Fred and Rosemary West

This case proved one of the reasons that I do not do a lot of cases about serial killers, there is just always so much information and years to span through.  It is not that I mind having a lot of information per se, but the more information there is, the more opportunity to have contradictions, which makes finding the truth harder.  This case was made even harder than that by the face that it took place in England, where the laws are much different than those here in the United States. I oftentimes avoid doing those cases for that reason.  However, keeping in the promise to myself to work down my list of cases, a list that is nearly 700 names long now although I do cross off the ones that I research, it was the next case to look into.

In 1987 sixteen year old Heather West seemingly disappeared.  For the next seven years rumors would fly as to what happened to her, both inside the West home and in the community.  Finally it seems the rumors made it to the police, or at least they seemed significant enough in which to look into things deeper. In February of 1994 the police would show up at 25 Cromwell Street with a search warrant to dig up the garden and yard in the back.  What they would find would surprise not just their country but many in the world.  But, let us go back, first just a few years, and then decades.

This was not the first real encounter that the West family had had with authorities.  In August of 1992 the home was searched under the pretense that stolen goods were being looked for. Fred West had a decades old prior arrest for theft.  However, the police were not looking for stolen items.  They were there because there had been a rumor that one of the West girls had been sexually assault.  There was even word that there was a video of the incident.  Police were unable to find any prove of the young girls allegations, that had been made to a friend but all of the West children (there were 10 in total between the couple, 8 were living in 1992, but I am uncertain how many were left still at home) were put into foster care on the following day.  For their part Fred was charged with three counts of rape, with Rose being an accomplice and Rose was charged with child cruelty and with obstructing a police investigation.

At that time officers were asking about their daughter Heather.  Seemingly Fred never really answered and Rose kept changing her story by first saying she had no idea where she was to later saying she had spoken to Heather since she had left and that she had left so the other children did not discover she was a lesbian.  Without a body though there was little police could do.  On August 12, 1992 Rose was bailed out of jail but was ordered no contact with the children or Fred.  

In the meantime Anna Marie West, Fred's daughter from his first marriage, contacted the police and told the of her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and stepmother.  She related stories about Heather, but also stories about her biological mother and her sister, Charmaine, none of which she had seen in many years.  While in foster care it was believed that most, if not all, of the West children had suffered from physical and sexual abuse.  The West's second daughter, Mae June, would deny any molestation charges when asked but would later say it was because her younger sister had felt remorse for getting her father charged and wanted things dropped.  Anna Marie later also not to testify against her father, also saying because of her sister.  The case ended up collapsing, and Fred was freed.

Fred West and Rosemary Lett had met in 1969 when Rosemary was just fifteen years old.  Fred was still married at the time to a woman named Catherine Costello but their marriage was far from stable.  In fact, Catherine spent most of her time in her native Scotland leaving her children, Charmaine and Anna Marie with Fred.  Catherine would visit from time to time, some say to keep an eye on her children but often times when Catherine was away, and Fred could not, or did not want to care for the girls he would put then in foster care through social services.  They would return home when Fred had help or seemingly wanted them there.  Charmaine is often described as his step-daughter in documents which is true from a biological sense.  Catherine and Fred were married in 1962 and she was pregnant by another man. They then later had Anna Marie. The couple would reside in Scotland their first few years as a married couple.

When Fred and Rosemary first met her family disapproved of the relationship. In fact they had Rosemary placed in a home for 'wayward' teens but when she was released she and Fred were back together.  Rosemary eventually moved into Fred's home with his children.  In October of 1970 Rosemary gave birth to Heather Ann.  It has been speculated that Heather was actually not the biological child of Fred but could have been a product of the sexual abuse Rosemary endured from her own father.  

It appears that while Rosemary had been abused by her father throughout the years, for his part Fred was doing his own abuse.  In the summer of 1961, before his marriage to Catherine, Fred had been accused of molesting his thirteen year old sister.  When he was arrested he admitted to molesting young girls and said "Doesn't everybody do it?"  Much like the case three decades later, this case also fell apart as his sister decided not to testify against him.  It was said that after this most of his family disowned him.  This would be one more thing he and Rosemary had in common as most of her family would do the same when she took up with Fred.

