Things are as big as you make them -
I can fill a whole body,
a whole day of life
about a few words
on one scrap of paper;
yet, the same evening,
can frame my fingers
to fit the sky
in my cupped hands
~ Lucy Partington
Heather Ann West was born at 2.45 a.m on Saturday, 17 October 1970.at the maternity unit of the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
There were no complications for the baby's sixteen-year-old mother who required only a few stitches. Rosemary Letts would bottle rear her first born child as she struggled to bring up two further small children who were not her own. Anna Marie was the daughter of her partner and Charmaine was the daughter of her partner's wife and her liaison with an Asian bus driver. The little family were living at that time in a spartan flat at 25 Midland Road in Gloucester which was situated in a run down area housing mostly immigrant Jamaican and Polish families.
The teenage mother should have been bought under the watchful eye of Gloucester Social Services and monitored but she was not. And so began a pattern that would persist throughout the West story as the warning signs went unheeded by family members, teachers, neighbours, social services and the police.
Just weeks after Heather's birth Rose's partner Fred West had already been fined for stealing a tax disc. He had been working as a fitter at Cotswold Tyres in Albion Street, Cheltenham. It was a tough and dirty job and West had resorted to petty crime. Presently he was jailed for three months due to an earlier crime in 1969 for stealing fence panels from a building site, Fred West was incarcerated from 4 December 1970 until 24 June 1971.
Motherhood did not come naturally to Rosemary Letts. She treated small children like dolls or toys and quickly lost interest in them as soon as they could walk and became more independent. Years later her solicitor Leo Goatley would recall asking Rose if she ever breastfed her children to be answered with: "tits are for fucking".
|25 Midland Road, Gloucester|
"Rose never liked Charmaine really" Fred West would later recall, "I turned a blind eye to it because I couldn't do nothing about it" Yet it was West who later informed Rose that "Charmaine was old enough for the strap now".
During the bleak months of Fred's incarceration, Rose took her frustrations out on the children."Charmaine disliked her and was antagonistic" remembers Anne Marie "Rose would retaliate by taking it out on me"
Charmaine Carol Mary West was born at the Alexander Hospital in Coatbridge on 22 March 1963. "She was a very pretty child and would have grown up to be a stunning young woman", says Anne Marie.Her father was of Pakistani origin. "Charmaine's dad was a student in Glasgow and he was really quite bright" Mae West recalls "He worked on the buses to earn a bit of extra money ... and I don't think he knew Charmaine existed until the police told him in 1994" According to Fred West, he was Rena's pimp.
Catherine Bernadette Costello was a sixteen-year-old prostitute who could look after herself. She was born on April 14, 1944 in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire and was an attractive and sturdy young woman. She was known as Rena and had been in and out of trouble with the law since childhood. Those who knew her in Scotland remember her as an "exceptionally nice" girl. She was working as a waitress in a Herefordshire public house called The New Inn in Ledbury when she first met Fred West in 1960. They were married in spite of the fact that Rena was already five months pregnant with another man's child. "My rebellious mother was obsessed with my father and wildly attracted to his strange gypsy looks and bushy brown hair. Nothing anybody said made any difference. She wanted him and that was that", says Anne Marie.
On 6 July 1964, Rena bore Fred a daughter in Glasgow. Anna Marie was named after a Jim Reeves song. Her resemblance to her father was striking. They had similar features, dark hair and the same startling blue eyes. Later Anna elected to be called Anne.
For two years West lived in Scotland with Rena, close to the home of two notorious paedophiles. They were church elder James Gallogley who was jailed for ten years and Alexander Gartshore who murdered Moira Anderson. Gartshore lived on the same street as Fred and Rena. Before he died, James Gallogley confessed from his cell at Peterhead prison that West was involved in a paedophile ring which preyed on young girls.
There is every reason to suspect that Fred West's murderous career began during his time in Scotland where he was said to have accidentally run over a three-year-old boy with his ice cream van. This was the reason he fled Scotland.
By the end of 1965, the little family along with two of Rena's Scottish friends, Isa McNeil and Anna McFall, moved into Lackside Caravan Park in Bishop's Cleeve. McFall and McNeil were installed to look after Charmaine and Anne Marie.
Anna McFall worked in a knitwear factory in Glasgow and had had an unhappy upbringing. She was bought up in impoverished circumstances with an alcoholic mother and a jailbird brother known as 'scarface' McFall. Her only boyfriend had been electrocuted at work and she was eager to make a new life for herself.
Fred and Rena had an on-off life together. Sometimes Fred had both children and sometimes they were in foster care. Sometimes Rena and Fred West were together and sometimes they were apart. West was becoming increasingly sadistic and violent towards Rena and as the relationship became more unstable, she wanted to take Charmaine and Anne Marie back with her to Glasgow. Fred refused.
Rena feared for her life and eventually fled back to Scotland with Isa McNeil in 1966. But she returned to Gloucester in July 1966 to find Fred and Anna McFall now living together in a trailer. Later Rena would tell Constable Hazel Savage that her husband was a sex pervert and unfit to raise their children. Savage would take an interest in the West's in the years to come and her persistence would eventually bring both Fred and Rose West to trial.
Meanwhile, Anna McFall had developed an infatuation with Fred West. She had stayed behind to look after the two girls.West did his best to keep the two women apart.
Fred West found a new job in a slaughterhouse. Writer Colin Wilson sees this job in the slaughterhouse as being particularly momentous for Fred. "One thing is clear: that at some stage, West developed a morbid obsession with corpses and blood and dismemberment. There is no evidence that he had shown any such interest thus far. It seems, then, that Fred West's sexual perversion became slowly more obsessive in the period following his marriage and the evidence suggests that necrophilia and a desire to mutilate corpses began during his period as a butcher. It may have been this profession that catalyzed West's morbid fascination with death and mutilation.
Anna McFall or Ann as she liked to be called was an attractive brunette with a "braw Scots accent". She was "a dainty little piece" according to Fred West..The couple soon began an affair. "Dad said to Stephen in prison that she was the only woman he ever loved" recalls his daughter Mae "but he said that about mum as well" Ann had been trying to get Fred to divorce Rena without success and this may have tipped the balance in their relationship. She was eight months pregnant with his child when she disappeared in July 1967. Ann was last seen alive at a Gloucester fair.
|Fred and Rena|
Contrary to Fred West's gilded reminiscences, there is evidence to suggest that McFall was unhappy and that they were fighting towards the end.
A teenage boy named Robin Holt had died in peculiar circumstances just months before. Holt was friendly with Fred West and had known Ann McFall He was a "nice looking" fifteen-year-old lad who Fred West apparently found "sat on a gate crying" on the lane that led to The Willows caravan site in Sandhurst Lane in the summer of 1966.
On 20 February 1967, Robin Holt failed to return home but was seen the following day in Much Marcle. Nine days later,his half naked body was discovered hanged in a disused cowshed. Pornographic magazines with nooses drawn on the models necks were found on a manger near his body. His death was treated as suicide, but the probability remains that Robin Holt was murdered by Fred West.
Mary Bastholm was fifteen-years-old and worked at the Pop-In cafe. She knew Fred West because he worked nearby and frequented the cafe. At 8:15 on Saturday, January 6, 1968, Mary was waiting to catch a bus to go play a game of Monopoly with her boyfriend, Tim Merriett who lived in Hardwicke. She was never seen again. A major police hunt was mounted but only a few Monopoly pieces were ever recovered near a bridge that crossed over the Gloucester-Sharpness canal. Before she disappeared, Mary was spotted with a man who fitted Fred West's description. It is believed that West abducted and murdered Mary. Fred later admitted to his son Stephen that he had killed Mary, but not to the police. In 2005, Mary Bastholm's brother Peter said: "I'm living a life-sentence now. I'm pretty sure West murdered my sister but her body has never been found"
Within six months of Ann MacFall's death on 29 November 1968, twenty-seven -year-old Fred West met Rosemary Letts at the main bus station in Cheltenham. It was her birthday:and she was fifteen-years-old. Rose Letts was waiting for the number 30 bus and apparently unimpressed by the unkempt Fred West. "I was waiting at the bus stop when I noticed this man looking at me. I didn't take to him at all, he was dirty and had work clothes on and looked quite old ... This man started talking to me on the bus and just sat next to me without asking my permission. Within a few minutes he had asked me out. He was like a tramp, a real mess, and I said "no". I thought that was the end of that. Soon after our first meeting I saw him again at the bus stop. He got on the bus with me and started asking me out to pubs ..."
Despite her description of Fred West as having "ganky green teeth" and claiming "I didn't have any feelings for him", there was an obvious attraction between the two. Fred Wests persistence would eventually pay off.
On her sixteenth-birthday Rosemary Letts moved into Wests caravan. Fred West was twelve years older than Rose Letts and was a convicted child molester and murderer. Yet on the surface he was a mild mannered dullard. According to his brother Douglas:"Fred was such a gentle guy" who "wouldn't harm a fly". "Dad was well-liked within the family and, according to uncle John, Dad was always easy-going and cheerful" Stephen West says of his father.
Frederick Walter Stephen West was born on 29 September 1941 in Bickerton Cottage in the rural Herefordshire village of Much Marcle. His parents were Walter Stephen West and Daisy Hannah Hill and he was the second of six children: John, David (who died young), Daisy, Douglas, Kathleen and Gwen. Fred's father was a child abuser and sexual deviancy was taken as normal in the West household. At the age of eight, Fred was taught how to have sex with a sheep by his father. "According to dad, his dad Walter taught him it was a father's duty to 'break in' his daughters"says Mae West. Fred was his mother's favourite and he was bullied about it at school. Later it would be implied that Daisy West had initiated her son after playing sexual games with him from the age of twelve. His own father had allegedly taught him how to have sex with a sheep.
West left school at the age of fourteen barely able to read and write and was said to have an IQ of 80. According to author Howard Sounes: "Fred was a sociable, outgoing, chatty man all through his life. He was garrulous and gobby, he would talk to everybody about all sorts of barmy things."
Fred West was short but crudely good looking with simian features. He had long sideburns, dark bushy hair and startling blue eyes. "He could talk the hind legs off a donkey" Mae West said of her father. On the evening of November 28 1958, while riding his beloved Lambretta motorcycle, he collided with a girl riding in the opposite direction. West suffered multiple injuries including a fractured skull and lay unconscious for several days. Fred suffered massive damage to his brain, most notably the frontal cortex. His nose was broken and a leg was shortened making him walk with a pronounced limp for the rest of his life. He suffered violent mood swings and it is evident that the brain damage he suffered had a detrimental affect upon him. Two years later, Fred hit his head in a fall from a fire escape after a girl rebuffed his unwanted advances. He was unconscious for twenty-four hours.
|Fred and Rena with Charmaine and Anne Marie (in a pushchair)|
At the age of nineteen, Fred West stood trial at Hereford Assizes for the "illegal carnal knowledge" of his thirteen-year-old sister. He was accused of having made the girl pregnant. "Doesn't everyone do it?" he asked.
At the trial his physician claimed that Fred was suffering from epileptic fits. Subsequently, West was never charged and celebrated his victory by molesting a fifteen-year-old girl in a field.
It was shortly after his recovery that Fred West met Rena Costello. He would still be married to her when he met his future wife Rosemary Letts at the number 30 bust stop in Cheltenham in 1968. Defying her parents, Letts moved in with West at the Lake House Hotel Caravan Park on her sixteenth-birthday. Rose took Anne McFall's position and ostensibly looked after Charmaine and Anne Marie. It was around this time that Rose became amenable to Fred's suggestion that she take over Rena's trade and become a prostitute. She even took Rena's professional name and advertised herself as 'Mandy'. She would proceed to entertain men in the caravan as Rena had done.
Rose would switch to full-time paid prostitution in the mid-1980's advertising herself in magazines with the caption:"Sexy housewife needs it deep and hard from VWE (very well endowed) male, while husband watches - coloureds allowed". Stephen West recalls how his mother "made a note of what she charged, and it seemed as if she gave them marks out of ten. It was written very neatly in rows, like accounts. She also used to order men from the book. If she fancied a coloured bloke who was well endowed she would look it up and ring him instead. You could hear her call and count the minutes until there was a ring at the door. There was a red album, and also a money box with a key ... When I opened it, I found a bundle of pictures of dad lying naked on the bed, and mum naked with other men".
Rose West seemed obsessed with black man and black music. "She was turned on by black men" recalls a former Jamaican client named Andrew Angus. "She showed me a picture of one of her children - a half-caste young girl - and seemed proud that she was half black. Her husband Fred knew I slept with his wife, but he didn't seem bothered by it at all. Rosemary said she had a very open relationship, and said her husband did not mind her sleeping with other men".
Stephen explains that his mother used to have the window open when she was with a client so she could be heard down the street. He recalls how embarrassing it was to go to the shop. "When we were younger we used to sit and talk about it" says Stephen "We would ask whether mum was sleeping with these blokes or just talking to them because we were still fairly innocent kids and we weren't sure what was happening. I mean you knew, but you didn't like to admit it. Being the eldest Heather would say 'they're doing it alright, why do you think your sister is half-caste?'"
Rose West later informed a lodger named Elizabeth Brewer that: "when she retired she would spend her whole time having sex".
In 1982, Rose signed a revealing document::'I, Rosemary West, known as Fred's cow, give my cunt to be fucked by any prick at any time he so desires without ever saying so" and ending "I must always dress and try to act like a cow for Fred'. Rose would also sign another telling document: 'I, Rose, will do exactly what I am told, without questions, without losing my temper, for a period of three months from my next period, as I think I owe this to Fred'. Later Fred would admit to the police that he had deliberately groomed Rose. "I met Rose at sixteen and trained her to what I wanted" he declared.
Tara West was born on 6 December 1977 and named after a hotel that Rose sometimes used with a client. Her father was a client nicknamed Rosco. Rose would go on to conceive a further two children with her Jamaican client - Rosemary junior, nicknamed Ro-Ro, and Lucyanna nicknamed Babs. Rose had a further two children with Fred - Louise and Barry. Barry was born in 1980 and was named after Barry Island: a seaside resort in South Wales and a favourite haunt of the Wests.
Fred, Rose and the two little girls moved out of the caravan into a two-storey house in Midland Road, Gloucester. Heather was born in October 1970. She was a restless child who cried constantly and Rose would have to get up three or four times during the night to see to her. The teenage mother was alone in the house with three small children to care for and constant money troubles. It soon took it's toll on her. Brian Leveson QC, for the prosecution at Rose West's trial two decades later would tell the court: "At the age of seventeen, it cannot have been easy for Rosemary West to cope with Charmaine, only ten years younger, Anne Marie, who was six, and baby Heather in a small flat" With her partner in prison, a struggling Rose Letts quickly began to take her frustrations out on the children. In this respect, she was every bit her father's daughter.
"It was obvious from the start that Rose had a hell of a temper and was not able to control it" says Anne Marie. Rose made the girls do most of the household chores. They did the vacuuming, cleaning, dusting and washing up. They set the dinner table, helped with the cooking. The two little girls tidied their rooms and the rest of the house and did most of the washing and ironing. "She would make us do all the household chores despite our ages" recalls Anne Marie, "and if we didn't do them right she erupted. Dong them right, of course, meant doing them Rose's way: there was no other. If you did it wrong you got a hiding"
Sometimes Rose would strip Anne Marie and Charmaine and tie them to their beds where they were not allowed to speak or make a sound. She would lock Charmaine all day in her room, with her hands tied behind her back and her legs spreadeagled and strapped to the bed. Rose would go out and deliberately leave Charmaine alone in the flat.
