The Story Of Fred And Rosemary West
The world of brutality and degradation sank to a new low with the series of grisly discoveries at Cromwell Street, Gloucester in 1994. The occupants, Rosemary and her husband Fred West, were accused of murdering 10 women and young girls over a 16 year period ending in 1987. They had taken pleasure in luring away vulnerable runaways with offers of rides, lodging or jobs as nannies. Once in their clutches inside the House of Horrors the young women were stripped, bound with tape, abused, tortured, then killed, some were dismembered and buried.
The killer couple was arrested at their home, 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, in 1994. Police, armed with a search warrant, dug up the remains of the Wests' 16 year old daughter, Heather, who vanished in 1987. Further excavations under the house and in the garden produced eight more female bodies and a further body was found under the kitchen of a former home in Gloucester.
The Wests shared a fascination with BDSM. Police found pictures and tapes of Rose bound, gagged and whipped. They also found a wide variety of apparatus including gags, hoods, and huge dildos. Their victims were often abducted, then bound and gagged before being subjected to hideous torture over a period of days in their cellar.
Rosemary it seems loved to torture by the insertion of huge dildos and they both had a fascination with an exteme form of bondage and suffocation. When they went too far, as they often did, Fred would dismember and bury the bodies. Even their own children were abused, raped and tortured by this wicked couple, being used as guinea-pigs for their sexual experimentation. Rose would usually do the tying up, and the children would be tied naked and spread-eagled on a metal bedframe. One of the children said later " She had canes and whips, including a cat of nine-tails. She might use all of them or just a selection. When she had completed her experiments on us she would encourage Dad to rape us or insert objects into us herself". It was a standing joke amongst the children that one of them, Charmian, was buried in the garden under the patio that Fred had laid. This family joke eventually led police and social workers to discover the whole grisly truth.
Fred was born in 1941 in the village of Much Marcle, approximately 120 miles west of London, to Walter and Daisy West. It is believed that incest was an accepted part of the West household and Fred claimed that his father had sex with his daughters, using the logic, "I made you so I'm entitled to have you." Fred left school when he was fifteen, almost illiterate, and went to work as a farm hand.
Fred's troubles with the police began in 1961 when he was fined for
minor thefts in Hereford. A few months later, he was accused of
impregnating a 13-year-old girl who was a friend of the West family.
Fred was uncooperative and didn't see that there was anything wrong with
what he had done.
This attitude and the ensuing scandal caused a serious breach with his family. Fred was ordered to find somewhere else to live and it wasn't long before he was caught stealing from the construction sites where he worked and having sex with young girls.
When Fred was seventeen, he had been seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. After his recovery from the accident, he met the pretty 16-year-old Catherine Bernadette Costello, nicknamed Rena. They were to marry 4 years later, in November 1962. By then Rena was pregnant by another man. Her daughter, Charmaine, was born in March 1963, and in July 1964 Rena bore Fred a daughter named Anne-Marie.
Even though Rena had been a prostitute at various times, she was not happy to be a prisoner to the voracious sexual appetite of Fred West. Colin Wilson in The Corpse Garden tells how Fred's interest in "normal sex" was minimal. "He wanted oral sex, bondage and...sodomy...at all hours of the day and night."
Fred started a job driving an ice cream truck which afforded him unlimited access to many young women. For someone as highly sexed as Fred, it seemed like paradise. His politeness, apparent trustworthiness and sincerity, and his ability to spin interesting tales made him attractive to the teenagers who flocked around his ice cream truck. His continual seductions turned Rena and Charmaine into afterthoughts. One young girl he met was called Anna McFall
who, in early 1967, became pregnant with Fred's child. She was trying unsuccessfully to get Fred to divorce Rena and marry her.
Fred's response to the stress of her demands was to kill her and their unborn child,and then to slowly and methodically dismember her corpse and bury her along with the foetus. Oddly enough, he cut off her fingers and toes, which were missing from the gravesite. It would be his ritualistic signature in future crimes.
The following year Fred met Rose Letts, on November 29th, 1968, her fifteenth birthday.
Rosemary Letts was born in November 1953 in Devon, England. Her father was a violent domestic tyrant who demanded unconditional obedience from his wife and children. He enjoyed disciplining them and seemed to look for any excuse to beat them.
.Rose was not a star performer in school and was known as 'Dozy Rosie'. Also, she was overweight, which made her the butt of cruel jokes by her peers. She lashed out at them and attacked anyone who teased her. Consequently, she became known as an ill tempered, aggressive loner.
As a teenager, 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. Her father's rules forbade her to date boys her own age and her heaviness and temperament kept boys from being interested in her. She focused her interest in sex on the older men of the village.
When she met Fred West there was an immediate sexual attraction but her father objected strongly to the relationship, and resorted to contacting Social Services and threatening West directly, but to no avail; she was soon pregnant with West's child and found herself looking after his two children by Rena Costello, when West was sent to prison on various petty theft and fine evasion charges. She gave birth to daughter Heather in 1970. With three children to care for, a boyfriend in jail and constant money problems, Rose's temper flared constantly. She resented having to take care of Rena's children and treated them badly.
After Heather's birth, and shortly before Fred's release, it appears that Rose killed Fred and Rena Costello's daughter, Charmaine. Since Fred was in jail when Charmaine was murdered, his involvement probably extended to burying her body under the kitchen floor of their home on Midland Road where it lay undiscovered for over 20 years. Before he buried Charmaine, he took off her fingers, toes and kneecaps.