While Fred and Catherine were legally married until her death in 1971, many of those years were not spent together.  It would be said that Fred had admitted to Catherine about affairs that he had during the early years of their marriage and rumored that he had at least one child with another woman.  Catherine would then begin her own affair with a man named John McLachlan.  The stories are that while Fred was abusive to both Catherine and the children, over time John beat up Fred several times. 

In November of 1965 Fred ran over a four year old boy with his van.  It was ruled an accident, and considering that the child did not fit the mold of his victims, I am going to gander this to be true.  While he was cleared of any wrongdoing, apparently he could not handle the stigma of the community and decided it was time to go back to England to live.  Fred would take the children with him and a few months later Catherine, their nanny, and her friend, Anne McFall would follow him.  It appears that Fred would start an affair with the teenage McFall but in July of 1967, while pregnant, presumably with Fred's child, she vanished.  Her dismembered body would be found in June of 1994 buried near the edge of a cornfield.

By the time Rosemary came into the picture Catherine was already spending almost all of her time in Scotland again and rarely saw the children.  A few months after Heather had been born in 1970, Fred was arrested for theft and was sentenced to six months in jail.  Rosemary was left to care for the three children and was already showing an abusive side, especially towards eight year old Charmaine.  On June 15, 1971 Rosemary and the girls visited Fred in jail. He was released on June 24th but it is believed that Charmaine was already dead. Rosemary would tell people that Charmaine had gone to live with her mother. She would first be left in the coal cellar of the home but later buried in the yard near the back door.  

In August of 1971 Catherine had left Scotland headed to England to confront Fred about seeing her children.  Catherine was never heard from again. Decades later it would be learned that she was strangled, her body was dismembered, put in plastic bags and buried in a park.

With Catherine now out of the way, although I am unsure there was an official record of this at the time, Fred and Rosemary married on January 29, 1972. A few months later that would first rent, and then buy their house that is now famously known as 25 Cromwell Street.  In June of 1972 Rosemary gave birth to Mae June West.  

The house on Cromwell Street was fairly massive and once they became the owners of the home the West's were able to make additions and alterations throughout the years.  After Rosemary gave birth to Mae June it was said that she began a prostitution business that was ran out of the home.  I find it interesting that while it was said Rosemary was not particularly picky about the gender of her clients, nor did Fred have a problem watching, that they would outwardly be so "down" on homosexuals.  This was something they would constantly accuse Heather of in later years and even gave it as an excuse for her leaving the home in 1987.  

At some point apparently Rosemary's father had softened to Fred and they even had a business together.  Although one has to wonder if the relationship was less about having a relationship with his daughter and her husband than it was about the fact that by this time Rosemary had several daughters of her own.

By 1983 Rosemary had given birth to eight children although it was speculated that not all belong to her husband.  It was even said that while some of the children had darker skin than the other they were told that Fred's great grandmother was African American (not certain this was true in any way).

By the time the children reached the age of seven they were expected to do an enormous amount of daily chores and were allowed little socializing outside of school.  According to the children, the main disciplinarian in the house was Rosemary and harsh punishments were handed out for minor infractions. She was apparently careful to ensure that any marks left were not visible on the face or hands and could be easily covered up.  Between 1972 and 1992 it was said that there were thirty-one visits to emergency rooms for injuries to the children. All would be explained as accidents and nothing was ever reported to authorities.

In the meantime Fred and Rosemary continue to abduct, abuse and murder young girls.  And, when that was not happening they were molesting their own children, or at least the girls.  

In October of 1972 the West's hired seventeen year old Caroline Owens to be the nanny to the children.  I mean, I am unsure exactly what Fred did for a living other than apparently spend time at a local bar and watch Rosemary as she worked, but Rosemary was too busy with her clients to care for the kids. Caroline did not last long however because it did not take long before both Fred and Rosemary began sexually abusing her.  In December they were able to lure her back to their car with apologies but once inside she was bound, gagged and beaten while they drove back to the house.  Caroline was able to escape the following day.  Her mother convinced her to press charges against the couple and she did but by the time came around to testify she had changed her mind and like so many other cases involving the couple, it fell apart.  They ended up pleading guilty to reduced charges, paid a fine and walked out like nothing happened.  

But, they had learned a lesson with Caroline.... live victims talk.  The first victim that authorities believe the couple murdered while living in the home on Cromwell Street was nineteen year old Lynda Gough.  She moved into the house in April of 1973 but was never heard from again.  Lynda's mother went to the home to inquire about her daughter because she had not heard from her and was met at the door by Rosemary, who was wearing Lynda's clothes but said she was no longer there.  Her body was dismembered and buried in what was called an inspection pit under the garage.  Later that area would be converted into a bathroom.