The girls were slapped in the face or had a wet belt across the legs or a broom across the head. Their mouths were taped so when they were hit they couldn't cry out.
Charmaine remained intractable. "She would go out of her way to antagonise and aggravate our volatile stepmother" says Anne Marie. Charmaine wouldn't do anything Rose told her to do because she wasn't her real mother and her real mother was coming back to get her one day. "For a start Charmaine hated Rose and told her so. She never missed a a chance to remind Rose about our real mother" Anne Marie writes in her book.
As the weeks went by, Rose became steadily more violent towards the girls. Charmaine still wet the bed and was terrified of the wind that rattled the window panes. Yet no matter how cruelly Rose treated her she would never allow herself to shed a tear."She felt like if she cried, she was giving in" says Anne Marie.
Shirley Giles and her two daughters, Tracy and Janet, lived above Rose and the girls. They had moved into the house at about the same time as the little family and Mrs Giles's eldest daughter Tracy was only two months older than Charmaine. Tracy Giles and Charmaine became best friends. "They used to sit and giggle together and hold hands and generally behave as little girls do" remembers Anne Marie. Mrs Giles would later recall how Midland Road was "like a morgue". "Rose would say that she couldn't cope with Charmaine" recalls Shirley Giles "She ruled Anna Marie and Charmaine with a steel rod, but Charmaine, had a rebellious nature which she didn't like".
The apple did not fall far from the tree with Roemary Letts. Like her father, she would not stop at sadism to discipline the children. One day Tracey Giles was sent downstairs by her mother to borrow a pint of milk. She walked in and saw Charmaine standing on a chair with her hands tied behind her back with a belt. Rose was holding a large wooden spoon and looked as though she was about to hit her. Rose later informed Shirley Giles that "Charmaine had been very naughty and she had to teach her wrong from right".
"Rose would have made a wonderful concentration camp guard..Torture, both mental and physical would have been her forte. Nothing would have pleased her more than to send many to their deaths and to have unlimited scope to experiment on them", writes Anne Marie in her book Out of the Shadows.
Rosemary Pauline Letts was born at Highfield Martenity Home in Northants, in 29 November 1953. Her parents were William Andrew Letts and Daisy Gwendoline Fuller. She was the fifth child of seven: The Letts children were: Patricia, Joyce, Glenys, Andrew, Rosemary, Graham and Gordon.
Daisy Letts suffered from severe depression and the violent attentions of a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic husband who sadistically terrorised her and the children for years. Andrew Letts remembers, "If he felt we were in bed too late, he would throw a bucket of cold water over us. He would order us to dig the garden, and that meant the whole garden. Then he would inspect it like an army officer, and if he was not satisfied, we would have to do it all over again...We were not allowed to speak and play like normal children. If we were noisy, he would go for us with a belt or chunk of wood. He would beat you black and blue until mum got in between us. Then she would get a good hiding."
|Bill Letts and his daughter.|
Bill Letts was under 5"6" inches tall and slightly built, He was a dapper man who always wore a suit and tie. On the surface, he was the perfect gentleman who never drank alcohol and shunned bad language. He spent nine years in the navy and developed an obsessive -compulsive disorder and became fixated with cleanliness.
Six sessions of electro-convulsive treatment (ECT) were administered to Daisy after she suffered a nervous collapse. The last of these sessions occurred just days before Rose was born. "There has been little research on the use of ECT with pregnant patients, and expert opinion is divided on it but, given the damage ECT can do to the patient, it seems unlikely the foetus would remain unaffected in every case." writes Jane Carter Woodrow. When the baby did finally arrive at the Highfield Maternity Hospital at Northam, her behaviour would soon give cause for concern among her own siblings.
The odds were already stacked high against the child. Rose Letts showed signs of mental disturbance from an early age. She would develop the habit of rocking herself in her cot and at night she would keep her older siblings awake as she rhythmically bashed her head against it. As Rose grew into a toddler she would swing her head for hours until she had hypnotised herself into semi consciousness. She was "a bit slow" and according to Bill Letts as "thick as two short planks". Stephen West described his mother as "not quite right". The little girl was so babyish and unintelligent that she acquired the family nickname 'Dozy Rosie' and was taunted about it. Yet she was a pretty child with dark brown hair, olive skin and large brown eyes. Rumours persisted that Daisy Letts was of Maltese origins and both Rose and Heather had dark, Mediterranean looks.
"Rosie was very clever as a young child in learning how to manipulate dad" remembers her older brother Andrew. Bill Letts had already begun to exploit 'Dozy Rosie' and she soon became known in the family as 'Daddy's Girl'. Yet the kind of love that Rose received from her father was distorted and perverted.
Rose Letts was sexually precocious from an early age. At thirteen she was asking boys from the village round or going to their houses where she would invite them to touch her. And she was also masturbating her younger brothers, Graham and Gordon. By the time Graham was twelve, he was having intercourse with his sister. "Rose was absolutely insatiable. She used to say no woman or man could ever satisfy her" says a former lover, Kathryn Halliday.
At her trial, Rose would claim that she had lost her virginity at fourteen but in fact she had been having sex with her father since the age of ten. She may have also been sleeping with her grandfather. "There was something about her father and grandfather that just wasn't right" says Rose's brother-in-law Jim Tyler, Rose also claimed to have been raped while still a young girl.
Rose was a teenager when she met Fred West. "I asked Fred to meet my parents and they took a dislike when he came to our house. Mom said that he was ugly and had a bad attitude and was old with two kids whilst I was only fifteen." Daisy explained "Dad (Bill) said he did not want that gypsy anywhere near his daughter" Rose Letts even wrote a letter to Fred West : "It said "Go back to your wife and try and make a go of it" But he didn't take any notice of the letter and turned up again at our door. I began to fall in love with him; he was so persistent and I was so flattered by his determination to be with me".
Bill Letts was to change his opinion of Fred West in the years to come and would later become a frequent visitor to 25 Cromwell Street where he continued to sleep with his daughter. Fred might have described Letts as "an evil bastard" with "that little round face and little beady eyes," but he may have become a partner in his sadistic sexual practices.
Rose was already pregnant when she and Fred moved to 10 Midland Road in Gloucester with Charmaine and Anne Marie. By the time Rose had given birth to Heather in 1970, the little family were living a few doors away at 25 Midland Road. The Wests flat was on the ground floor and had a coal cellar below in the basement. It was compact and Anne Marie remembers it being cold and dark. The flat was sparsely furnished with ramshackle curtains and threadbare carpets left by the Polish owner Frank Zygmunt. Zygmunt appears to have been rather of the Wests and there is reason to believe that Rose may have been expressing her gratitude with her body.
|Baby Heather with Charmain (left) and Anne Marie (right)|
It was while he was there that Rose sent him a letter which has been interpreted as having sinister undertones.
'Darling, about Char. I think she likes to be handled rough. But darling, why do I have to be the one to do it. I would keep her for her own sake, if it wasn't for the rest of the children. You can see Char coming out n Anna now and I hate it.'
Rose informed Shirley Giles that Charmaine's natural mother was coming to collect her adding that she "had had enough" of the little girl and that she was "at the end of her tether".
A week after her eighth birthday in March 1971, Charmaine West was taken to the casualty department of Gloucester Road Hospital shortly before 7 p.m one evening and treated for a "puncture wound" to her left ankle. The "accident" was possibly incurred by a knife but the hospital did not follow up on it. On the 17 June 1971, Rose, Anne Marie and Charmaine visited Fred West at Leyhill Open Prison. A day or two after the prison visit, Charmaine West disappeared.
Anne Marie came home from school to find Charmaine gone. Rose informed her that Rena had come and collected her. Later when Shirley Giles and her daughter came to visit and Tracey asked after her best friend, Rose replied: "Gone to live with her mother and bloody good riddance.".
Rose has never said what happened to Charmaine but the defiant yet sad little girl who still wet her bed was either battered or stabbed to death. Colin Wilson believes that Rose "simply lost her temper, and went further than usual in beating or throttling her. She was, as Anna Marie said, a woman entirely without self-control; when she lost her temper, she became a kind of maniac." Charmaine West was probably murdered in a fit of fury. Rose would stick to a carefully prepared story for the next twenty-four years; Rena had collected Charmaine and she had gone to live with her. In July 1994, Fred West informed his solicitor Howard Ogden, that Rose West had murdered Charmaine by accident: "She grabbed her by the throat and killed her". The declaration may very well have been true. Two weeks later Fred West retracted this version of events, claiming that Rose had told him:"I gave her an overdose of aspirin or something because you were trying to find Rena".
Rena West was murdered shortly after her daughter Charmaine. In August 1971, Rena came looking for her daughter and sought out Walter West, in the hope that he could tell her what happened to Charmaine and spent the afternoon with him.
Fred West agreed to meet Rena at the East End Tavern in Barton Street in Gloucester at 9.30 p.m.. He plied her with drink until she was paralytic and incapable of resisting. Then he sexually molested and then strangled Rena to death in his car. Fred may have taken her body back to 25 Midland Road where he decapitated and dismembered her body much like he had done to Anne McFall. He buried her remains in Letterbox Field under a hedgerow near Yewtree Coppice. A little red boomerang with Boomerang Woomerang printed on the side was found with her remains. It had belonged to Charmaine West.
Rena's married lover John McLachlan was interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan for his book The Missing. On McLachlan's left forearm, just above his wrist was a little tattoo, which read 'Rena'. "Rena just wanted to live in peace with her kids. That was all she ever wanted," John McLachlan said. With Rena finally out of the way, Fred West was now free to marry Rose.
"We married in January 1972" said Rose "Even the marriage was rushed. Fred was fixing an old car half an hour before we were due at the Registry Office. I had to beg him to take off his overalls. His brother John witnessed the marriage, and another friend of Fred's who had so many aliases he had to scribble out the first name he wrote on the certificate".
The marriage took place on 29 January, 1972. Fred West signed the marriage certificate, designating himself a 'bachelor'. Rose did not object which indicates that she knew full well that Rena West was dead.
|25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester|
John West was implicated in the murders of Ann McFall, Rena and Charmaine and may have been involved in sex attacks on some of the girls who died at 25 Cromwell Street. West worked as a dustman and may have used his dustcart to discard the bodies and possessions of the Wests victims, or to get rid of parts of the bodies of the nine victims who were buried in the house and cellar of 25 Cromwell Street.
Cromwell Street was not regarded as a good area but had once been a desirable neighbourhood. Like the flat in Midland Road, 25 Cromwell Street was owned by a Polish man named Frank Zygmount. Most of the houses had been sub-divided into into flats and bedsits. At the end of number 25 was a car park with a cut through to the main shops which Rose often used when she went shopping. A single-storey corrugated hut stood at the side of the house, used by Seventh Day Adventist's which was presided over by Paster L. Lovek in the 90's.
Number 25 was larger than many of the neighbouring houses and had its own garage at the back. It was three storey and painted tan. The front door had a horse shoe above it and there was an imitation gas lamp attached to the wall of the porch. It was described as a "temple to Formica" and the rooms were small and claustrophobic and there was a creaky central staircase. 25 Cromwell Street also had an attic room and boasted an extensive cellar with a separate set of stairs down to it at the front of the house. The main entrance to the house was at the side of building and because street lighting was poor, number 25 was particularly dark at night.
Shaun Boyle, who was the boyfriend of one of the tenants, said 25 Cromwell Street was "well known as a place where drifters and drop-outs and teenagers who had been kicked out of home could look for bedsits. You'd never question it if someone moved on".
In the autumn of 1972 a pretty seventeen-year-old girl named Caroline Owens was installed as a nanny..But she became increasingly uncomfortable with the atmosphere at 25 Cromwell Street.
"At nineteen-years-of-age, the words that best described Rose would be 'simple-minded'" writes Caroline in her book The Lost Girl. In spite of this she was "quite a pretty girl, with dark wavy hair and big brown doe eyes". Rose had, "a whiny, drippy way of talking that at times, I found very grating". Her "ear bursting howls" when she yelled at the children stunned Caroline and Anne Marie into silence. "While two-year-old Heather and four-month-old May (later changed to Mae) would also instantly shut up at the sound of that scream, this only worked on them for a minute or two". They were too young yet to be smacked around the head like Anne Marie.
Rose West would disappear into a bedroom with clients while Fred West spoke incessantly about sex.“According to him, he was God’s gift to women,” says Caroline. “Once you’d been with Freddie, you wouldn't go anywhere else, he’d say. In reality, he was a short little man with piercing blue eyes, a flat, wonky nose and thick lips that hid a gap in his front teeth. I couldn't see how anyone would find him attractive". Rose began to make advances at Caroline and after six weeks she fled 25 Cromwell Street.
Shortly after on the 4 December 1972, Caroline was hitchhiking home when she was picked up by Fred and Rose in their grey Ford Popular.
"Fred looked in the rear view mirror and asked if I’d had sex with my boyfriend and then he said to Rose 'have a look' and she started molesting me " remembers Caroline "He stopped the car, turned around in the seat and punched me until I was knocked out. I was tied up and my mouth was taped. They sneaked me into the house and it was 12 hours of sexual assault, mostly by Rose"
Caroline was beaten, raped and indecently assaulted.
“They spoke words to me that I will never forget" says Caroline "They said, ‘We are going to keep you in the cellar and let our black friends use you and, when they have finished with you, we will kill you and bury you under the paving stones of Gloucester. There are hundreds of girls there ... the police haven’t found them and they won’t find you!’
She reported the rape but had the misfortune to be interviewed by a particularly officious police officer who frightened her. She withdrew the accusation when the case came to court. The Wests pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of indecent assault and were fined £25 each. For years, Caroline Owens now Roberts would have nightmares and be plagued by "survivors guilt".
In an interview with The Independent in 1998, Caroline said: "Not a day goes by when I don't think about the girls who didn't make it. Just three months after I escaped, the Wests killed their first victim - their baby-sitter, Lynda Gough. If I had gone through with a rape charge against Fred West back in 1972, Lynda and the other girls would still be alive. When they started finding the bodies I felt terrible. I just kept thinking, why didn't I say something?"
"If I had got caught with what mum and dad did in the seventies with that girl Caroline Owens I would have expected to be put away" said Stephen West years later "But all they got was a fine. It was like a green light. You know, go for it".
Lucy Partington disappeared on 27 December, 1973 and was later found to be a victim of the Wests. Her cousin the writer Martin Amis described in his memoir Experience, how an average domestic day at 25 Cromwell Street was: "a scarcely credible inventory of troglodyte squalor, including theft, violence, incest, rape, sexual torture, whoredom, pimpdom, peeping-tomdom, pornography, child prostitution and paedophilia".
Fred West was regarded by many of his neighbours as a very hard working, friendly and likable man. A man who got on well with everyone. On the surface West seemed like a nice man. “Jovial. You’d think he was charming, you really would.” said Mae in 2011.
One regular visitor to 25 Cromwell Street was a nineteen-year-old girl named Lynda Gough. She was the girlfriend of Benjamin Staniland, and was eventually seduced by Rose West and eventually shared a bed with her and Fred..Lynda soon became a nanny for the Wests children. In April, 1973, Lynda Gough may have been led into the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street expecting kinky sex. Fred West was a pathological liar yet his account of how Gough may have allowed him to suspend her from the ceiling in anticipation of erotic rituals and sex rites may be true. But she cannot possibly have imagined what was about to happen next.
