Love isn’t always a ‘good thing’. Occasionally, when two otherwise ‘normal’ people fall in love, their joint chemistry can have deadly results.
This is the story of Fred and Rose West. A couple whose sexual sadism and their depraved and savage lifestyle was hidden from the authorities under a facade of respectability, not because they cared what people thought of them, but because they knew that their violent and deviant practices would jepordise their freedom.
A shocking catalogue of abuse was uncovered by police who searched under warrant, the property at 25 Cromwell Street in early 1994. Not only had Fred and Rose tortured and murdered a huge number of young women they had abducted and brought to the house, but also had subjected their own children to a barrage of sexual abuse, eventually murdering Heather their oldest.
To protect Rose, Fred claimed responsibility for the murders himself. However, Fred had not acted alone. Of the two, Rose was widely known to be the more sadistic. During police investigations, Rose claimed that she had been a 'victim' herself and was merely acting under fear of what Fred would do to her (although she has never confessed to any of the murders). However, overwhelming forensic evidence was found that Fred could not have acted alone due to the size of their house and the close proximity of it's members no matter which room they were in. Numerous statements from several young women who had been abducted and tortured sexually but released, all testified to Rose's dominance over Fred.
In prison, 1994, Fred wrote a final letter to Rose before hanging himself in his cell:
"We will always be in love...You will always be Mrs. West, all over the world. That is important to me and to you."Rose was found guilty of the murders of Charmaine, Heather, Shirley Robinson and the other girls buried at the house. The judge sentenced her to life imprisonment on each of ten counts of murder.
Fred West: born 29 September 1941 - 1 January 1995. (Fred West hanged himself while on remand in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham).
Fred West was born into a poor family of farm workers in Much Marcle, Herefordshire. West claimed that his father had incestuous relationships with his daughters, and that his father taught him bestiality from an early age. It is also alleged that his mother Daisy began sexually abusing him from the age of 12.
At school, West did not excel academically but showed an aptitude for woodwork. He left school at the age of 15 in 1956. In 1958, he suffered a fractured skull in a motorbike accident that his family claimed left him prone to sudden fits of rage.
At the age of 20, he was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted, but escaped a sentence of imprisonment. West is alleged to have said about the molestation of the 13 year old girl: "Well, doesn't everyone do that?"
Secretly, Fred married Rena in 1962, and moved immediately to Scotland. In March of 1963, Charmaine was born, and In 1964, Rena bore a daughter they named Anna Marie.
Rena and Fred met Anne McFall, whose boyfriend had been killed in an accident and she moved in with the couple as a nanny although Fred and Rose both began an affair with her almost immediately and they all moved back to Gloucester. (Fred later said that Anne McFall was the woman he truly loved, yet, her body was found dismembered in 1994 in the same place as Rena West's remains had been found)
At that time, Fred had a job in a slaughterhouse. West developed a morbid obsession with corpses and blood and dismemberment. There is no evidence that he had shown any such interest before then. It seems that Fred West's sexual perversion became slowly more obsessive in the period following his marriage, and the evidence suggests that necrophilia and desire to mutilate corpses began during his period as a butcher.
Rose West: born 29 November 1953 in Barnstaple - present day ( Devon HMP Bronzefield, Middlesex).
Rosemary Letts was born in Barnstaple, Devon. Her mother who suffered from depression, was given ECT while pregnant and some have argued that this may have caused prenatal injury to her daughter. Rose developed a habit of rocking herself in her cot for hours on end. It was one of the first indications that, in the family's words, she was 'a bit slow'.
Rose grew up into a moody teenager and performed poorly at school. Rose showed signs of being sexually precocious, walking around naked after her baths and climbing into bed with her younger brother and fondling him sexually. She focused her interest in sex on the older men of the village. It was alleged (but unsubstantiated) that Rose and her father had an incestuous relationship and that Bill Letts had a reputation for molesting young girls.