Over the next several years they had many more victims.  All were young girls who were bound, raped, tortured, beaten, then murdered and dismembered. Their bodies, some with missing parts would then be buried with in the property. It is believed that only one of those victims, Shirley Robinson differed from the others.  Shirley was eighteen years old in May of 1978 and eight months pregnant when she disappeared.  It has been said that she was pregnant with a child belonging to Fred.  She too was dismembered, and buried in the yard, her fetus had even been removed, but her body showed no signs of restraints as many of the others had.

Still all of this is going on behind closed doors and no one seemed to realize what was going on.  It is unclear how much the children knew about the murders.  It appears that Fred at least would openly discuss some of the murders he committed, as taunts to the children or even in bragging but until their sister disappeared it seems most did not take it seriously.  Of course the kids were in their own version of hell.  

Both Anna Marie and Mae June have written books about their ordeal and mentioned traits of their siblings.  Anna Marie remembers her sister Charmaine as being rather defiant towards Rosemary while she says she tried to comply to make things easier on herself.  As far as Heather goes, they both claim that while all the children were affected by the abuse she seemed to be the most affected psychologically.  Rumors had been flying around the community for years about Rosemary's prostitution. At some point Heather confirmed this with a few of her friends.  One of her friends' parents was friends with Fred and Rosemary and word got back to them that Heather had been talking.  This made the couple become even more strict with her.  Around the time of her disappearance Heather had one goal and that was to get out of the hell she was living in and forced to call a home.  Mae June would remember that Heather had applied for a job that she knew could get her out but that on June 18, 1987 Heather was upset to hear she had not gotten it.  The following day Mae says she still heard her sister crying but when the children returned home from school that day Rosemary informed them that Heather had in fact gotten that job and moved out.  They overheard her telling a neighbor Heather had moved away.  At one point some of the siblings suggested calling the police to report her missing and Fred announced that should not be done because she was wanted for credit card fraud.  Over the next few years the siblings would hear Fred taunt them saying that they would end up under the porch like their sister.

Then came the charges in 1992 after one of the daughters had reported the sexual abuse.  Fred and Rosemary had to be worried that with the children now outside the house some of them may talk.  So, aside from the younger children (some accounts say there were four left underage at the time) living in foster homes and the couple having supervised visitation with them, life seemed to go on until that day in February of 1994 when the police returned.

The police had arrived on February 23, 1994 to begin their search but it does not sound like a lot was done on that day.  The following day when they arrived they were surprised to find Fred was ready to turn himself in, admitting that he had murdered Heather.  At first it sounds as if he did this to prevent the digging of the yard but then when he told the story he told them where he buried her.... under the porch just like he had told the others.  Well, he buried her and then built the porch.  Fred would claim that Rose had no idea that he had strangled and buried their daughter.  The police were not buying that part.  

So the dig began but a funny thing happened when they found Heather's body on February 26th.... they found an extra bone that did not belong to her.  At that point Fred confessed to two more murders, including Shirley Robinson from 1975.  After they had found now, three bodies, investigators decided they needed to dig up the entire yard.  At this point Fred wrote a letter admitting to killing nine people, but that still was not all the bodies.  Between March 5-8, 1994 they recovered six more bodies.  That brought the total to nine, but there were still the bodies of Catherine and Charmaine to be found later, along with a few others.  Still all the while Fred was saying that Rosemary was not involved.

On April 20, 1994 authorities decided to arrest Rosemary, but not for the murders just yet.  Her initial charges revolved around the rape of children in the mid 1970's.  Five days later they would charge her in the murder of Lynda Gough.  By the beginning of May, Fred and Rosemary were charged with five counts each, of murder.  By the end of June Fred would be charged with eleven counts of murder and soon after another count was added.  Rosemary would ultimately be charged with ten counts of murder.