The Young Women
Lynda Carole Gough (born 1 May 1963): April 1973 A Co-op seamstress. Lynda was born within months of Rose West. According to Caroline Roberts in her book The Lost Girl: "One regular visitor was a nineteen-year-old girl named Lynda Gough. She was eventually seduced by Rosemary. Lynda Gough soon moved into the house as a nanny for the Wests' children, and was eventually sharing a bed with Fred as well as Rose". Lynda had black magic magazines and was described by Fred West as "a bit fucking weird". Gough was an adventurous and impetuous girl. "Both her father and I felt, let her have have her head for a bit, she'll come round" explains June Gough. But she never did. The last confirmed sightings of Lynda were in March/April 1973. Following her disappearance Gough’s mother June went to 25 Cromwell Street and was informed by Rose West that her daughter had moved in order to work in Weston-super-Mare. June noticed that Rose was wearing her daughter's slippers and that some of her clothes were hanging on the washing line in the garden. Lynda Gough's remains were recovered under the ground floor bathroom at 25 Cromwell Street.
Thérèse Seiegenthaler (born 27 November 1952): 26 April 1974. A twenty-one-year-old student at Woolwich Polytechnic. She left her lodgings in South London to hitchhike to Ireland but disappeared. A friend had warned her about the dangers of hitchhiking but the Swiss student had laughingly replied: "I can look after myself. I am a Judo expert". Thérèse was reported missing. Her remains were found in the cellar of 25 Cromwell Street in 1994. Her mother Klara died of a heart attack in 1983, saying on her death bed: "I am going to join Thérèse".
Shirley Hubbard (born 26 June 1959): 14 November 1974. The fifteen-year-old left a work experience course in Droitwich to return home but did not arrive. A friend described Shirley as having " a nice smile" which meant that she "could get her own way". Shirley's remains were found in the basement of 25 Cromwell Street; her head was completely covered in tape with only a three-inch rubber tube inserted to allow her to breathe.
Juanita Marion Mott (born 1 March 1957): April 1975. The eighteen-year-old disappeared after going for an evening out with a friend. "She was leggy and gangly" according to a friend, with skin that always "looked tanned" Juanita had been a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street for some months, but just before her disappearance she had moved out to live with a friend of her mother's in Newent. Juanita was described as being a "very strong-willed, independent girl" who was "always on the go - nobody would know where she was". Her remains were found in the basement of 25 Cromwell Street in 1994.
Shirley Anne Robinson (born 8 October 1959): May 1978. Last confirmed sighting 9 May 1978, At eighteen, Shirley was described as "extremely withdrawn and sullen" and had lesbian girlfriends older than herself. Robinson was bisexual and a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street. "The Wests had told Shirley they had an open marriage" recalls lodger Elizabeth Brewer "Fred didn't seem to mind his wife with another man" Robinson disappeared after becoming pregnant with Fred’s child..She was eight months pregnant and her dismembered remains and the remains of the foetus were discovered in the garden of 25 Cromwell Street in 1994. Of Shirley, Fred West was said to have told his brother-in-law Jim Tyler: "She wants to get between me and Rose. She wants Rose out so she can take over and take her place. I'm not having that, shes got to fucking go". On 26 February Fred informed the police: "I hit her onto the floor and then I strangled her" He proceeded to shock DC Hazel Savage by the detached and contemptuous manner in which he recounted how he dismembered and disposed of his former lover and the mother of his unborn child. After her murder, the Wests informed Elizabeth Brewer who was friends with Shirley Robinson that she had gone back to Germany to live with her father. "I was told she probably wasn't coming back" Brewer recalls. Fred added a characteristically lurid aspect to the story: "He went on so much about her wanting to get my knickers off, after that, to be honest, I was quite lad she had gone"
Alison Jane Chambers (born 8 September 1962): September 1979. A seventeen-year-old who had grown up in various children's homes after the break up of her parents marriage. Alison was described by a member of staff at Jordan's Brook in Gloucester as being "obviously insecure" and prone to exaggeration particularly about her boyfriends. "It was as if she wanted constant attention" She was working for a firm of solicitors under a Youth Training Scheme. Alison ran away from the children's home in autumn 1979 and was never seen again. She had found her way to 25 Cromwell Street and wrote a letter to her parents: "I am at present staying with a homely family and look after their five children and do some of the housework" Alison's remains were found in the garden of 25 Cromwell Street.
"I know how they were killed" Fred West explained towards the end of his life "Vibrator. Pushed in with Rose's foot. That big bastard. That's why Shirley's baby was fucking up the wrong place. West said he watched his wife do it. "Obviously she bound their mouths up with that fucking tape round their gobs ... she'd push that vibrator in as far as she could ... then get hold of their legs and just push it in with her foot"
|25 Cromwell Street|
Detective Superintendent John Bennett who led the investigation also gives credibility to this view, "I firmly believe that Rose murdered those girls and Fred disposed of the bodies".
Rose West had shown little restraint with her own children and would have been unlikely to have shown restraint with vulnerable young women in her grasp. "She wanted to hurt women," asserted Fred West. "She'd have to, to do what she's done to them" Later Fred West would inform the police that he had no intention of murdering the young women. "You see, you've even got the killing wrong" he said You're trying to make out that I just went out and blatantly killed ... nobody went through hell. Enjoyment turned to disaster".
Of the nine women who were found at 25 Cromwell Street, less than half were reported as missing. The theory that Fred West pulled out the fingernails and cut of the fingers of the victims while they were still alive, as well as stubbing out cigarette butts on their flesh is not corroborated. Writer Geoffrey Wansell believes that this was part of the Wests repertoire of torture but Brian Masters believes that Fred was a chronic compulsive liar prone to embellishment. West later told his appropriate adult Janet Leach that he cut off the fingers and toes of his victims to foil identification.
Angels Born Of Demons
Rose West's brother Graham Letts recalls how "eerie" the atmosphere was within 25 Cromwell Street. The immaculately turned out West children with their impeccable manners did not laugh and were unnaturally subdued.
"Whenever we walked into the house, there was never any noise. Even with nine or ten children around, you could hear a pin drop. Barbara (his wife) and I felt that it was probably because Rose was so strict with them. If the children looked like playing up, just a half-glance from Rosie was enough. There was no shouting or screaming. It reminded me in some ways of our mom and when were kids. Rosie was every bit as strict, and seemed to be using the same tactics. If you don't do as I say you'll regret it"
Barbara Jones was a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street and remembers "little Heather" being shy and quite nervous. It would take a lot for her to open up and to come to her. Barbara couldn't understand why. Heather knew her but would still back off sometimes.
In her book The Lost Girl, Caroline Roberts describes the West children as "angels born of demons"
Joe Hefferan was a neighbour of the Wests for twenty-two years:"They were a lovely family. I used to say hello to the children as they were coming and going from the house to school" Hefferan recalls "I knew Heather, and I was shocked when I heard what had happened"
Maria Del Medico was a child when she and her brother visited 25 Cromwell Street with their father. The Wests lived near their house in Gloucester and her father bought pornography from Fred West and she played in the street while he went inside. Her had met West in a pub and they got on well.
"I remember Fred standing in that kitchen, pouring Corona into a glass. He had huge sideburns and yellow-green teeth. He smelled of body odour. He hadn't washed for years".
Maria under five when her father began abusing her, ""Because of what my father was doing to me, I was frightened of men - and I was very frightened of Fred West".
"Once when I was seven I found myself alone with him. Dad was upstairs. I don't know what Fred West was saying, but a wave of fear came up from my chest and I ran outside ... I was horrified to think how close I had been to those people, even as an adult".
|Family photo 1985. Fred West is in the middle. Heather is far right.|
It was the horror of realising what Fred and Rose had done in the years Maria visited 25 Cromwell Street that led her to bring her own father to justice. She was under five when he began abusing her. "Nobody would believe you" he threatened her, if she ever tried to speak. The abuse stopped when she was fourteen and in 1986 she called ChildLine. After a series of emotional phone calls Del Medico was able to go the police.
"In my mid-twenties when the West murders came to light I decided it was time my father paid for what he had done" says Maria. In July, 1994 her father was sentenced to 21 years and six months, serving each of the five counts concurrently.
Fred and Rose had been sexually abusing Anne Marie since the age of eight. The abuse began one day when they tied the little girl up in the cellar and deflowered her - as painfully as possible - with a vibrator. Her father also raped her. "I was told I should be grateful and that I was lucky I had such caring parents who thought of me ... I was led to believe that all loving parents were the same" says Anne Marie. After that, she was abused steadily and regularly. Fred would rape her when Rose was not around.."My father's abuse continued without a break until I ran away from home at fifteen" says Anne Marie "From the time I was ten it was a regular thing, I didn't object because it was the only way I knew of getting his affection".
Not only was Anne Marie abused by her father and stepmother, but by clients who came to her basement room and by her uncle, John West. Bill Letts also raped Anne Marie over a period of years. On one occasion when she was twelve-years-old, Anne Marie ran into her stepmother's bedroom crying. "Grampy's going to sleep with me!" Rose snapped back:"Go back to bed. He's not going to eat you; he's only going to fuck you ... I am sure you will love that".
By the time she was fifteen, Anne Marie was already pregnant with her father's child. It proved to be an ectopic pregnancy when the baby was found growing in the fallopian tubes and she was forced to have an abortion. Anne Marie eventually fled 25 Cromwell Street after a teacher noticed bruising on her body and Social Services visited the house. Rose West had beaten Anne Marie again after they left and it was then that she escaped.
Stephen West shared the top-floor front with his baby brother Barry, Heather and Mae were underneath. "Heather and I shared a room up until she disappeared" says Mae. Rosemary and Lucyanna were put in Shirley Robinson's old room, with Tara and Louise sharing the backroom directly overhead.
Every effort was made to keep the children away from other adults or situations that might arouse suspicion. They were not allowed to play with other children and were confined instead to the back garden and cellar play room. They visited the houses of other relatives only when Fred and Rose were there too. School friends were not allowed back to 25 Cromwell Street and the West children were forbidden from visiting their homes. "We were never allowed any friends to stay with us and we weren't allowed to stay with them" remembers Mae "They wanted the family kept really tight" Stephen recalls, "I didn't have many friends for the simple reason that mum told them to fuck off when they came to the door" Stephen asserts that his mother "was so rude it was funny, like a Basil Fawlty routine only ten times as vicious"
|Heather, aged 6|
"Mum and dad wouldn't have changed if the Pope had knocked on the door and said 'Treat your kids better', they would have told him to fuck off as well. Funnily enough none of all this made a real impression on us as children. It's what you got used to, it was normal life to us. We knew no better. All we thought was that these were mum and dad's moods and tempers"" says Stephen West. "We were tough kids and looked after each other because of what we went through"
Rose West punched her children in the face and stabbed them with kitchen knives, jabbing repeatedly in a frenzy until they were covered in cuts. "We were so scared of her when she was younger because she was so nasty" says Mae "She'd hit one of us and then she'd want to hit us all because she was in the mood"
"Mum hit us for no real reason" says Stephen "It could be anything. She made reasons up, like if the dishcloth went missing. She would stand there screaming, 'Where is the dishcloth'" You'd be running around trying to find it and she beat us until we found it"
"She was certainly not bright and not at all articulate" writes Detective Superintendent John Bennett in The Cromwell Street Murders of Rose West "She had a quick temper and was as foul mouthed as her husband, for there seemed no words that she would not use nor anything that embarrassed her"
One morning in 1983 when Stephen was ten, Rose rang the school and demanded that he come home immediately. When the boy arrived, his calmly told him to go into the bathroom and ordered him to undress. His hands were then tired together with wire and he was ordered to lie face down on the floor so she could tie his hands to the base of the toilet. "Mum looked so pleased with herself. She was completely calm as she tied my feet together" recalls Stephen. Then she proceeded to beat her son with a leather belt for twenty minutes standing on his legs so he could not move: "She kept whacking me with the belt, always the buckle end, and she aimed it at the base of my spine" Then she kicked him in the stomach. "She kept shouting out, 'What have you done wrong? What have you done wrong?' Eventually she informed her son that he had stolen some magazines from upstairs, but he protested that he had not. Rose beat him again and then left the bathroom for ten minutes before returning again. "She told me in a really nice, sickly sweet voice, to get dressed and go back to school".
Stephen was bleeding badly from where he had been thrashed and bruised from where he had been kicked in the stomach. He wept all the way to school and later on the way home told Mae what had happened. "I went through the front door at exactly the same time as my elder sister Heather arrived home. Heather gave mum a note from her school saying they had confiscated some sex magazines from her. Heather was really worried she was going to get told off but mum just said: 'Don't worry, Stephen got your beating'. She laughed and carried on making the tea. Heather felt really guilty. I was glad mum didn't hit her as well".
Although not as volatile as his wife, Fred West's rages could be unpredictable. One night he came in late from work. Heather was ironing in the living room and she informed him in a light hearted manner that his meal would be spoiled yet again. Fred thrust a quick hard punch to her shoulder knocking Heather several feet sideways. His anger sated, he sat down to eat his dinner.
|(from left) Heather, Stephen and Mae|
Heather attended St Paul's Infants and Junior School in New Street moving up to Hucclecote Comprehensive School when she was eleven. Mae and Stephen attended Hucclecote with Heather and they went to school together and often came home together.
The West children were not popular at school. "We would have been treated like other kids if mum hadn't dressed myself and Heather like boys" says Mae "It was so bad we packed another set of clothes and shoes in a bag and changed as soon as we got outside the house" The androgynous appearance of the girls did not stop at the school uniform. "We'd even have short back and sides as Mum couldn't handle combing long hair" recalls Mae.
"We had one set of school clothes and one set of play clothes and that was our wardrobe" says Stephen West, "We'd get a grant for the uniform because we were so poor. It was always Co-op starched shirts and every item of clothing was three sizes too big like a clown's suit" remembers Mae.
All three were given bus money, but they saved the money and walked the four miles to school as fast as they could. There were only eighteen months between Heather and Mae and they shared a bond. Both girls were having to contend with the sexual attentions of their father. "Because we went through it at the same time, Heather and I didn't have to warn each other, we knew it was coming and we tried to stick by each other" says Mae. As Geoffrey Wansell writes in An Evil Love:: "Heather West and her younger sister Mae had been fighting a running battle to repel their father's sexual advances for four years, a battle that had intensified as the months had passed, fanning still further Frederick West's determination to possess and subdue his wife's eldest child"
Mae says that she and her sister "had decided that we would never give in and let him have sex with us" But although Heather did everything in her power to fight her father off, she did not always succeed. Anne Marie and her then partner Erwin Marschall spent one night at 25 Cromwell Street. In the middle of the night, he heard a prolonged scream lasting between ten and minutes. It was the voice of a young girl and Erwin Marschall could make out the words, "Stop it, daddy" and "No, no, please no" from the cellar. In the morning Rose West informed Marschall that it was just "Heather having a nightmare". He had also noticed how downcast and reticent Heather seemed before going to bed. Rose informed him that it was because Heather was backward and didn't talk very much.
