported her daughter’s ordeal to the police, and the Wests were arrested and charged with assault, indecent assault, actual bodily harm, and rape. The case was tried at Gloucester Magistrates Court on 12 January 1973, but by this date, Owens had decided she could not face the ordeal of testifying in court. All charges pertaining to her sexual abuse were dropped, and the Wests agreed to plead guilty to the reduced charges of indecent assault and causing actual bodily harm; each was fined £50, and the couple were allowed to walk free from court. (When Owens heard this news, she attempted to commit suicide.)
Three months after the Wests’ assault trial, the couple committed their first known murder. The victim was a 19-year-old named Lynda Gough, with whom Fred and Rose became acquainted through a male lodger in early 1973. Gough regularly visited Cromwell Street, and engaged in affairs with two male lodgers. On 19 April, she moved into their home on Cromwell Street. On or about 20 April, other tenants were told that she had been told to leave the household after she had hit one of their children. This story was repeated to Gough’s mother when she contacted the Wests to enquire about her whereabouts (Rose was wearing Lynda’s clothing when she repeated this claim). When Gough’s dismembered body was found, the jaw was completely wrapped in adhesive and surgical tape to silence her screams, and two small tubes had likely been inserted into her nasal cavities to allow breathing. Long sections of string and sections of knotted fabric were also discovered with her remains. Gough had likely been suspended from holes carved into the wooden beams supporting the ceiling of the cellar Fred later admitted he had devised for the purpose of suspending his victims’ bodies, and likely died of strangulation or suffocation. Her dismembered body, missing five cervical vertebrae, the patellae and numerous phalange bones, was buried in an inspection pit beneath the garage. From their later investigations, police and forensic experts concluded all the victims found in the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street had been murdered in this location, and that, like Gough, each had been dismembered in this location.
Following the murder of 18-year-old Juanita Mott in April 1975, Fred concreted over the floor of the entire cellar. He later converted this section of the household into a bedroom for his oldest children, and he and his wife are not known to have committed any further murders until May 1978, when Fred — either with or without Rose’s participation but certainly with her knowledge — murdered an 18-year-old lodger named Shirley Robinson. Robinson had taken lodgings with the Wests in April 1977, and was heavily pregnant with a baby son at the time of her murder. Rose — herself pregnant at the time — initially boasted to neighbours the child Robinson was carrying was her husband’s; she soon developed a deep resentment of Robinson, and the motive for her murder is likely to have been the removal of a threat to the stability of the Wests’ relationship. Her body was buried in the garden of 25 Cromwell Street. It was extensively dismembered, but no restraining devices were found with these remains, making a sexual motive for this murder unlikely. Shortly thereafter, Rose unsuccessfully submitted a claim for maternity benefit in Shirley’s name with Gloucester social services. As had earlier been the case with Charmaine and Lynda, Fred and Rose allayed the suspicions of anyone who asked about Robinson’s whereabouts by claiming she had relocated to live with her father in West Germany.
The final murder Fred and Rose are known to have committed with a definite sexual motive occurred on 5 August 1979. The victim was a 16-year-old named Alison Chambers, who had run away from a local children’s home to become the Wests’ live-in nanny in the middle of 1979. Chambers is believed to have lived within their household for several weeks before her murder, and Rose promised Chambers she could live at a rural “peaceful farm” she claimed she and Fred owned. Her body was also buried in the garden of Cromwell Street, close to the bathroom wall, and although Chambers was likely dismembered, her skeleton was not marked by striations as the earlier victims’ bodies had been. In an effort to allay any concerns from Chambers’ family (with whom she maintained regular correspondence), Fred and Rose later posted a letter written by Chambers to her mother prior to her murder from a Northamptonshire post box.
To be continued…