While he was in jail Fred kept trying to communicate with Rosemary but she refused.  She would not respond to his letters and when they would enter court together she would pull away from him when he tried to touch her. Finally it seems that Fred was done taking all the blame.  He would tell a psychologist that when the police had first come to the home in February of 1994 to begin the search, he and Rosemary sat down and discussed things.  They had agreed that he would confess and turn himself in the following day and he promised to convey that she was not involved, however, that had not been the truth.  It seems that when Rosemary refused to even acknowledge Fred he had decided that taking the blame for everything and all on his own was no longer something he wanted to do.  In fact, in the case of his daughter Charmaine it was fairly well known that Rosemary had been the one to murder the young girl.  Not to mention by this time they had the testimony of Caroline Owens and their children, if they chose to testify, that Rosemary was just as dominant in the relationship as he was, and in some cases more so.  

So things went on as the investigation continued and the horrors were revealed. Fred had been under strict suicide watch for much of his time in jail but by January 1, 1995 while the jail loosed their noose on his watches, Fred tightened his own.  He constructed a "rope" out of his blanket and hung himself in his cell. 

The following month Rosemary pleaded not guilty to her charges of ten murders.  Her trial would begin that October.  Rosemary's mother and sister testified for the prosecution.  The defense would argue and show testimony from seven different women that Fred had sexually assaulted them without the help or assistance of Rosemary.  For their part the prosecution never argued that had happened.  In fact, they would argue that while the majority of crimes were committed or carried out by them both, each of them had committed murders and crimes on their own.  Reportedly against the advice of counsel Rosemary would testify in her own behalf.  It has been said that during her testimony when the conversation was steered toward her childhood or trauma in her life Rosemary would cry and show emotion.  She would often see herself as the victim. When the testimony steered towards her victims she was found to be giggling and laughing at things.  Not surprisingly on November 22, 1995 Rosemary West was found guilty on all ten counts of murder.  

Here is where things get confusing for me.  It was said that she was given life in prison by the judge but that by common standards she would be eligible for parole in 25 years.  She filed an appeal in 1996 and it was denied.  Then in 1997 she was given what is called "whole life tariff" which means that she will never be allowed to be released on parole.  Again, because this is English law this can apparently be done.  The only way in which this could be done in the United States would have been if they found a sentencing hearing unfair and overturned a sentence and received a new one through a new hearing.  In 2015 she was interviewed in jail and was said to be "enjoying" herself and does not plan to continue any efforts to appeal.  I suspect that this was an over-exaggeration and it is more likely that she has simply adjusted to prison life and accepted the fact that she will never be free again.

In all it is all but confirmed that between the two of them Fred and Rosemary West claimed the lives of twelve people.  It is believed that there were likely more victims, probably prior to their move to Cromwell Street but it is unknown. In October of 1996 the home was demolished and was made into a public pathway for the community.  The four youngest West children were given the right to have their names changed to avoid the stigma of things.

Rosemary's father died in 1979, long before the crimes became public so he never faced any legal ramifications for the reported abuse against his daughter or granddaughters.  But, to be fair, I cannot be certain where those stories came from and dead men cannot testify and are presumed innocent.

However, in November 1996 Fred's brother, John was awaiting a verdict in a trial that had accused him of multiple rapes against Anna Marie West and another child in the 1970's.  He hung himself in his own garage.

Caroline Owens, who could be seen on episodes and documentaries speaking of the West's and their crimes died in 2016 of cancer.  Many said she had "survivor's guilt" for not following through more on her charges against them in 1972

Then came the strange twist of David and Pauline Williams.  They had been friends with Fred and Rosemary around the time the crimes were occurring. They owned a bar... aka there as a Pub... that Fred and Rosemary frequented. In fact, the Williams also lived on Cromwell Street for a period of time.  In 2015 they were arrested themselves for the molestation and rape of at least ten children between 1991 and 2004.  In October of that year they were convicted.  David was convicted on ten counts of rape, thirteen counts of indecent assaults, five counts of gross indecency, two counts of cruelty, and one count of sexual activity with a child. Some reports say he was given a sentence of life; most say a minimum sentence of twenty-three years.  For her part, Pauline was convicted of two counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault.  She would be sentenced to a minimum of twelve years.  Their victims would claim the couple bragged of knowing Fred and Rosemary West.

Acting on a tip apparently in May of 2016 the authorities surrounded their former home and like they had at 25 Cromwell Street they began digging up the yard.  I found articles that announced the beginning of the search and that the authorities planned to be there at least four days but I was unable to find any more information.  One has to wonder if the "tip" was credible or if the authorities were just making sure they had checked everywhere.

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