Coming up to twelve, Heather took up smoking and drinking alcohol. She went shoplifting and in August 1982, was caught stealing from WHSmith in Gloucester city centre. Heather was charged and signed a note admitting three other offences, but because of her age the case did not go to court.
|(from left) Mae, Heather and Stephen|
"We got on very well together and were quite happy playing silly games as we walked home from school" says Mae "Heather blindfolded me as I tried to walk without seeing and we smoked rolled up paper towels with leaves in them. We didn't play like normal kids. We'd go to derelict houses in the docks and chase rats"
Anne Marie met a boy named Christopher Davis on the CB radio and they began to live together at the Prince of Wales public house in Gloucester. In 1982, the couple reluctantly moved back to 25 Cromwell Street after they left the pub with nowhere to go. Chris noticed the profound effect living at 25 Cromwell Street was having on Anne Marie and she told him what had happened to her as a child. She begged Chris not to say anything to Fred and Rose.
Chris Davis observed how withdrawn Heather was. She had bitten her nails until they bled and sat around the house day dreaming about leaving home. Heather had also developed the habit of watching her father warily from a corner, or doorway, of whichever room he was in. Her reproachful stare unnerved Fred West and he demanded to know what was wrong with her and why she was so "miserable".
The abuse at 25 Cromwell Street was so intense after 1983 that Heather ran away but soon returned. Stephen ran away twice and was rewarded with a beating when he returned. After their attempts to escape, Fred created a device to strap Heather, Mae and Stephen to their beds. He would sneak downstairs and force himself on either Heather or Mae while they lay helpless on their fronts, bound to the bed with a rope.
On 14 January 1984, Anne Marie married Chris Davis at Gloucester Register Office. She was already pregnant. Michelle was born on Father's Day, 17 June 1984.
One not long after, Chris was up in the loft laying a floor when Heather confided in him. She climbed up with him and smoked nervously as she spoke. Heather told Chris that she had had enough of life at home and wasn't going to take it.
Heather told Chris that she was seriously thinking of running away and going to live in the Forest of Dean. She had recently been on a two-week school camping trip to Clearwell Caves in the Forest. As she spoke it struck Chris that Fred and Rose letting Heather out was a positive turn up. She explained that she had made up her mind that the Forest of Dean was where she wanted to live.
When Heather was in a good mood she could be fun. But if she was in a bad mood she was intractable and you made yourself scarce. If Heather didn't want to see you she would look straight through you. Chris Davis remembered putting on a clown's outfit one day: "I did everything but jump on her head if you like. Looked straight through me as if I wasn't there. Then again, if you've been molested, you switch off. That ability to distance themselves from reality"
Before Heather left that day, Chris got her to promise that if she did run away to live in the Forest of Dean, she would contact him so he could reassure Anne Marie she was alright. Heather said she would.
"Fucking weird bastards" Chris Davis pronounced Fred and Rose West.
He told Anne Marie that he was going to speak to them."I said I'd had enough and was going to do something" recalls Chris "She said, 'For Christ's sake don't, because they'll kill us both'".
Heather begged Anne Marie to let her stay with them. But with memories of her own experiences. Anne Marie said it was pointless because Fred and Rose would only come and take her back. This was a decision that would haunt Anne Marie later.
From the age of thirteen, Fred West had pestered Heather for sex. "It was really bad for me and Heather when we reached puberty, at about twelve or thirteen" remembers Mae West "Dad used to comment on our breast size or how they had grown a bit" Stephen recalls that his father "used to chase Mae and Heather around and touch them, grab their breasts or grab them between the legs". Fred often wrestled Heather to the floor and beat her if she resisted.
|Heather in 1985|
They would whistle to each other when he approached. Fred bored holes in their bedroom wall so he could spy on them undressing.
"We had to almost parade in front of him" recalls Mae "He said things like, 'Why don't you come out of the bathroom without a towel on?' If we wrapped one round us he would try and rip it off so he could see us naked",
If Fred called Heather or Mae to his room, they took a brother or sister with them. He also pestered Mae for sex and became enraged when she rejected his advances. On one occasion he "broke the door in when I slammed it in his face." says Mae "He was livid and threw the vacuum cleaner at me for refusing him".
The two sisters became used to Fred bursting in on them early in the morning when they were getting dressed, or pulling the sheets from their beds He made his intentions clear. "He said a father's right is to break his daughter in and it was his privilege to it by the time we were sixteen" says Mae.
By the time Heather was fourteen and Mae twelve, Fred had bored holes in the door and punched holes in the wall so he could watch his daughters dress and undress. He was always on at Heather about being a lesbian. "Did you know you sister was a lesbian? I caught her pissing on the bed".
Fred would call Heather and Mae bitches and frigid and Rose would laugh. Lodgers and visitors to 25 Cromwell noticed how Fred taunted Heather by saying she was ugly and was generally cruel to her."There's my daughter Heather. I think she's a lesbian" Fred would declare. West indecently touched Heather, even wrestling her to the floor and beat her when she refused to succumb to him. He and Rose were always careful not to touch her face so the marks would not show. The more Heather rejected her father's sexual advances, the more irritated he became. Fred West tormented his daughter for refusing to have sex with him.
If Heather was moody or morose it was because she was a lesbian or a "lemon". If Heather stood at the bottom of the garden while the others celebrated a birthday, it wasn't because she was unhappy it was because she was "on" (having a period). If Heather refused it eat, it was because she needed a man to give her a "good sorting out".
"If any boy put his hand on my knee I'd put a fucking brick over his head" Heather answered.
The only men that Heather had ever known, had taken advantage of her so it is hardly surprising that she recoiled from them. Fred and Rose seem to have genuinely believed that Heather had lesbian inclinations and were furious about it in spite of the fact that Rose was bisexual. This anger almost certainly stemmed from the fact that Heather continued to reject the advances of her father. Rose deduced that Heather was a lesbian because while still at junior school, she was able to describe what type of knickers the female teachers were wearing. Fred and Rose were unable to make the connection between the abusive attentions Heather had endured at the hands of men and the affect this might be having on her psychological and emotional development.
Heather had always been different to her other siblings.but there was another suggestion for this. Andrew Letts harboured a suspicion that Heather was not the daughter of Fred West but of his brother Graham. Graham Letts was fourteen when his sister Rose left home. Graham suspected that his father Bill Letts was Heather's real father. "She wasn't a West" Fred West's charge hand Ronnie Cooper asserts "She was too select for them, I think. She was a pain in the neck to them, Heather was".
Speaking on the TV documentary series Inside Story which was broadcast on 6 December 1995, Mae recalled: "The abuse really affected Heather. She just became really quiet and went into herself. She used to be moody. She never had boyfriends and at school she was always separate from everyone else. She used to rock on the chair for hours and not talk to anyone. And she'd bit her nails 'till she had none at all. She just got quieter and quieter and didn't even communicate with us a lot after that"
In 1985, Heather attended the first birthday party of her niece Michele but stood apart from everyone else.
"Whatever you did wrong mum would give you a good slapping" says Stephen "She thought nothing of kicking you. There was never a rhyme nor reason to it". Heather was only treated slightly better than Anne Marie. She was receiving more beatings than the other children. Rose laughed at her distress and called her a lesbian when she protested against her father's abuse of her. Heather was beaten by her mother and because of this she refused to comply with the rule to shower after sports at school. Heather was self conscious about her body and always wore "long-sleeved blouses and pulled up her socks up way over her knees so that the bruises wouldn't show". She was frequently sent to the headmasters office and given detention. And still nobody at the school deigned to investigate further.
Denise Harrison was the daughter of Fred West's Jamaican born friend Ronalzo Harrison and Heather's best friend. Only when Heather was forced to shower one day did Denise discover the real reason behind her seeming disobedience. Heather had weal marks and bruises all over her arms and legs where she had been beaten.
As Heather's sixteenth birthday approached Fred's attempts to rape her became more frequent and insistent and she began to fear for her safety believing like her half-sister Anne Marie had, that"something terrible" was about to happen to her. Now that Anne Marie had gone, Fred turned his attentions to Heather."Heather was affected by this quite badly. But she never talked about it" says Mae. She was finding it increasingly hard to cope with her father's relentless sexual attentions. Heather hated her father's insistence on keeping a record of her periods and his threats that if she refused to allow him to have sex with her he would get "someone to sort her out".
"She was quite unhappy, particularly at home" remembered a school friend. Heather had suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her parents all her life and it all began to take it's toll on her. "The whole atmosphere was really making Heather miserable" recalls Mae West. She became steadily more withdrawn, rocking back and forth in her chair and biting her nails until they bled.
"She was so miserable, but she never talked about it" Mae said of her sister "She just became a loner and a bit of a recluse. She wanted to be on her own and do things on her own. Her ambition was to live in the Forest of Dean. She was fascinated with that area. She liked the outdoors and the feeling of freedom ... She didn't want to do what normal people wanted to do. She wanted to live like a hermit. She never wore shoes - she liked to walk barefoot everywhere".
Rose West was indifferent to the plight of her daughters. "I put up with it, so you should" she blithely informed them.
Heather was strong willed and spirited and openly argued with her parents. "She made it clear to Rose that she did not approve of what was going on" writes Anne Marie. "I believe she disliked me because I had these other men" said Rose.
Heather was sixteen and a half in the spring of 1987. She had grown into a pretty teenager with abundant raven hair, olive skin and large doe brown eyes. Her pixie looks are reminiscent of the American singer and musician Jane Weidlin in some of her photographs. Heather's dark Mediterranean looks and olive complexion might have been the legacy of a Maltese grandmother. They gave her an exotic patina and according to Geoffrey Wansell there "was certainly a sensuous Mediterranean quality to her character, a fiery pride not easily dimmed". Heather was 5" 4" and slim with prominent front teeth. "She was meant to wear a brace but she never had one" says Stephen.."She seemed more sexually aware than other girls our age" remembers one of her school friends and she got into trouble on more than one occasion for bringing pornographic magazines to school.. Heather also developed an intense crush on a male teacher which led to Fred West being called to the headmaster's office. "Mr West was very cooperative" a teacher later recalled.
"Many people would have described Heather as a happy-go-lucky type" writes Anne Marie "I think she tried to put on a brave face for the outside world, but at home she was sad, sometimes aggressive and always angry"
Although one teacher at Hucclecote Comprehensive School remembered Heather as "very pleasant and willing to participate" another described her as a "Jekyll and Hyde - one minute nice as pie and the next very aggressive" particularly out of school and in the company of older pupils. Heather was uneasy in the company of men. She absconded from a school camping trip and did not return with the other children. A search was put out to find her. Heather said she didn't like the male teachers. The headmaster suspended Heather but did not expel her. She wasn't given male teachers after that.
"Heather became very withdrawn at school and was always getting into trouble" remembers Mae "I used to hang around her in what was called the smokers' corner when she had a few crafty fags"
"Sometimes I found it hard to get on with Heather because she was so different" says Mae ""Stephen punched her on the nose just before she left. I think he feels a bit guilty about that now. She didn't cry though - she was hard. She was very similar to mum, she could be hard towards us"
|(from left) Heather, Stephen and Mae at Hucclecote|
In the last week of exams, a little less than a month before the official end of school, Heather finally opened up about what was happening at home.
Denise Harrison was walking home through the Eastgate Shopping Centre one day when she saw Heather sitting on a wall and noticed she was upset. When Denise asked Heather what was wrong, Heather started to cry.
She confided that she had just found out that her mother had been having a long affair with the father of a girl at school. 'Suncoo' (from 'Sunday cooking') was one of Rose's Jamaican regulars and was also the father of two of her sisters. Heather had never known. Fred and Rose had always explained away their mixed-race children by claiming they were "throwbacks" to Fred's "gypsy past".
Heather was deeply upset and confronted Suncoo's daughter who went straight home and told her mother. The following day the West Indian turned up at Cromwell Street for a face-off. "Fred and Rose were furious that Heather had been discussing their business outside the family, and she suffered a tremendous beating" Anne Marie later recalled.
Heather told Denise that her father came into her room at night."She said he was having sex with her" recalls Denise "I said, 'Haven't you told your mum?' and she said her mum didn't believe her"
Denise encouraged Heather to go back to school and inform the teachers. Heather told Denise that her father was beating her and that Rose thought she was a "little bitch" who deserved her beatings. "Denise never doubted her friend's story" writes Anne Marie "She had regularly noticed the severe bruising on Heather's arms and legs"
"I asked her whether she had told anyone" says Denise "and she said she was too frightened"
Denise told her parents. But Ronalzo and Gloria Harrison were God fearing people and friends of Fred and Rose West. They could not believe it was possible of them.
"We left school about three weeks after this so I never saw her again" says Denise Harrison.
"Heather tried to cry for help but there was nobody there to listen" write Anne Marie.
Word quickly got back to Fred and Rose West. As far as they were concerned, talking to an outsider was an unforgivable sin. As Howard Sounes writes in his book Fred & Rose: "Fred and Rose were extremely concerned that she was on the verge of talking about what they had been doing to her". They kept her under guard making sure she spoke to no one.
Heather was in a desperate situation at home. She knew that she to find herself a job to take her away from Cromwell Street but there was a harsh recession on and few jobs for school leavers. "I remember Heather was really miserable just before she disappeared, because mum and dad were nagging her about getting a job" recalls Mae. Heather became even more withdrawn and downhearted. "When she left school she just sat in the chair. She didn't want to know me anymore." Rose West would say of her daughter seven years later.
Denise Harrison suspects that Fred and Rose waited for Heather to finish her last term at school before killing her. "Denise thinks Fred and Rose could not have killed Heather while she was at school because she would have been missed. The timing of her death speaks for itself - the date on the murder charge was eight days after she left Hucclecote Secondary" writes Anne Marie in her book.
Anne Marie's daughter had her third birthday in June 1987 and she invited the family to a birthday party on Wednesday, 17 June at 52 Sapperton Road. "The whole family turned out in force, which was, I suppose, quite unusual".
"I remember very clearly the last time I saw Heather" writes Anne Marie "I even recall what she was wearing. She had on a baggy white T-shirt and leggings. Her dark brown hair was very long and worn loose. I made a note of it in my diary which later helped the police to pinpoint exactly when she went missing. The date was 17 June 1987 - my elder daughter Michelle's third birthday".
It was evident from the moment she arrived that all was not well with Heather. Fred bulled and pushed her to join in.
"Don't fucking stand there like a lemon" he taunted her.
"Why don't you leave me a-fucking-lone" Heather retaliated.
"She was a bright girl and good at her school work" writes Anne Marie "She passed eight GCSEs but never lived to see the results". In fact Heather was such a good pupil that her best friend Denise Harrison would copy her homework on the bus to school in the morning.
Chris Davis had a friend called Charlie who was filming the party with a video camera. Fred had even approached him and asked him if he'd be interested in filming sex scenes at 25 Cromwell Street. Charlie filmed Michele and her friends in the house and garden but for a lot of the time Heather kept her back to the house. She even refused to pose for the family photograph with her younger siblings.
Rose mentioned to Anne Marie that they'd had trouble with Heather before leaving home. Fred seemed to be keeping a close eye on the teenager all the time they were there. Heather retaliated by giving her mother looks.
"Why don't you just fuck off and leave me a -fucking-lone"
There were complaints from some of the mothers about Heather's language. Anne Marie telephoned Fred later that evening and told him. "She got told off by mum and dad and Heather cut Anna off for telling mum, saying she was never going to speak to her again" recalls Mae.
