Our psychological profile is on English husband and wife serial killers, Fred and Rose West.
Fred committed at least 12 murders between 1967 and 1987. His second wife, Rosemary, was his accomplice for the majority of those murders.
All the victims were young women. At least eight of the murders involved rape, bondage, torture and mutilation.
Their victims were typically buried in the cellar or garden of the Wests’ Cromwell Street home.
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Fred and Rose West
BY AMANDA HOWARD
‘You’ve got the killing all wrong, no, nobody went through hell, enjoyment turned to disaster, well most of it anyway’ Fred
Frederick Walter Stephen West was born in 1941 in Much Marcle to Walter and Daisy West. Fred was the apple of his mother’s eye while his father was a stern man who beat his children and sexually abused his daughters. Fred was sexually abused by his mother. After the incestuous introduction, a sexual awakening saw Fred spend his teenage years coercing young girls to have sex with him.
Following a motorcycle accident in 1958, West became morose and would fly into a rage, striking out with an unpredictable temper that frightened those around him. Like his father he had a violent streak that was coupled with a voracious sexual appetite. In 1960, West was arrested for impregnating his 13-year-old sister. At his trial, his sister refused to testify against him so West was freed.
In August 1962, 20-year-old Fred met 16-year-old pregnant runaway Catherine ‘Rena’ Bernadette Costello. The couple secretly married on 17 November 1962 in a registry office in Ledbury before moving to Scotland together. On 22 March 1963, Rena gave birth to Charmaine. While she was in hospital with her baby, Fred was at home having sex with one of Rena’s sisters. Within a year Rena was pregnant with Fred’s baby and in 1964 Anne Marie West was born. Anne Marie, like her older half-sister, would be subjected to a lifetime of sexual torture and abuse at the hands of her father and would become a plaything that West repeatedly raped over the decades to come.
Following the birth of Anne Marie, West met 16-year-old Anna McFall, a teenage prostitute who fell under the spell of West. Anna moved into the home that West shared with Rena and worked as a nanny for the two babies. Fred worked as an ice-cream-truck driver to support his wife, nanny and children. Yet tragedy struck when he reversed the truck over a 4-year-old boy, killing him. Though the death was an accident, Fred packed up his belongings and, along with his lover Anna McFall and the children, he returned home to Gloucester, leaving behind his wife.
When Rena attempted to woo back her husband, she found that Anna McFall had taken the full-time role as ‘wife’ to Fred and mother to the children, a domestic situation that made Rena furious. She reported the sexual abuse of the children to police but then withdrew her complaint. In 1967, Anna, pregnant with West’s child, demanded that he divorce his wife and marry her. Fred refused. In August 1967, Anna McFall, while eight-months pregnant with Fred’s child, disappeared. Fred stabbed her through the heart and buried her in Much Marcle. The body remained hidden until 1994.
Another young girl disappeared a few months later in January 1968. Fifteen-year-old Mary Bastholm disappeared while waiting for a bus, and though Fred never fully confessed to her murder, it is likely that she was murdered by West and buried somewhere near the body of Anna McFall.
Fred’s mother Daisy died in February 1968. The death of his mother hit Fred hard. He became more morose and returned to his marital home where he began assaulting and raping his wife and two children excessively. Around the same time he met Rosemary Letts, the young woman who would help shape the man into an even more terrible monster.
Rosemary Pauline Letts was born in November 1953 in Devon, England; she was the fifth child to Bill and Daisy Letts. Her father, Bill, was a sadistic schizophrenic and her mother Daisy was undergoing shock therapy for depression when she fell pregnant with the girl they would call Dozy Rosey. Daisy Lett’s depression was related to the violence she suffered at the hands of her husband. Rosemary was known to rock herself so violently she would fall into a catatonic state. The unusual behaviour may have been a result of her conception during her mother’s shock treatment, or a result of the violent abuse she suffered at the hands of her father.
Like Fred West, Rosemary failed at school and left with only the basic fundamentals of reading and writing. As her older sisters left home, Rosemary’s father turned all of his sexually perverted attentions to his young daughter. By the age of fourteen, Rose had seduced her younger brother. She had groomed him, just as her father had done to her. Rosemary was sexually assaulted by a man who grabbed her from a bus stop while she was waiting for a lift home. The man dragged her into a park where he savagely raped her. Some suspect that it was possible that her attacker was none other than her future husband Frederick West.
In summer 1968 the sexually predatory lives of Fred and Rosemary officially collided; the deviant partnership would prove fatal for the young women of Gloucester. By the early 1970s, Fred started picking up young hitchhikers whom he would then rape and torture before letting them go. At home, Rosemary, pregnant with Fred’s baby, would babysit his two young daughters, often spending her days beating and whipping the children.
In June 1971 Rose murdered Charmaine West, Fred’s step-daughter. Rose had beaten the child to death. The child was cut up and buried under the kitchen of the home the couple had rented in 25 Midland Road, Gloucester.
In August 1971, Fred decided it was time to get rid of Rena to prevent her questioning Charmaine’s disappearance. Fred got his wife highly intoxicated and drove her to Much Marcle where he had buried Anna McFall, then raped her and killed her by smashing her into an iron gate. He dismembered the body and buried her in a shallow grave.
Fred began advertising Rose’s sexual services in magazines with photographs of her prominently featured in the articles. Fred allowed Rose to use their bedroom to service her clients, many of them West Indian, as long as he was able to watch through a peephole in the wall. Fred also recorded the sexual exploits of Rose and her clients.