Her parents split up and Rose moved in with her father at the age of 16 in Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham; her father was prone to violence and some suggest that Rose consented to sexual relations with her father to avoid his violent beatings.
Fred and Rose:
Fred began an affair with Rosemary Letts (aged 15) in 1968. In 1970, Rose gave birth to their daughter, Heather. They married in 1972 when Rose became pregnant with their second child Mae. Rose and Fred, ran a cheap rooming house and were respected by their neighbors, but had converted a room for Rose which was used for prostitution. The room had peepholes so Fred could watch and a red light outside the door for warning the children not to enter when she was "busy". Allegedly, Rose's father, Bill Letts, would often visit their home to have sex with Rose.
Fred had an enormous stock of pornography in the house and a penchant for watching hard-core sex films, some of them violent. Rose kept a huge amount of sexual paraphernalia (huge vibrators, sex-toys and torture objects) associated with bondage, hard-core porn, bestiality, fetishism, ‘swingers clubs’. Rose invited many West Indian men over to their house to have sex with her. Fred, the voyeur encouraged this behavior and watched through the peephole. As over-sexed as he was, Fred was not at all interested in ordinary sex. It had to involve bondage, vibrators, acts of sadism or lesbianism to get him involved.
The atmosphere inside Cromwell Street was described as eerie. The children were immaculately turned out and well-mannered, but strangely quiet and withdrawn. ( a child who is withdrawn and subdued more than is normal, even for a child who is 'shy', is often an indication that the child has been or is being abused. Other indicators include:
# Regressive behaviour e.g. excessive clinginess.
# A child may appear disconnected or focused on fantasy worlds.
# Overly compliant behaviour, as often young people who have been abused have experienced extensive grooming behaviours.
# Non-participation in social activities.)
Fred had planned to make the cellar of his house into a place for Rose to entertain her clients. It was soundproofed and also used as Fred's "torture chamber."
The first 'client' was his eight-year-old daughter, Anna Marie. He and Rose undressed her and told her that she was lucky that she had such caring parents who were making sure that when she got married she would be able to satisfy her husband. Anna Marie's hands were tied behind her and a gag put in her mouth.
Then while Rose held the girl down, her father raped her. The pain was so severe that the girl could not go to school for several days. She was warned that she would be beaten if she ever told anyone about the rape. Another time, Anna Marie was strapped down while her father raped her quickly on his brief lunch hour.
In late 1972, Fred and Rose picked up a 17-year-old girl named Caroline Owens and hired her as a nanny. Caroline was very attractive, so much so that Rose and Fred competed with each other to seduce her. Caroline found the Wests repugnant and told them she was leaving. The couple abducted, stripped and raped her. When her mother saw her bruises, she got the truth from her and called the police.
There was a hearing in January of 1973. Fred was thirty-one and Rose a mere nineteen - and pregnant once again. Fred was able to con the magistrate into believing that Caroline was a willing partner. Despite Fred's criminal record, the magistrate did not believe the Wests were capable of violence and fined them each.
Although the West children were often remarked to be withdrawn and subdued, the family slipped through the social services net. He had a string of minor convictions, yet there was early evidence of Fred's sexual habits in 1973 (Caroline Owens).
It was a full 20 years later that West came to the attention of the authorities again. In 1993, he was charged with raping and buggering a young girl the previous year, but witnesses refused to give evidence and the charges were dropped.
However, Detective Hazel Savage who had been dealing with the case, was suspicious and continued to make inquiries.
She eventually discovered that Heather West (16 year old daughter of Fred and Rose West) had disappeared and might be buried in the back garden. The inquiry began and the chain of events which led to West hanging himself in his prison cell had begun...In the weeks that followed, several bodies were discovered in the garden and under the patio of 25 Cromwell Street, as well as a field near Much Marcle and another house the Wests had lived in.
Timeline: The victims.