"I really regret that I never got to talk to her that day" writes Anne Marie "We just said hi and goodbye, and that was it. I never got another opportunity".
It was less than two days after the party that."the troubled, spirited teenager vanished as completely as if she had been in an illusionist's act". In the years to come, Anne Marie would be plagued by nightmares and the worst were always about Heather.
"When I last saw Heather, it was my eldest daughter's birthday. She wasn't herself and wanted to move in with me. But she wasn't sixteen. If she had stayed, they would have got her and given her a good hiding. I told her to wait till she was sixteen. About two days later, I got a phone call from dad. He said she'd left home and gone to live with a lesbian. Of course, I know now that she hadn't - she'd been killed. I have to live with that for the rest of my life." Anne Marie said in an interview.
"To be honest I felt sorry for her" said Rose West, "because it was the first time she'd shown an interest in anything since she left school".
Heather's dreams had been shattered.
The Last Day
It was raining hard the following morning.
19 June 1987.
"In the morning she was back to her usual self, looking miserable, biting her nails and sitting on the couch bouncing back and forth as she sat. I don't remember the last words I said to her, just how she looked and what she was wearing. She had black trousers on, which were a bit short, and a very vivid pink and white T-shirt with "spike" across it, which she had worn for the school" remembers Mae West in Inside 25 Cromwell Street.
|The last photo. Heather is on the left. Fred West on the right.|
An argument developed between Heather and her parents. It may have started with Fred attempting to rape his daughter although it is just as likely that Rose West turned on Heather and picked a fight with her. She would later tell a neighbour that there had been a "hell of a row".
Therefore it is likely that Rose West initiated Heather's death. It is also likely that Fred and Rose called Heather a lesbian and attempted to force her into having sex with both of them, tying her hands with two lengths of rope, 22 and 15 inches long, which were later found by police.
Orange, brown and green nylon fibres were found trapped in the rope, suggesting that Heather had been held down on the floor as she was being tied up. There was no gag and her remains were found without any clothing suggesting that she had been stripped naked before death, and that some sex act had been forced upon her.
"She was murdered one day when the other children had gone to school. There's no evidence to believe that she was sexually abused. She was simply murdered and her body was got rid of in the classic Fred West way" says biographer Jean Ritchie on the documentary series Born To Kill?
"If Heather had been able to survive and continue, she may have bought the whole facade down one way or another and that could not be allowed. So to some degree they committed a very risky murder that was done to show they were in control to the rest of their children and unfortunately that probably led to their undoing" says Criminologist and Forensic Profiler, Dr. David A. Holmes on the documentary series Born To Kill?.
Fred West spoke disparagingly about his missing daughter claiming that she wore revealing tops and never knickers. In an early interview Fred West claimed that Heather was standing with her hands in her pockets against the washing machine."And I said to her ... now what's this about you leaving home! ... You know you're too young. You're a lesbian and there's AIDS and all that. I mean, you're vulnerable to anything"
He told them that he had said, "Well, Heather, I'm not going to let you go," and she had replied "If you don't fucking let me go I'll give all the kids acid and they'll jump off the church roof and be dead on the floor"
"She stood there, and she had a sort of smile and a smirk on her face, like you try and I'll do it. I lunged at her like that and grabbed her throat like that and I held for a minute. How long I held her for I don't know I cant remember ... I can just remember lunging for her throat and the next minute she's gone blue. I looked at her and I mean I was shaking from head to foot I mean, what the heck had gone wrong?"
"I'm strong in the hands because of the job I do ... When you're using big spanners an' things like that, you get strong ... in the arms ... I spotted she'd gone blue and so I let go of her quick and, of course, she just started to fall backwards on to the washing machine and slid forwards"
Fred West was a pathological liar who would continue to maintain that Heather's murder had been "accidental".
"I just wanted to shake her" Fred West would later tell Detective Constable Hazel Savage "or wanted to take that smirk of her face"
|Detective Constable Hazel Savage|
"Yeah," said Fred "and that's the bad part of it"
Fred West's version cannot be entirely true. As Colin Wilson writes in his book The Corpse Garden: "The whole story of a tongue-tied, depressed sixteen-year-old girl uttering threats sounded absurdly implausible". While Anne Marie asserts:. "I suspect that she intended to get help and maybe even threatened to expose the sleaze of 25 Cromwell Street. And this was why she was killed".
"The way things look I think it must have happened around 9 a.m., after we had gone to school. Dad said it was early morning. He strangled her in the hallway. He got one of the black bins from the house, cut her legs and arms off, put her in the dustbin, put the lid on and put her in the cupboard under the basement stairs. The he said, we went to bed at 9 p.m., and he buried her in the garden"
Fred had always emphatically insisted that Rose had not been involved. Yet in 2005 one piece of evidence emerged to incriminate her. It appeared in the supplement Britain's Worst Serial Killers in the Mirror and it was an eye witness account of Heather's death.
Barry West was just seven when Heather died and he claimed to witnessed what happened to her. The little boy was standing behind the door when Heather came home in the early hours of the morning.
"It was about 3 a.m. I heard mum slap her and I saw my dad walk round behind her and put his leg out. Then my mum just booted her. She was kicking and kicking her and calling her a slag. Then when my dad tried to get her to do things to him (these would be sexual), she refused. I think that's why she ended up dead. When my dad finished with her, Heather was too weak to get up and my mum kicked her in the head. I could see blood coming out of her head and her mouth. Then my mum stamped on her head five times and Heather didn't move again. Finally mum rubbed her hands together saying matter-of-factly, "Right, let's clear this up. Let's get rid of this fucking whore." I could hear my dad wrapping her in some plastic and I could see my mom scrubbing the floor with a bucket and brush"
The account appears in Rose West: The Making of A Monster by Jane Carter Woodrow and is repeated in other places but is not corroborated by what has been established about Heather's death. According to the account Heather had come home in the early hours of the morning yet it has been accepted that she died on the morning of 19 June 1987 and is corroborated by Mae West who remembered seeing her before she left for school. Both Mae and Stephen remembered coming home around 5 p.m that afternoon and finding Heather gone.
It is possible that the events became jumbled in the boy's mind. He would have been at school on the morning Heather died. But the violent way in which he claims Heather died rings true.
"My mum continually lies about her involvement in the hope that one day she'll be free," adds Barry West, "But she knew every detail of what took place ..."
Fred West mutilated his daughter's body with the same enthusiasm he had mutilated the body of Shirley Robinson.
Howard Sounes gives a detailed account of what transpired in his book Fred & Rose.
Fred West used a heavy serrated knife from the freezer shop Iceland, chopping her left thigh clean in two. He then held Heather face down and cut through the back of neck while her chin was pushed into her chest, decapitating her. He then removed her kneecaps and parts of her hands and feet. Fingernails - but not corresponding fingers - were found in her grave.
It was not implied that Heather had been subjected to torture before she died but two pieces of chord found with her remains suggest that her father had attempted to rape her. It was, as Mae believes, Heather's resistance which precipitated her death. Several loose finger nails were also unearthed with Heather's remains. Although the possibility that they were pulled out while she was still alive is not corroborated by the evidence, it cannot be ruled out.
Fred put Heather's remains into black bin bags and stored them over night in a dustbin under the stairs on the ground floor of the house. He told his children that the dustbin was full of old plaster.
West had stuffed Heather's clothes and belongings into black bin bags, and left them outside a vet's surgery in St. Michael's Square because it was "bin day". Later Stephen would be perplexed that Heather had not taken her most prized possession with her - a book that she had been awarded as a school prize.
|Rose and Fred West.|
"Where's Heather?" Stephen asked.
"She's left home" replied Fred.
"What do you mean?" Stephen and Mae asked together.
"A girl picked her up in a Mini, and she's gone to work at the holiday camp" explained Fred West. The lady from the holiday camp in Torquay had telephoned and given Heather the job after all.
He explained that he and Rose had given Heather some money to help her on her way.
"I think we were more shocked than upset" recalls Mae in Inside 25 Cromwell Street "we weren't crying. It's just that Heather hadn't said goodbye".
He asked Stephen to help dig a hole in the garden because he was thinking of installing a fishpond. "I can't believe dad made me dig my sister Heather's grave" says Stephen "I was asked to dig a pond in the back garden during half term. He told me "I want a hole there, about four feet deep and six across, and I want you to lay blue plastic in the hole and leave it"
A couple of days later, Stephen noticed that the hole he had dug had been filled in and assumed that his father had changed his mind. "It really upset me, once I realised that I had dug the grave for Heather. It's really sick that he could ask his own kid to do something like that"
Heather's remains were buried two feet deep near the fir trees.
In the weeks that followed Fred West extended the patio at the back of the house. He acquired several dozen square slabs, half coloured a ruddy pink and the other half vanilla yellow. The slabs were molded so that the surface had the texture of slate. He called upon Stephen to help him. Barry West remembers helping lay the patio slabs in the garden and covering them over with some twigs.
"We patioed it. Innesworth Patio Slabs.They come out by the airfield there, all the Air Force is ...The ground has been levelled down, or hammered down. Refilled. As the end of the slab sunk, you put more soil under, or gravel, to level him. As the body sinks, then the slab was tipping ... Actually I did it so very long ago ... Heather helped me put the original one down - just a toddler, like, but she was there rakin'" Fred West would later recall.
They constructed a barbecue opposite the site of her grave and put a pine table on the slab itself. "We used to have birthday meals and things out there, when mom would cook sausages, bacon and burgers. The younger kids used to love them ... We used to be out in the garden with the music on and laughing. It was like dancing on her grave" recalls Mae in Inside 25 Cromwell Street.
But Heather was not forgotten in the months following her disappearance.
"They came up with various stories about the day she left and for years Fred would claim to have to bumped into Heather somewhere or to have received a chatty telephone call saying she was fine and working in another part of the country", says Anne Marie.
Anne Knight, who looked after two nearby houses and had an office in Cromwell Street was told, "There was a hell of a barney here a couple of nights ago. We found out that she was going with a lesbian from Wales, and she has gone to Wales with her"
Margaret Dix lived across the road at 29 Cromwell Street. She used to walk her grandchildren to school with Rose West, who took Heather. Dix, asked after Heather, and was informed by Rose that the girl had decided to leave home and they had given her money.
"I'm not bothered if she's dead or alive" Rose West informed Dix "She's made her bed and she must lie in it"
Fred West was less truculent with his explanations.: "She's phoned in the early hours of the morning and been abusive to Rose" concluding tightly "I've told her not to phone again"
Not long after this, Ronalzo Harrison, father of Heather's best friend Denise, asked where Heather had gone. Fred West informed him that Heather had been given a good hiding by Rose for assaulting the children "and putting scratches on their faces" while she was babysitting, Heather had left home a few days later.
When Ronalzo Harrison expressed to Fred West how concerned he was about Heather, West changed tack and told him that Heather was living somewhere in the nearby village of Brockworth and that she had telephoned them.
Subsequently, Fred jettisoned the lesbian story and informed Denise Harrison that Heather had run off with a boyfriend instead.
|Fred and Rose|
"It was all a pack of lies" says Anne Marie "They knew where she was and they regularly held family barbecues over the spot where they had hidden her. It upsets me so much to think of that, and to remember that not one of her possessions was ever found, not a single one".
"He didn't have a good word to say about her even after he had killed her" says Mae "She had to be a lesbian or a drug dealer, and he used to tell his workmates too. He could have said something nice like she's got kids and is really happy. When I start to forgive him I remind myself of what he's done, and then I hate him again".
Rose West told Erwin Marschall, who had stayed with Anne Marie at 25 Cromwell several years before and heard screams, that Heather was "uncontrollable" and had "run away from home" after "taking all her belongings". Rose added the further lie that she had called the police.
A friend of Mae and Stephen's said that Heather was often spoken about in the house after her departure, and her brother and sister were keen on trying to find out where she was.
In his book, An Evil Love, Geoffrey Wansell writes that Fred West did not forget his daughter and "may even have mourned her in his own way". He took to standing on the patio staring into space and "always seemed to be out there sweeping, going round on his own, as though he was really thinking hard.about something".
Some of the children have recalled how Fred would sometimes stand around the spot where Heather was buried, looking lost or distracted. At other times he would sweep the patio aimlessly, as if his mind were on something else.
Heather's murder was one of the few times Rose West ever showed any remorse. She seemed genuinely upset that Heather had "run away" and cried a great deal."Mum cried a lot when Heather left" recalls Mae "We asked dad why she was crying and said it was because of Heather. It was an unusual sight because she was usually quite hard" Such was Rose's desire to escape from what she and Fred had done that they took a rare trip to see her brother Graham and his wife Barbara.
"Heather's left us.She's disappeared. She's a lesbian. And that's it closed. I don't want you coming round in future if you mention Heather" Rose West informed the couple.
Now Fred and Rose West were showing signs that they were haunted by their crime.
Heather's siblings were told not to mention her name again and photographs of her were removed from the house. Rose was never heard to mention Heather's name, and she became very quiet when anyone did.
Rose West appeared to mellow after Heather's disappearance. According to Mae: "she never hit me again. You could really see the change for the better, and that's why we kept thinking, "God, if Heather comes back we will tell her that life's good here and that we've been given bikes and things like that".But Barry West recalls otherwise. He remembers Rose tucking him and his siblings in bed at night and cuddling them, then the following morning "we'd wake up to her kicking us in our beds. She'd be shouting "Wake up you little cunts". There'd be no reason for it. We were terrified".
One day the telephone rang and Rose answered it. Stephen was sitting nearby and witnessed what happened next. "Mum answered the phone and said 'Hi, Heather. It's your mum'. They were talking, and then mum started to get upset saying, 'You can't say that about me'. mum was swearing, and then she said ''I'll get your father'. She called dad, and said 'She's calling me every name under the bloody sun, you can talk to her.' dad talked to her and, 'I've calmed her down now. She'll speak to you some other time'.
|Fred and Rose West|
"Knowing what I know now" says Stephen "I think they got someone to ring up, so that if we had any suspicions it would calm us down"
Stephen also concludes correctly that Rose must have been aware that Heather was dead because she would never have been fooled by another woman pretending to be her daughter. "Knowing what I know now, I think they got somebody to ring up, so if we had any suspicions, it would calm us down" says Stephen.
Anne Marie was upset by Heather's disappearance. "I never gave up hope of finding her until the police did it for me" she writes in Out of the Shadows. Fred telephoned Anne Marie to tell her Heather had left home with a girlfriend to work at a holiday camp in Torquay. "I questioned my father regularly about Heather but he stuck to his story and elaborated on it as time went on". She searched for Heather but to no avail. "I know Anna must have felt guilty about her row with Heather because she took a train to Butlins to try to find her" says Mae "Of course she wasn't there and they couldn't tell her anything about Heather". Anne Marie had travelled the West Country looking for her half-sister, and had contacted the Salvation Army. "I followed up some of those leads, travelling as far afield as Torquay in Devon after my dad said Heather was working in a holiday camp there" says Anne Marie "But no one had seen or heard of her, and I went home more anxious and disheartened every time."
Speaking on the TV documentary series Inside Story in 1995, Mae says:"We started waiting for the post every week and it was due to be her birthday and we thought she'd come back and Christmas but we heard nothing. And if at all we'd ask mum or dad, dad would come up with a story. He'd say that she didn't bother about us. She'd obviously got her own business. We didn't think it was too strange, we knew that if we'd left we probably wouldn't come back. But we thought Heather would have for us and the children, not to see mum and dad".