The pair married in January 1972 at a Gloucester Registry Office. At the time, Rose was three months pregnant with Mae. After the birth of Mae in June of that year Fred moved his family into their final home, 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester. Fred had chosen the home for its cellar, which he planned to use as a torture chamber where he would abuse and sexually torture his victims and his children over the next twenty years.
The first victim that was led to the cellar was Fred’s own daughter Anne-Marie. The eight year old was lured to the dark hole by her parents. She was tied up and gagged before being savagely raped by her father.
Caroline Owens was the first girl picked up by Fred. The seventeen year old accepted a job as a babysitter with the growing West family, but by December 1972 she left the job fearing Fred’s incessant sexual pursuit. A few months later she accepted a lift from Fred and Rose. She was bound and gagged before being raped and beaten with a belt buckle by the couple. After hours of abuse the teenager was allowed to leave. She reported the attack but the pair were let off with a nominal fine.
Nineteen-year-old Lynda Gough moved into the West house in April 1973. Lynda began her time with the Wests as was a willing accomplice in the sex games that a pregnant Rose and Fred shared with her. Then one night Lynda found herself hanging by her ankles from the torture chamber ceiling. ‘In the hours, even days before her eventual death, Lynda Gough was reduced to nothing more than a slab of meat’. Before being buried, 113 bones were removed from the remains.
Fifteen-year-old Carol Ann Cooper was picked up by Fred in November 1973. Carol Cooper was hung from the wooden beam in the cellar. Rose placed a large elastic band around the girl’s head and face to prevent her from calling out. Hanging helpless from the beam she was beaten and abused for days before she was finally murdered by the couple.
Lucy Partington disappeared on 27 December 1972. Lucy was offered a lift by the couple in their car. She was taken back to the Wests’ home where she was made to perform various sexual acts with Fred and Rose before she also was tortured, mutilated and murdered. Four months later the West couple struck again. Twenty-one-year-old student Therese Siegenthaler was picked up by Fred West. Therese was tied up and taken down to the cellar where she was tortured and mutilated before her head was removed from her body and a further thirty-seven bones removed. Her body was buried in a corner of the cellar.
Fifteen-year-old Shirley Hubbard was the fifth girl murdered and buried at 25 Cromwell Street. On 14 November 1974, she ran away and found her way to Cromwell Street. Once inside the cellar Fred West engaged in bondage and covered the girl’s face with tape, creating a mask that covered her entire face Fred fed two tubes into her nostrils so she could breath. Shirley was left there, trapped in the cellar for days as the couple took turns beating and sexually assaulting her. Again, they sliced off pieces of her body until she finally died. According to Fred’s confession, Shirley ‘slipped off ’ the hook where she was hung upside down.
Juanita Mott was the next to accept an offer to stay at Cromwell Street. In April 1975 she was tied up with rope and abused and tortured before her death from strikes of hammer. The young woman was decapitated and had almost ninety of her bones removed before she was buried in the cellar with the other bodies.
Eighteen-year-old Shirley Robinson rented one of the bedrooms in the West home in Cromwell Street and she quickly became Fred West’s lover, often sharing the bed with both Fred and Rose. After Rose became pregnant to one of her Jamaican clients, Fred impregnated Shirley. In June 1977, Fred strangled Shirley as his wife slept. He then buried the young woman and the unborn child that he had cut from her womb in the back garden of Cromwell Street.
In September 1979, the Wests took Alison Chambers to the couple’s bedroom where she was tied down. Another belt was tied around her face to stop her screaming and they tortured her for the next several days before they murdered her.
On 19 June 1987, Heather West became the final known victim of Fred and Rose West. Following her death, Fred and Rose continued to threaten the other children with being buried in the garden like Heather if they ever spoke about what went on in their home.
Finally, five years after her disappearance, in August 1992 police executed a search warrant on 25 Cromwell Street after complaints had been raised through child services that claimed that the West children were being kept in the cellar of the home and only brought up to be raped and sodomised but left when no viable evidence could be found. Then eighteen months police arrived again at the home of Fred and Rose West on Thursday 24 February 1994 with a search warrant to search the back garden of 25 Cornwell Street for the body of Heather West.
The following day, Fred confessed that he had killed Heather and buried her in the garden. Police soon found bones that they assumed were Heather’s, yet when they unearthed a third leg bone, they knew they had more questions for the couple. Five days into the investigation, Fred had lost count of the number of murders he had confessed to. When again alone with his lawyers, they begged Fred to give police any further information that he may have had. He was told, if there was more, then he should confess. Fred looked at his defence team and said, ‘There is a fucking load more’. He confessed to another five murders. What had begun as the search for a murdered young girl ended up unearthing a pair of sadistic serial killers.
Fred West eventually sat down and wrote out a confession. In the childish scrawl of an illiterate labourer he wrote, ‘I Frederick West … wish to admit to a further (approx) 9 killings, expressly, Charmaine, Reena [sic], Linda Gough, and others to be identified’. He was very matter of fact about everything he had to tell them. When asked why he had killed so many young girls, he was adamant that murder was not his ultimate goal in most cases: ‘You’ve got the killing all wrong, no, nobody went through hell, enjoyment turned to disaster, well most of it anyway’.
On New Year’s Day 1995, just before noon, Fred West was found dead. He had hanged himself with strips of his bedsheet, thus escaping the mounting murder charges against him, leaving Rose to face them alone.
Rose’s trial for the sexual abuse, torture and murder of ten of the victims opened in October 1995. After a lengthy trial the serial killer was found guilty of the murders. Rose was sentenced to ten life terms for her part in the sexually motivated murders.