Rena Costello was killed in August 1971 by Fred West. Fred saw that he had no choice but to kill Rena. In all likelihood, he probably got her very drunk and then strangled her at his house on Midland Road. He then dismembered her body and mutilated it in the same odd way that he had Anna McFall's body: he cut off Rena's fingers and toes. Then he put her remains into bags and buried her in the same general area as he buried Anna McFall.
On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary married in Gloucester, and on 1 June that year, Rose gave birth to their daughter, Mae. Like Fred, Rose came from a family where incest was considered normal and even after the birth of her fourth child Rose's father, Bill Letts, with Fred's approval, would often visit the West's for sex with his daughter.
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Torture, Rape, Incest and Murder
The Wests were both indulging their unconventional sexual appetites by this time, with Rose matching her husband in her extreme sexual needs. She had a voracious sexual appetite and enjoyed extreme bondage and sadomasochistic sex. She was bisexual, and many of their victims were picked up for both her and her husband's sexual pleasure. West also worked as a prostitute (often while Fred watched).
Fred West himself had an almost insatiable appetite for bondage and violent sex acts on underage girls. He fitted out the cellar at No 25 as a torture chamber, and his 8-year-old daughter, Anne-Marie, became one of its first occupants, subjected to a horrifically brutal rape by her father whilst her stepmother held her down. This became a regular occurrence, and the child was threatened with beatings if she told anyone of her ordeal.
In December 1972 the Wests carried out a sexual assault on 17-year-old Caroline Owens whom they had hired as a nanny. Caroline was very attractive, so much so that Rose and Fred competed with each other to seduce her. When Caroline told them she was leaving the couple abducted, stripped and raped her. Caroline escaped and reported the couple to the police. As a result the Wests were fined for serious sexual assault in January of 1973.
Cellar of Death
Over the next five years eight young girls were lured to a horrific death in the Wests' cellar. Lynda Gough, Lucy Partington, Juanita Mott, Therese Siegenthaler, Alison Chambers, Shirley Robinson and 15-year-old schoolgirls Carol Ann Cooper and Shirley Hubbard, all became victims of the West couple's insatiable appetite for violent sex. After brutal sexual attacks, all were murdered, dismembered and buried in the cellar under No 25, having first had their fingers and toes removed.
Bondage was becoming a major thrill for Fred and Rose. Shirley's head had been wrapped entirely with tape and a plastic tube was inserted in her nose so that she could breathe. Juanita had been subjected to even more extreme bondage and her body had been suspended from the beams of the cellar.At least one girl, Lucy Partington, was sexually abused for over a week before her death.
Rose continued to produce children at regular intervals and the birth of daughter Louise in November 1978, brought their offspring to six, although not all were fathered by West. Barry joined the brood in June 1980, with Rosemary Junior following in 1982 and Lucyanna in 1983. They were aware to some extent of the activities in the house, but West and Rose exercised strict control over them.
West's incestuous interest in his own daughters continued, and when Anne-Marie moved out to live with her boyfriend, he switched his attentions to younger siblings, Heather and Mae. Heather resisted his attentions and, in 1986, committed the cardinal sin of telling a friend about the goings on in the house. The Wests responded by murdering and dismembering her, and burying her in the back garden of No 25, where son Stephen was forced to assist with digging the hole.
Given that the West's vicious sex acts did not result in murder every time, and the sheer number of attacks, it was inevitable that someone would expose their activities, which resulted in them coming to the attention of Detective Constable Hazel Savage, who led a search at Cromwell Street in August of 1992 that found pornography and clear evidence of child abuse. West was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor, and Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor.
In the course of the investigation DC Savage uncovered the abuse of Anne-Marie, as well as the disappearances of Charmaine and Heather, that warranted further investigation, as well as rumours about what might be buried under the patio. The younger West children were taken into care, and Rose attempted suicide at this time, although she was found by her son, Stephen, and revived.
On 24th February 1994 a warrant was obtained to search the Cromwell Street house and garden, and police found the remains of two dismembered and decapitated young women, one of whom the police suspected might be Shirley Robinson. West claimed sole responsibility for the murders and, when Rose heard of the confession, she denied all knowledge of Heather's death.
As the case against them developed, Rose tried increasingly to distance herself from West, claiming that she was also a victim, but police were not convinced of her innocence, given the sheer number of murders which had occurred, and her participation in the rapes.
On 13th December 1994, West was charged on twelve counts of murder, and he was taken into custody at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, pending trial where, on 1st January 1995, he hanged himself in his cell with knotted bed sheets.
Rose West went on trial on 3rd October 1995 in the glare of media frenzy. Witnesses including her daughter Anne Marie and Caroline Owens, one of their first victims, testified to her participation in sexual assaults on young women. Her defence counsel tried to argue that evidence of assault was not evidence of murder but, when Rose testified on her own behalf, her violent nature and dishonesty became clear to the jury, and they unanimously found her guilty on ten separate counts of murder on 22nd November 1995. She was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in jail. Rose West's sentence was later extended to a "whole life" sentence by the Home Secretary, effectively removing any possibility of parole.
No 25 Cromwell Street, or the "House of Horrors", as it was dubbed by the media, was eventually razed to the ground in October 1996, and in its place is a pathway that leads to the town centre.
There remains a widespread belief both with the public and within the police that Fred and Rose West's victims numbered far more than the twelve with which they were charged and it is still considered highly likely that Fred West maintained another burial site yet to be discovered. And 12 women and children are definitely gone, forever, and two of their unborn babies, and we'll never know how many more, simply listed as 'missing' during the Sixties and Seventies.
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