It would always be Fred West who claimed to have had contact with Heather after she left in the years ahead. He claimed to have met Heather in Birmingham, Denizes, Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare. She had turned into a drug dealer. She had gone blonde.
"The evil love that he demanded of his children, like the love that he shared with his wife, was to prove West's undoing. Heather West bought the police to his door as surely as if she had walked into Gloucester police station and made a statement. Only it was to take almost seven years for her to do so" writes Geoffrey Wamsell in An Evil Love.
The Truth Will Out
In May 1992, Fred West made a fatal error. He had begun to indecently assault one of his daughters in much the same way he had done with Anne Marie, Heather and Mae. The girl's sister tellingly confided in a friend at school that her big sister Heather "had run away because of her father's abuse".
Fred West raped his daughter three times on one occasion and videoed it while his children banged on the locked door. They had heard her screams: "Stop dad, it hurts" West later attempted to blackmail his daughter by warning her: "You mustn't say anything, you know, because I'll go to prison for five years. We'll all be split up, and you need a mom and dad at your stage of life".
Three days later, the Social Services Department in Gloucester were alerted and a warrant was obtained to search 25 Cromwell Street for evidence of child abuse and pornography.
On 6 August shortly before 9.a.m.a team of two detectives and four policewomen arrived at Cromwell Street and began to search the premises. Rose immediately flew into a rage and attacked a policewoman; hitting her repeatedly with her her fists and then her feet, Rose was restrained by a male constable who arrested her on a charge of obstruction.
"Fuck you, you bastard" said Rose West.
Rose telephoned Anne Marie who was a witness and threatened her. "If you think anything of me or your dad ... you'll keep your mouth shut".
On the morning of Friday 7 August, Anne Marie made a long statement to the police. "Anna was effectively kicked out of the family. Mom put the phone down every time she rang up" says. Mae West. "I went through hell making that statement to Hazel" recalls Anne Marie "It bought back horrors I thought I had blocked out forever. It shook me to the core and left me traumatised." Nine days after making the statement Anne Marie retracted it, calling it "a figment of my imagination".
But Detective Constable Hazel Savage was not convinced believing that Anne Marie's allegations were true. Forty-nine-year-old Detective Constable Hazel Savage had taken an interest in the West's since the Caroline Raine case in 1971. She had been in and out of 25 Cromwell Street over the years investigating drugs related offence's and offence's involving the lodgers. Rose West despised Savage and refereed to her within the family as a "bitch and an arsehole"
One of the main lines of enquiry that Detective Constable Hazel Savage pursued in August 1992, was the whereabouts of the missing Heather. Savage was convinced that Anne Marie's allegations of abuse were true and she would spend the next twelve months searching Heather.
"She said: 'One good thing that's going to come out of this is that I'm going to find your sister'. We didn't like Hazel, but we thought that if she'd find Heather, then that was alright with us" says Mae.
"As far as I'm concerned, she hasn't just disappeared, she made a conscious decision to leave" Rose claimed tartly. "Why I didn't pursue Heather to sort of stay home was Heather had told me, and wanted a life of her own .... And that was why she wanted to leave. She said it wasn't good for the rest of the children".
A few days later, Rose West claimed that one of Heather's friends had told her that she was "getting on with her life". She had spoken to Heather on the phone and said she was all right. According to Rose, Heather was drunk.
Rose West was formally charged with "causing or encouraging the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of sixteen" and with cruelty to a child".
Fred West was on remand in Gloucester prison as a Rule 43 prisoner - a category reserved for sexual offenders. West kept up the pretence of normality and gave the first version of the disappearance of his daughter claiming that someone called 'Shirley' whose surname he "had the vague idea was Robinson" had collected Heather: "She went through the door laughing her head off, and she said 'Tell Mae and Stephen I'll get in touch with them or something'.
"We would go with mum to visit dad in Gloucester prison ... and he started talking really strangely" says Stephen "He was crying and said that he'd stupid things at night, when we were in bed. He said he had done the worst crime that we could imagine" Stephen and Mae began to wonder if "the worst crime they could imagine" was the murder of their sister Heather.
"After a few years, we got really worried about Heather and me and Stephen filled in a Salvation Army form for missing people" says Mae "We wrote to Cilla Black at Surprise, Surprise..That's the TV show where she brings people together who haven't seen each other for years. And we wrote to another TV show Missing, which tries to find missing people" But all to no avail.
When Fred West discovered that Stephen and Mae were intending to go to the police, he informed them that Heather was in trouble. "He sat us down and told us that Heather was involved in credit card fraud and that if we went to the police, we'd be dropping in her in it" remembers "We sort of believed him, but after a while we stopped believing he had seem her, why would she contact him and not us?"
|25 Cromwell Street|
He was remanded in custody again and sent to a bail hostel, Carpenter House, in Edgebaston, Birmingham. Rose was allowed to visit him and would travel at least fourteen times to see him.
On 19 November 1992, Fred and Rose West were committed for trial and five days later on 24 November full Court Orders were made in respect of Tara, Louise, Barry, Rosemary and Lucyanna West at Bristol County Court.
On Monday 7 June 1993, Fred and Rose West appeared in the dock of Gloucester Crown Court before the city's senior judge, Judge Gabriel Hutton. Fred West was charged with three counts of rape and sodomy. But on the day of the trial the two children refused to appear or give evidence against their parents in open court. It had proved too much for them and the case collapsed. "We take the view that we cannot proceed, and accordingly we offer no evidence against the defendants"
Fred West returned to 25 Cromwell Street in June 1993. His five children had remained in care. In August 1993, Gloucester social services contacted the police to stress their concern over the whereabouts of Heather.
Mae West gives an account of events: "Meanwhile, the police search for Heather was carrying on, unknown to us. They couldn't find any record of her going to a doctor, claiming benefit or any National Insurance records. The search was widened and Interpol were contacted to see if she was working or living abroad somewhere. Again nothing was found, no trace of Heather anywhere in the world. Months later, the kids were talking in their care home about Stephen and I had said about Heather possibly being murdered by mom and dad. A social worker overheard them"
The five younger children had shared a macabre family joke which had been in the family since Heather's disappearance.
According to Anne Marie the joke originated with Fred West who laughed raucously the first time he said it. If they were open with their mouths about what went on at home, they would end up being buried under the patio like their sister Heather. If they carried on about their missing sister, Fred would say "Anybody would think I'd buried her under the patio".
"The police were called and they took statements from all the kids. On the strength of that, a police warrant to dig up the garden of 25, Cromwell Street was issued" recalls Mae.
On Thursday 24 February 1:40 p.m 1994, an unmarked police car pulled up outside 25 Cromwell Street.
Mae West answered the door to five plainclothes police officers: four men and a woman. "They said they had a warrant to search the premises for the body of Heather West" says Mae "I was pretty shocked because a body meant that they thought she was dead".
The police officers pushed past Mae and asked if Rose West were home. She was watching Neighbours on the television in her ground-floor living-room. The senior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Terry Moore, handed Rose West a search warrant, allowing them to search for the body of Heather."At first she just said "This is stupid" but then she got more and more abusive" recalls Mae "They said they were going to dig up the garden and then she got worse and worse"
The police wanted to establish the whereabouts of Heather and were not certain that they were in pursuit of a serial murderer. Some of them were dubious about the undertaking.
Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions interviewed Rose West later that afternoon in the Black Magic bar. He was struck by her apparent lack of concern for her missing daughter. "Rose hated Heather, right from an early age" Fred West confided.
Rose West claimed she could not even remember the season Heather disappeared although "it could have been summer" because Heather was forever "running away on school trips". Asked what problems Heather had at school, Rose replied "Having arguments with the teachers. . . she got suspended and the headmaster said 'we are not going to expel her' and that was that". West stated that she had given Heather £600 to start a new life but was evasive about the bank account from which she withdrew the money. The story tied in with Fred West's version of events and is clearly an invention."If Rose had already gone to get money for Heather to leave home, then the matter must have already been decided, and there would be no need to threaten to administer LSD to the children."writes Colin Wilson in his book The Corpse Garden.
Asked if she had attempted to persuade Heather to stay, Rose replied: "I said 'what are you going to do?' I had a problem with her because I knew what she was ... She was a lesbian, as far as I know"
"She was a very young girl. How did you know that ? You had a picture in your mind of what a lesbian was like and she fitted it?"
|Detective Superintendent John Bennett|
Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions asked Rose what made her definitely think her daughter was a lesbian and she replied that when Heather was at infants school, she had known "exactly what kind of knickers the women teachers had on".Onions asked Rose if the night before there were raised voices " and it was about that, was it ? "You are a lesbian "?"
"I couldn't talk to her. There was no communication. She said she would talk to her father. That was it. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it bloody drink. She was a stubborn girl - you ask the rest of the family. She didn't want to do her own washing. From what was going around at school, so I can gather, she had obviously had it planned for some time. I left her to talk to her father and went and did some shopping"
Pressed further about the details of the bank from which Rose withdrew £600, Rose West erupted: "I was upset at the time. I was upset. . .what do you think? I'm a fucking computer? In the last eighteen months, I have had fucking hell. What more do you want?"
"If you had any brains at all, you could find her. It can't be that difficult"
Rose went on to describe Heather as a stubborn and negative child.
"All I put it down to is that I don't agree with what she is doing. That's obvious. She has always been an obstinate child. She didn't want to do anything that anybody else was doing. She left school and she just sat in the chair."
Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions asked Rose West if her daughter was still alive.
"Well, why not?" She replied "Unless something horrible has happened to her. Come on - hundreds of thousands of kids go missing."
"Heather has disappeared for some seven years without a telephone call, without contacting any person whom she had known, without any activity as regards marriage, employment ... "
"There must be something somewhere. You have just missed it, that's all."
"Then there's you painting a picture of her as a negative girl. She was just a couch potato type of girl. Then here she is, she abandons her family, friends, without trace. If you knew where she was, would you tell us ?"
"I don't know"
Onions informed Rose West that it was their duty to find her missing daughter:
"We have got to find out where Heather is. It's a mystery"
"It's only a mystery because you want it to be a mystery." replied Rose.
At 8,45 p.m that Thursday evening Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions drew the interview to a close.
"You know in your own mind what's happened to her"
"No, I don't" answered Rose West.
Meanwhile at 7.50 p.m that evening, Fred West had given his first interview claiming: "I've no idea where she is" and without missing a heartbeat "I think I've seen her quite a few times, actually". He had seen her recently in Birmingham. "She was more of a lady ... Her hair was expensively done." He claimed like that his eldest daughter was all him. "Heather had summat against Rose, for some unknown reason .. Every time Rose spoke to 'er, she bloody insulted her, and walked away. But me and Heather was very close, which all of them will tell you. I mean me 'an Heather built half our home together."
Fred West informed Detective Constable Hazel Savage that he didn't want to snitch on Heather by reporting her missing to the police.
"You don't go inside just because you're a missing person" Savage informed him.
"Ah!" Fred replied with a chuckle, "What Heather's up to is a different story ... You name it, Heather's up to it ... I think Heather was supplying the whole of Cromwell Street, somehow .... Lot's of girls who disappear take different names and go into prostitution". West had learnt through speaking to Heather on the phone that she had "umpteen names".
"You find her" he replied "An' then I'll be happy. That's all I can say."
It was the beginning of a game of cat and mouse that Fred West would play until the moment he died. He would drip feed the truth as he prevaricated and lied.
Fred West was allowed home for the last time. Shortly after 11 a.m on Friday 25 February he confessed to Detective Constable Hazel Savage in an unmarked police car that he had murdered Heather.
As he left the house, Fred caused an uproar by yelling "I didn't kill her!" But in the unmarked police car, he turned to DC Hazel Savage and said quietly: "I killed her".
At 3:15 p.m, Caroline Roberts had just returned home from collecting her daughter Shani-Jade from school when she "heard a news report that stopped me dead in my tracks and sent a shiver down my spine". It concerned a Gloucester couple who had been arrested on suspicion of murdering their sixteen-year-old daughter. Caroline knew immediately that they were talking about Fred and Rose West. She instinctively hugged her daughter close as tears of anger and sorrow streamed down her face. The report confirmed what Caroline already knew: that Heather had disappeared eight years earlier in 1987 while still a teenager and had never been reported as missing.
"The bastards! How could they kill a child, especially their own child?" Caroline cried.
"As I looked down at my dark haired five-year-old daughter, I remembered two-year-old Heather West, the beautiful toddler with a mop of dark hair and big dark eyes, and I cuddled Shani-Jade to me as I had Heather some twenty-two years earlier".
When Caroline had sufficiently collected herself she called Gloucester police, "You have to keep searching, you will find Heather there because that's what they told me they were going to do to me". Caroline repeated how the Wests had threatened to bury her "under the paving stones of Gloucester" where there were already hundreds of other girls whom the police had never found and they wouldn't find her.
"When I put the receiver down I sat and sobbed partly for Heather and partly for myself, as the shame and pain of the past came back to haunt me".
Just after 5 p.m Fred West gave an account of the death of Heather expanding on his earlier story claiming that he sent Rose out shopping and attempted to convince Heather to "get a flat up the road". "She said, "If you don't fucking let me go I'll give all the kids and they'll all jump off the church roof and be dead on the floor"
"She stood there, and she had a smile and a sort of smirk on her face, like you try me and I'll do it. I lunged at her like that and grabbed her round the throat like that and I held for a minute. How long I held her for I don't know. I can't remember ... I can just remember lunging at her throat and the next minute she's gone blue. I looked at her and I mean I was shaking from head to foot. I mean, what the heck had gone wrong?"
Fred West reiterated that he had not meant to murder his daughter. "I mean, I just went to grab her, to shake her, and say take that stupid smirk off your face". But he had determined that "there was no way I could get any life into her".
Hazel Savage was horrified and disgusted by Wests emotionless confession. "After he had killed her and cut her up, he was more concerned about his hedge than anything else. When we took him back to show us where he had buried her - he said we were looking in the wrong place as he wouldn't have dug that close to this hedge as it might have damaged it".
Mae and Stephen reacted differently to their father's confession. His solicitor Howard Ogden and appropriate adult Janet Leach walked in the pink interview room at Gloucester police station. Ogden said: "I'm sorry to tell you this, but your Dad has admitted to killing Heather".
|25 Cromwell Street from the back garden|
Shortly before 7 p.m that evening Fred West showed DC Hazel Savage where he had buried Heather in the back garden of 25, Cromwell Street.
The following day Rose was interviewed for a second time unaware that Fred had already confessed to the murder of Heather.
"What sort of girl was Heather then? Physically, first of all" Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions asked her.
"A bit shorter than me. I'm about 5'4'', I think" Rose West replied "With really dark hair".
"You said she was darker than you. . . "
"What sort of build was she ? How heavy would she be ?"
"About eight stone. "
"Let's talk about the sort of girl she was in terms of personality."
"Quiet, liked to be different to everybody else. She tried to do the opposite of everybody else."
"She didn't go along with what the rest were doing."
Rose could not remember the exact date Heather left home but she thought it could have been: "Summer. About June, I think.?". And she could not remember if she left with anyone.
"This is your own eldest child." Detective Sergeant Onions reminded Rose.
"So it was quite a traumatic event."
"Have you seen her since that day ? Have you got any inkling where she might be ?"