*Anne McFall (born 8 April 1949) murdered around 1967 (said by Fred to be the only woman he ever truly loved). Although 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 as was the case with the other bodies) and the dimensions of the grave site match aspects of West's modus operandi. Body found in "letterbox field" near Much Marcle
*Charmaine West (born 22 February 1963): Killed in June 1971. Killed by Rose West while Fred was in prison. Charmaine was reported by Rose to her neighbour to be a disrespectful child, although Rose has never admitted to any of the murders that took place.
*Catherine Bernadette "Rena" West (born 14 April 1944): Killed August 1971. When Rose had murdered Charmaine, she created both a problem and an opportunity for Fred regarding his first wife Rena. Fred saw that he had no choice but to kill Rena. He strangled her, dismembered her body and mutilated it: he cut off Rena's fingers and toes. Then he put her remains into bags and buried her.
* Lynda Gough (born 1 May 1953): Killed April 1973. Fred dismembered her and buried her in a pit in the garage. True to his ritual, he removed her fingers, toes and kneecaps. When Lynda's family came looking for her, they were told that she had stayed there but had left.
* Carol Ann Cooper (born 10 April 1958): Killed November 1973. Both Fred and Rose abducted fifteen-year-old Carol Ann Cooper and amused themselves with her sexually. She was strangled or suffocated, dismembered and buried at 25 Cromwell Street.
* Lucy Katherine Partington (born 4 March 1952): Killed December 1973. Both Fred and Rose knocked her out and abducted her. Like Carol Ann Cooper, she was tortured for approximately a week and then murdered, dismembered and buried. Fred cut himself while dismembering Lucy and had to go to the hospital for stitches on January 3, 1974.
* Therese Siegenthaler (born 27 November 1952): Killed in April 1974. Therese was a hitch-hiker whose tortured and dismembered body was buried under the cellar floor of the West's house. During Fred's confession at the police station, Fred claimed that he had met two 'Dutch' girls and he could not remember their names. Forensic evidence however confirmed that the remains of teeth found did in fact belong to Therese, who was in fact, not Dutch.
* Shirley Hubbard (born 26 June 1959): Killed November 1974. Shirley's head had been wrapped entirely with tape and a plastic tube was inserted in her nose so that she could breathe. Her tortured and dismembered body was also buried under the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street.
* Juanita Marion Mott (born 1 March 1957): Killed April 1975. Juanita was gagged with a ligature. She was then trussed up with lengths of plastic-covered rope, of the type used for washing line. The rope was used in a complicated way, with loops tied around her arms and thighs, both wrists, both ankles and her skull, horizontally and vertically, backwards and forwards across her body until she could only wriggle like a trapped animal. Then the Wests produced a seven-foot length of rope with a slipknot end forming a noose. This was probably used to suspend Juanita's body from the beams in the cellar.
* Shirley Anne Robinson (born 8 October 1959): Killed May 1978. In 1977, the upstairs of the house had been remodeled to allow for a number of lodgers. One of them was Shirley Robinson, 18, a former prostitute with bisexual inclinations. Shirley developed relationships with both Fred and Rose. Shirley became pregnant with Fred's child after Rose was pregnant with the child of one of her black clients. This time, Fred dismembered Shirley and their unborn baby.
* Alison Chambers (born 8 September 1962): Killed August 1979. A troubled teenager, Alison Chambers was picked up by Fred and Rose in their car as they trawled the quiet country roads for victims. They raped and tortured her, and Alison was buried in the rear garden.
* Heather Ann West (born 17 October 1970) Killed June 1987. Heather told her girlfriend about her father's advances, her mother's affairs and the beatings she received. The girlfriend told her parents, who were friends of the Wests, and Heather's life was in jeopardy. After her parents murdered her, they told the children that she left home. Fred asked his son Stephen to help him dig a hole in the rear garden, where Fred later buried Heather's dismembered body.
The Cromwell Street Murders: A Detective's Story (by John Bennett and Graham Gardener) 2005: Sutton Publishing