"She was going down to Devon and she was going to get a job with the company, no matter how long it took her."
Asked whether she had done anything to find her missing daughter, Rose West informed DS Onions: "Nothing. As far as I'm concerned, she left home of her own accord".
She went on: "Once a child does cut you off, there's not a lot you are going to be able to do to get her back."
Then Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions informed Rose West that her husband had already confessed to the murder of Heather. According to Detective Sergeant John Bennet when Rose West was informed that her husband had confessed to murdering Heather: "She wailed hysterically, though her howling grief didn't convince her interrogators, who thought she was putting it on".
"Why do you think you've been arrested today ? For the most grave of offence's. There has been a major development this morning. Fred has confessed to murdering Heather."
"What?" Gasped Rose West "So you know where she is?"
"He has told us where she is" replied Detective Sergeant Onions.
In a high-pitched almost hysterical voice, Rose asked: "So she's dead? Is that right?"
"Fred has confessed to murdering Heather"
""He's told us where she is. Where do you think she is?"
"She's dead?" (crying)
Rose stopped crying and stared angrily across the interview table.
"Why does it automatically implicate me?" She growled "It's a lie"
"Our suspicions are aroused that you are implicated in it"
Rose West had rallied by the time she was interviewed again a couple of hours later.
"Do you feel that perhaps you've been a bit naive over this (seven year) period?" Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions asked her.
|Digging in the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street|
"What's your feeling towards Fred now?" Onions asked her, "now that you know he's slain your eldest daughter?"
"Put it this way. He's a dead man if I ever get my hands on him"
Rose West was questioned on the following afternoon of Saturday 26 February after human remains had been discovered at 25 Cromwell Street.
She steadfastly maintained that she knew nothing about her daughter's death.
"A short while ago human remains have been recovered form the area which Mr West has indicated and for obvious reasons we believe those human remains to be those of your daughter Heather. Is there anything you want to say about that?" Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions put it to Rose West
Rose shook her head but did not reply.
"Was (Heather) killed because, as you said, she was different from the rest because she was going to blow the whistle on what happened in your house? Which, from statements I have read from your children, was a bit like a prison for them."
"I do not know nothing about it" Rose West replied "Why do we have to go through this again?"
When Detective Sergeant Terrance Onions informed her that there might be more human remains in the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street, she sighed "Oh, this is getting too much".
"She was a stubborn girl, you ask the rest of the family, I mean she didn't want to move off the seat, she didn't want nothing, she was so negative" Rose said of Heather. She "liked to be different to everybody else".
It had been raining incessantly for two days and progress was painfully slow for the fifteen officers in the search team. Shortly after 2.p.m on Saturday 26 February, Fred West retracted his earlier statement and declared that Heather was not dead.
"Heather is not in the garden. Heather's alive and well. She's possibly at this moment in Bahrain. She works for a drugs cartel. She's got no identification - that's why you can't find her ... They're looked after like queens. I have no idea what her name is, because I will not let her tell me. She contacts me whenever she's in this country. Now whether you believe it or not is entirely up to you. As far as I am concerned I'd like to see them all still over there digging n my garden ... They can dig there for evermore. Nobody or nothings under my patio".
At 4.04 p.m on Saturday 26 February, the search team found a thigh a little over two feet beneath the ground outside the ground outside the rear extension bathroom Fred West had assembled over the old garage at the back of Cromwell Street.
Just minutes later, Heather's skeleton was found on the left-hand side of the small garden, opposite the barbecue.
Professor Bernard Knight, a crime writer as well as a professor of forensic pathology, identified Heather's remains. The smell of rotting flesh emanating from the tiny one-foot square hole was potent. A policeman leaned over the tiny one -feet square hole, holding his breath, and picked up an object covered in mud. Knight identified it as a human thigh bone. Further probing in the "quagmire" among the decaying mass revealed more human bones, a skull, some dark brown human hair, teeth and fingernails. The bones were taken to the police station, where Professor Knight washed them and then painstakingly reassembled the skeleton like a jigsaw puzzle. Strangely enough, the kneecaps and some of the fingers and toes were missing. Dental records were used to identify Heather West.
Heather had been decapitated and her body had been dismembered and disarticulated. Two lengths of orange chord - 22 inches and 15 inches long - were found entangled with what remained of her hair. Fred West maintained that the chord "was what I tied the dustbin lid with". Part of a necklace was also recovered. Thirty-eight of Heather's bones were missing from her remains including her right kneecap, fifteen of her wrist and ankle bones from a total of thirty, and twenty-two finger and toe bones from a total of seventy-six. Not only had Heather's legs been disarticulated from her pelvis with the use a sharp knife, leaving tiny cuts on her bones, but her left thigh had also been smashed in two near her pelvis with a sharp-edged object which Professor Bernard Knight believed to have been done with cleaver.
|Human remains are taken away from 25 Cromwell Street|
"I was just really shocked when they told me about Heather" said Mae in 1995 "A lot of it just didn't sink in. Just too unbelievable. I was shocked because it could so easily have been me. And I started to hate my dad from there" Stephen remarked:"We couldn't accept that he could have done that to her" says Stephen. Mae and Stephen asked if Heather was whole, and an officer replied: "You wouldn't have wanted to see her".
That Saturday afternoon a policewoman called Anne Marie in the midst of a birthday party for her youngest daughter Carol. She was informed that Heather's body had been dug up in the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street and that her father was the chief suspect. The timing couldn't have been worse.
"I was shaking. I wanted to cry. I wanted to dissolve into my grief, but I couldn't." Instead she found a bottle of sherry and poured some into a tumbler and called the father of her youngest child to come to the house. "Then I pinned a smile on my face, took a gulp of sherry and organised another party game"
"It bought to an end my dream of a happier life for the bright eyed-toddler I had watched grow into a difficult, despondent teenager" writes Anne Marie.
She placed flowers at the gate after Heather's body was found at 25 Cromwell Street Street. Her goodbye to Heather read:
"To my sister Heather, I've searched and sought, I've wept and prayed we'd meet again some sunny day. Missing you so very much. Will always love and remember you All my fondest love, Big sis, Anne Marie"
Professor Bernard Knight was aware that he had one femur too many. Fred West had been hoping to get away with manslaughter after Heather's remains were discovered. But it was put to him that there were more than one set of remains,
"There is a third femur, a leg bone, Fred" Detective Constable Hazel Savage informed him, "The question is, is there anybody else buried in your garden?"
"Only Heather" Fred West replied.
"You never said to us that you scattered Heather all over the garden. And Heather didn't have three legs"
"Yes, Shirley" Fred West replied, almost inaudibly.
"Shirley, who?" Detective Constable Hazel Savage asked.
"Robinson. The girl who caused the problem".
Shirley Robinson was described by Fred West as a lesbian. She was a former tenant at 25 Cromwell Street who was expecting his child when she disappeared.
West also revealed that there were further remains which he could only identify as belonging to "Shirley's mate".
On Sunday 27 February 1994, three days after the digging began, Fred West was charged with murdering his daughter Heather. At 4.13 p.m, Constable Darren Law formally charged Frederick Walter Stephen West with the murder of Heather West between 28 May 1987 and 27 February 1994 contrary to common law. West did not reply.
Shortly after lunch on Sunday 27 February, Fred West gave a lurid and graphic account of what had happened to Heather in the presence of his solicitor Howard Ogden and his appropriate adult Janet Leach. Later West proudly declared that: "Janet had turned green". Her reaction was hardly surprising.
West had given a "notoriously featureless description of the murder of Heather, complete with the loss of bladder control and his hacking off her head" as Brian Masters puts it in She Must Have Known. "With Rosemary West's connivance, she was bound, abused, killed and finally mutilated. She had become as much a vehicle for her father's appetites as all the other young women whose lives he had snuffed out in the previous twenty years" writes Geoffrey Wansell of Heather's death in An Evil Love.
Fred West was then at pains to present himself as a man so overcome with grief at the death of his daughter that he was unable to think: "I mean, with Shirley and that it didn't matter. I wasn't bothered whether they were dead or alive, you know. I mean, it was just to get to get rid of them".
On Sunday 27 February, Rose West was arrested on "suspicion of the murder of Shirley Robinson and another as yet unknown female"
Rose West never changed her story and remained steadfast in her version of events which exonerated her from any involvement in her daughter's disappearance. "I told you what I know, and that's it".
John Bennett believed that Fred and Rose had agreed on a story, probably at Cromwell Street on 24 February, the last night they spent together. Part of the plan was that "Rose knew nothing".
"Within the investigation itself, it was realised that a lot of the things that Rosemary West had said about how Heather had disappeared were exaggerated, and now we had actually located Heather made it quite apparent that Rosemary was lying" writes Bennett.
The following morning and two days after the discovery of Heather's remains, the diggers found another body in the garden, near the bathroom wall. The dismembered body was later identified as sixteen-year-old Alison Chambers. The teenager had been a regular visitor to Cromwell Street and had run away from home in August 1979. Several hours later, the police found more human remains buried several yards from the other body. They proved to be those of Shirley Robinson. Near her dismembered body was the skeleton of a foetus. Having uncovered three bodies in the garden, Detective Chief Superintendent John Bennett, the officer in charge of the investigation, decided to start digging inside the house. The police would later bring in a ground-penetrating radar to locate bodies which cost £2,000 a day to rent.
It was at this stage that Fred West decided to make a full handwritten confession, declaring that there were five more bodies buried under the basement floor, and one under the ground floor bathroom. More concerned about his home being damaged, Fred West decided to cooperate with the police and show them where the bodies were buried. He pointed out further sites at 25 Cromwell Street, as well as Letterbox Field, to the police. West was smuggled back into the house disguised as a member of the police search team to avoid media storm.
The first remains to be found in the basement were those twenty-one-year-old Swiss student Thérèsa Siegenthaler who had vanished on 15th April 1974, while hitchhiking to Ireland via North Wales. The remains of fifteen-year-old Shirley Hubbard were discovered next. She was a shop assistant from Worcester and had vanished after leaving work in November 1974. The remains of Lucy Partington, Juanita Mott and Carole Ann Cooper closely followed. The remains of Lynda Gough was found under the bathroom floor.
|Fred West's confession|
Fred West had become increasingly depressed. He had been charged with twelve murders but had no intention of doing time for them. Now he was facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars and his health was beginning to deteriorate. Rose West had been in prison since the 21 April 1994 and had persistently declared that she was innocent.
There may be a kernel of truth to the pack of lies Fred West told about Heather's death. Significantly, he began to blame his wife for her murder: "Rose hated Heather, right from an early age". He told his solicitor Howard Ogden that his daughter was a lesbian: "Heather hated men. There's no doubt about that. She made it quite clear to me, she hated men near her. I had nothing against Heather being a lesbian, if that's what she chose to be," he sad, "She was floating between one and the other all the time, and I always said that if you get a good man it'll settle you down ... 'cause all Heather said when I picked her up from school was what knickers the teachers had on". West also informed Howard Ogden that he had "always suspected" that Heather was not his daughter, "and that Rose was already pregnant when she came to me at Lake House. That's why she was in such a hurry and that".
Geoffrey Wansell writes:"Taken together with his claim that his wife had been responsible for Heather West's killing, they lead to the inescapable conclusion that he and his wife together attacked and murdered their first-born child on that June morning seven years before".
Fred West was paranoid that Rose would discover his treachery and dispensed with the services of Howard Ogden in August 1994 although he would significantly confide in his appropriate adult Janet Leach. He informed her that all the dead girls at 25 Cromwell Street were "some of Rose's mistakes. It was all sexual. It wasn't meant to happen". He also claimed that his younger brother John had been involved "a lot"in the abductions and murders. West informed Leach that there were "another twenty" victims, including the missing Mary Bastholm, whose remains were \"on the farm". Bastholm had been missing since January 5, 1968 when she vanished without trace from a bus stop in Gloucester.
Janet Leach continued to visit and speak regularly with Fred West even after she had ceased to be his appropriate adult. She believed that West would divulge further details of victims but he never did. Speaking in 2011, Anne Marie said: "One newspaper report claimed Janet Leach "won my father's confidence", but this was never the case. She was merely a toy, an audience to his sickness, someone new to manipulate. She was completely out of her depth dealing with a master of deceit". Rose West would get through six appropriate adults: they couldn't handle hearing all the details.
On Thursday 30 June Rose and Fred West were bought together before the dock at Gloucester magistrates to be charged jointly with nine murders. Fred attempted to make contact with his wife and at one point he leaned over to stroke the nape of her neck and whispered in her ear. But Rose West refused to even look at her husband and stared straight ahead as she recoiled from his touch. Fred West was crushed. "This clearly quite perturbed him" said Detective Superintendent John Bennett.
Fred West's health had significantly deteriorated. In the last months of his life he began to pen a memoir with a chapter titled I Was Loved By An Angel which detailed his relationship with Ann McFall. He wrote: "Our love, it was so true and faithful and last forever ... The girls were my treasure and now I had Anna. What a goldmine" Fred West was also being tormented by other prisoners who were harassing him. He narrowly missed being seriously injured when an inmate making tea threw boiling water at him. "Build us a patio, Fred," and "Kids getting under your feet?" prisoners shouted at him in the exercise yard. He told someone, "I can't take it anymore." Fred cried. In August 1994, at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, West informed Dr James MacMaster that his wife had been running a brothel and had tried to murder him, that Heather had dug her own grave and that Rose had been burying people without his knowledge and preparing the children for prostitution.
Anne Marie recalls her father saying:"Your dad's had enough, love. I'm going to finish it myself. I've had enough" By November his health was failing and he wrote a journal which addressed Janet Leach of his impending suicide: "I have gone to Anna, Heather, Charmaine, Rena, Shirley and my two unborn children who never had a chance had a chance to see life or I to see or hold them ... I know how the families feel, I lost 5 in this tragedy" Fred West penned a letter to his wife declaring: The most wonderful thing in my life is that I met you. How our love was special to us" And told her that he wanted to be buried beside her and asked: "Lay Heather by us, we loved Heather"
|Mae and Stephen in 1995|
The end came on New Year's day 1995.
At 11 a.m Fred West was left alone in Cell 8 on D3 landing at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, to eat his lunch of soup and pork. He stitched into a rope strips of the green blanket from his bed using the needle and thread he had been given for his job of sewing buttons on prison shirts. Fred West hanged himself from a bar on the ventilation shaft above the door. He did not not die at once, but strangled himself "for a minute or two", hanging a few feet above the floor. All attempts to revive him failed.
Frederick Walter Stephen West was pronounced dead by the prison doctor at 1.40 p.m New Year's Day 1995.
"I'm so relieved" Rose West was reported to have said "He was evil. He should have died long ago," and added that she had prayed for his death.
Mae West heard the news of her father's suicide on the car radio, and she pulled in at a lay by and sobbed for half an hour. "I tried to hate him, but I don't think I can" says Mae "It's as if we can't escape the past. Our destiny is always to be haunted by tragedy and death. It seems like a curse has been put on the family which will never be lifted"
Anne Marie made a suicide attempt after hearing the news. She identified her father's body at Birmingham Mortuary. "That moment in that cold, bleak place will stay with me forever" says Anne Marie "He didn't look at rest or at peace - and I don't suppose he ever will be".
"He didn't die a happy man, that is for certain" says Stephen "I just wish he had admitted to it and apologised to all the families. I would have found it better and easier to cope with if he had done that before he had gone"
On Wednesday 29 March 1995 at 10 a.m, Frederick Walter Stephen West was cremated at Cranley Crematorium near Coventry.
Several crematoria had refused to accept West's body. The service eventually took place at short notice without anyone else being told. A fist fight broke out among rival newspapers as the coffin disappeared beneath the curtain forever. Only Stephen, Mae and Tara West were present to represent the family. Although Anne Marie arrived after lunchtime. Bereaved families who attended funerals on the same day at Cranley Crematorium were outraged when they discovered that services for their loved ones had taken place within hours of Fred West's cremation.
In the New Year's honours list, Hazel Savage was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. But not long after Fred West's suicide, she was taken off the case when it transpired that she had been negotiating a book deal.
Five weeks later and nine months after her husband's suicide, on 6 February 1995, Rose West's committal proceedings took place. She was charged with ten murders but continued to maintain her innocence.
The trial of Rosemary Pauline West opened at Winchester Crown Court before Justice Mantell on 3 October 1995. The prosecution was led by Brian Leveson QC, and the defence by Richard Ferguson QC.
The eight men and four women of the jury were told by the judge that they must expel "all preconceptions, prejudice and sentiment" from their minds.
The case for the defence began on Monday 30 October, Richard Ferguson QC, defending Rose West, pointed out that it had already been established that Fred West had murdered and disposed of the bodies without assistance. He added that: "She (Rose) neither knew of nor participated in any of the murders, nor did anything to hide or conceal those murders." Fred West "was a man devoid of compassion, consumed with sexual lust, a sadistic killer and someone who had opted out of the human race… the very epitome of evil."
One by one the faces of the past reappeared to give evidence.
Caroline Roberts gave an account of her ordeal at the hands of Fred and Rose West. At one point she broke down in tears and sobbed that she only "wanted to get justice for the girls who didn't make it. I feel like it was my fault".
June Gough gave poignant evidence about her daughter Lynda, describing her as "cheerful, happy and friendly. She accepted some advice, but as she got older ... she started to rebel against our advice ... like a lot of teenagers in those days and today. They think they know better but really they are only just beginning their lives"
|Caroline Roberts testifies in court at Rose West's trial.|
Glynis Tyler. Rose's sister, testified that she had been childish for her age and "absolutely devoted" to her two younger brothers. As to Heather's disappearance, Glynis said: "Heather told my daughter that as soon as she was sixteen she would leave home".
"Absolutely not", replied Glynis Tyler.
Although she did not confess, the circumstantial evidence against Rose West was overwhelming. She ignored the advice not to testify by her defence and her attempts to portray herself as an innocent bystander backfired on her. Rose West destroyed her credibility with her truculence and bellicosity. She lied in court and made jokes in very poor taste about the deceased. She made fun of Shirley Robinson, describing her as a "silly ... flittering'"girl.
Q.C Brian Leveseon informed the court: "There is no direct evidence that she (Rose) knew about what had been going on or what an examination of the cellar or the garden would reveal". But "It is quite clear that there were growing frictions between the Wests and their oldest daughter. This may have been the normal problems of adolescence, it may have been more serious problems". Perhaps it was significant that Heather did not have a boyfriend.
Counsel considered the various conflicting accounts that Rose West had given about the departure of her daughter. They were "all lies".
"The fact is that some months short of her seventeenth-birthday she was murdered, chopped up and dumped in the back garden of 25 Cromwell Street. She had been living at home. All suggestions of contact by telephone from Rosemary West were lies. There was no contact by Rosemary West with any authority to enquire after the missing child who makes no attempt to call home. The precise motive for the death of Heather West is to a degree speculative. It could be because she knew too much about what had gone on and could not be allowed to leave home. It could be because there was a blazing row as Rosemary West said and that Rosemary West did give her a hiding and rather more than a hiding. It could be that Heather was resisting attempts to involve her sexually in the household. She participated in the killing of her own daughter. Why else the lies?"
Asked about her feelings for Heather, Rose answered emphatically but rather too quickly: "I loved her very, very, very much". According to the author Brian Masters who sat in on the trial: "For whatever reason, and her guilt or innocence must have a bearing on that reason, whenever Heather was mentioned she was visibly distraught". She struggled whenever the subject was introduced and sobbed as she recounted how Fred West had let Heather leave home without saying goodbye to her. "There was no mistaking their genuineness" Brian Masters concluded of her emotion.
Yet Rose West had betrayed her enmity towards Heather. She informed the court that Heather had "been an awkward baby ... I was inexperienced as a mother and she would sleep all day and be awake all night". Mr Leveson informed the jury: "Heather did not leave home. She was murdered and buried naked in the garden. None of her possessions were recovered, none of her clothes, none of her belongings - not a trace"
According to Colin Wilson in his book The Corpse Garden: "During the evidence Rose West sat looking quiet and demure, and occasionally raising a handkerchief to her eyes. But when the recording of her police interviews was played, with it's foul language and general air of defiance, it became clear that she was now play-acting"
"For the most part Rose West remained impassive, though when Heather's murder came up she dabbed her eyes" writes John Bennett of Rose at her trial. He was not too far away to access whether her tears were real "but he doubted they were after hearing her dismiss the girl so harshly in interviews". Further more, "From his vantage point Bennett could see there were no tears beneath those trademark spectacles and wondered if she was capable of them anyway".
|Rose West in court|
"When she finally left the witness box, after three days, her credit was damaged beyond repair. She had succeeded in making a non-stop impression of dishonesty; even undermining matters that had been established beyond all doubt, such as her ill-treatment of the children. She used the same technique of blanket denial". writes Colin Wilson
The judge's summing up began on Thursday 16 November 1995. He warned the jury that they needed to keep cool heads and set aside all prejudice. But he pointed out that, if two people take part in murder, then both are equally guilty, no matter which of them actually killed the victim. He also reaffirmed that the lack of direct evidence was not an obstacle to a guilty verdict.
Members of the jury deliberated overnight on Monday 20 November and the following day the foreman announced that they had found Rose West guilty of three murders - those of Charmaine and Heather West and of Shirley Robinson.
On November 21 1995, the jury returned just before 3 p.m to announce their verdicts. Rose West was found guilty of the murders of Charmaine Carol Mary West and Heather Ann West. The verdicts were unanimous. The jury returned a little over an hour later with their third unanimous verdict: Rose West was guilty of the murder of Shirley Ann Robinson. They were as yet undecided upon the verdicts of the other seven.
Shortly before 1 p.m on November 22 1995, after thirteen hours of deliberation, the jury returned to announce guilty verdicts on all seven remaining charges: Lucy Katherine Partington, Lynda Carole Gough, Carol Ann Cooper, Shirley Hubbard, Therese Siegenthaler, Juanita Marion Mott, Alison Jane Chambers.
Mr Justice Mantell praised the jurors for their conduct during the 31-day trial. "You will never have had a more important job to do in your life - I am aware of the great stress it must have placed you under. You deserve my thanks and the country's for the part you have played," he said.
Rose West expressed no emotion as she was sentenced to life imprisonment with the simple and damning words: "Stand up. Rosemary Pauline West, on each of the ten counts of murder of which you have been unanimously convicted by the jury, the sentence is one of life imprisonment. If attention is paid to what I think, you will never be released. Take her down".
The Lord Chief Justice later decided that Rose West should spend at least twenty-five years in prison. In July 1997, Home Secretary Jack Straw subjected Rose West to a whole life tariff. Myra Hindley was the only other British woman condemned to die in prison.
Speaking shortly after the sentencing, Mae said: "I feel we've suffered so much. We've lost our father, now our mother, our sister, our family home and our past". She also reflected: "Dad was into everything and it was amazing the social services also didn't notice what was going on with us kids. They didn't do anything. One of my mum's clients said the kids were being abused, but they did nothing".
"She is an evil, wicked woman. And she's going inside and she should never, ever come out" Kathryn Halliday told the press outside court. While John Bennet has since said: "Rosemary West has never, ever admitted any culpability to any crimes she was charged with. Certainly not at the time of her conviction or appeal so she is in total denial. That is my view".
Stephen West is succinct about his parents. "I think there was something wrong with mum from when she was young. dad wasn't quite right either, so there were two people who weren't right when they got together, and it was a lethal cocktail. They encouraged each other in what they did. If they had both married someone else I don't think it would have happened to the extent it did - two wrong people bought together".
In 1994, retired fifty-five-year-old John West was arrested for alleged rape. Police searched his house and found more than a hundred pornographic videos. Fred West claimed that his younger brother was "heavy" into pornography and liked to tie women up and beat them. John West treated women "like a dog" and became violent when they rejected his advances. There is reason to believe that he had repeatedly raped Anne Marie over a period of years and that he casually raped Heather.
John West hanged himself in the garage of his Gloucester home on November 28 1996, the night before a jury at Bristol Crown Court was due to return verdicts on rape charges. ''He had been completely in his brother's power and Frederick West knew that he could depend on him utterly - not only because he was implicated in the murders of Ann McFall, Rena West and Charmaine but also because Rosemary West held him in her sexual thrall.'' Geoffrey writes of John West in An Evil Love.
|Anne Marie in 2011|
“Not talking doesn't make it go away,” she said. “I don’t think people realise how a mum and dad are really important in your life. You can’t just say, 'They’re not there any more. They never existed. I've just appeared on this Earth with no parents.' No one knew what it was like for us, living with those sorts of parents. I’m not sure, do people care or not?" Mae carried misplaced guilt as many survivors of serious abuse do. “You worry all the time. You’re never really at peace. You’ll do something nice and then beat yourself up afterwards for hours, because that’s what we do. We’re people that try and plod along. As long as I think I’m plodding, I’m happy."
Mae remained loyal to her mother. But Rose eventually cut her out of life after she wrote her a letter outlining how she felt. “We have to accept that good and bad happens. There are many people who don’t want to know that there are evil people in the world, that bad things happen."
In 1999, Anne Marie attempted suicide by throwing herself into the water from a bridge in Gloucester but was rescued. "Life has been a nightmare for Anne-Marie, because she keeps reliving the trauma" says her partner Phil Davis "What she's been through is unimaginably hard for anyone to cope with, but I'm so proud of her. It's a heavy burden, but she's just trying to lead an ordinary life now. With me and the kids supporting her, I think she can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Speaking in 2011, Anne Marie said: "My mother Rena and my sisters Charmaine and Heather, are my heroes. I was an eight-year-old coward and I was still a coward when I ran away. But my mother and siblings stood up to them and paid the ultimate price." She described the lasting effect that the horrifying experiences had on her life: "There was no doubting the overwhelming sense of emptiness and loss. Justice had been served and now it was time to try and pack away the memories of past and present, except it was not that easy." says Anne Marie "There was little support available locally and the NHS just didn't know what to do with me and I am ashamed to admit that I attempted to take my own life on a number of occasions and I am lucky to be alive. It would take years before I got the kind of counselling and professional support that I desperately needed"
"I was like a little mother to Heather, changing her nappies when she was a baby" says Anne Marie "I'm still devastated by the loss of Heather because I didn't realise how much danger she was in. That is always in my mind"
"I think about the other victims' families a lot" Stephen said in 1995 "We know what it's like to lose somebody through this. Obviously we've got the added burden of it being our dad who did it" In January 2002, Stephen tried to take his own life by hanging himself, but survived when the rope snapped. Stephen was jailed for nine months in December 2004 for having sex with a girl of fourteen. Judge Michael Mott told him: "You went through an experience when you were younger that no one would wish on anybody. If it's not unique it's in the highest degree unusual. You had a terrible childhood and the tragedy is that you have done a great deal to live that down" Stephen's barrister Stephen Mooney tried to explain his client's behaviour, saying: "He had one of the most traumatic and distressing childhoods one can imagine and what happened affected his emotional development. Anyone who has suffered like him has a tendency to remain emotionally less well-developed for his age." By 2011, Stephen had been married twice and had five children.
Tara, Louise and Barry went back to live in Gloucester. Rosemary junior and Lucyanna moved to the south of England to build new lives.
|Anne Marie's tribute to Heather|
"That case changed my life," Ogden says. "I contracted a rare form of leukemia during it, as a result of the stress. I've since had special chemotherapy treatment and been given the all-clear. Seeing that horrible evidence has a big effect. I still get terrible nightmares and awful flashbacks. If I read a newspaper headline which contains the word West, I still shudder."
Leo Goatley, represented Rose West at her trial. "I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been haunted by the photos of victims" he says "It was like something from a horror film, looking at pictures of skulls with plastic tubes coming from the mouth. The tubes apparently allowed the victims survive in some minimal way."
“I have made a promise to Rena West, Ann McFall, Charmaine West, Lynda Gough, Carol Ann Cooper, Lucy Partington, Thérèsa Siegenthaler, Shirley Hubbard, Juanita Mott, Shirley Robinson, Alison Chambers and Heather West, that I will do something positive with my life." said survivor Caroline Roberts in 2012 “I could not prevent their deaths but I will help to prevent the deaths of others.”
Marion Partington's sister Lucy died at the hands of Fred and Rose at 25 Cromwell Street. Four months after she disappeared, Lucy appeared to Marian in a dream. Marian asked where she had been."I've been sitting in a water meadow near Grantham," Lucy replied and added: "If you sit very still, you can hear the sun move." These words gave Marian the tittle for her book: If You Sit Very Still. which details her personal journey to forgive Fred and Rose West "I have needed to know how I could use my life to stop this cycle of violence, abuse and revenge, without denying the devastating effect that it has had upon us all" says Marian. She wrote to Rose West in prison, telling her she had forgiven her.
"I do not feel any hostility towards you, just a sadness, a deep sadness. that all this has happened, and that your heart could not feel a truth that I wish you could know."
Rose West rejected her forgiveness and requested that Marion “cease all correspondence”.
"We want to give Heather a decent funeral. That's something we feel very strongly about. It's time for her to be laid to rest properly" Mae said.
The funeral of Heather Ann West took place on Tuesday, 19 December 1995 at St Michael's parish church at Tintern, on the Gwent border with Gloucestershire in the Forest of Dean, an area she had loved as a child. The funeral marked the end of a "terrible nightmare" said Stephen.
Heather's funeral was postponed until the end of her mother's trial. Rose West had allegedly wished to attend the service but was not granted permission to leave Durham prison.
Stephen led the small group of mourners, together with his sisters Mae and Tara, and Peter Grose and his daughter, Tamara. Mr Grose was the publisher of Stephen and Mae just published book, Inside 25 Cromwell Street. Also present at the service were Rose West's solicitor, Leo Goatley, and his wife. Anne Marie was not present. The service was conducted by the Reverend Julian White.
|St Michael's parish church, Tintern|
Shortly before dawn on 7 October 1996, Anne Marie paid one last visit to 25 Cromwell Street before the demolition began. Not long after, Stephen and Mae lay flowers with a hand written card attached containing a poem for Heather:
For all those years we tried in vain
In hope we could ease the pain
But how were we to have ever known
That someone close and in our home
Took you from us that sad day
In such a sad and awful way
No-one could love you the way we do
And know how much we miss you
I hope one day we meet again
And then at last there would be no pain -
The sad memories of this house will go with it. But the memory of you will always stay -
Love Stephen, Mae and Tara"
Heather had taken to writing a secret code on the front of her exercise books. When the code was finally cracked it was revealed to be her dream and escape plan - 'Forest of Dean I Will Live'.