Tuesday 21 June 2016

Missing Heather

The Angel Born Of Demons 

In February 1994, the remains of a young girl were unearthed in the back garden of an unprepossessing house in Gloucester, England. She had been missing for seven years and in the intervening years she had not been forgotten. Her siblings had been searching for their eldest sister since she left home eight days after finishing high school. It was as if she had vanished off the face of the earth.

Her name was Heather Ann West.

The missing teenager had endured relentless abuse for much of her young life. She was a strong willed and independent girl. Although she was very much afraid of her parents as one school friend later recalled, she had bravely defied them.

In early interviews with the police, the Wests spoke disparagingly about their missing daughter. Rosemary West showed little maternal concern for the whereabouts of her first born child. She hadn't reported the girl as missing and seemed indifferent to her plight. Rosemary painted a negative picture of Heather. "She was a stubborn girl, you ask the rest of the family..." Rosemary declared. The very qualities the Wests found unacceptable in their daughter would have been nurtured by other parents. Rosemary intimated that her daughter had lesbian inclinations. She was herself actively bisexual and her antipathy towards her daughter in this respect is frankly bizarre. What Rosemary West neglected to say was that Heather was at odds with her over her lifestyle. The unhappy girl had committed the unpardonable sin of letting a few facts slip about it at school.

It never occurred to the Wests that Heather might be psychologically and emotionally damaged by the abuse they inflicted on her. It is clear that Heather was deeply unhappy in the last years of her life.

The Wests were obsessed with Heather being a lesbian. When Rosemary West was pressed further, she explained that when Heather was at junior school she always knew what type of knickers the female teachers were wearing. She also recalled how her daughter had absconded from a field trip because she didn't like the male teachers and how she threatened to put a brick over a boy's head if he ever attempted sexual advances. Apparently this convinced Rosemary West that her sixteen-year-old daughter was a lesbian.

Frederick West echoed his wife in the conviction that Heather was a lesbian, yet he also portrayed her as a Lolita. On his arrest he informed the police officers that Heather liked to wear low cut tops and never wore knickers. It was all a pack of lies. As far as the Wests were concerned, Heather had to be lesbian if she rejected her father. He had frequently touched and fondled her, even wrestling her to the floor and became violent when she resisted.

Mae spoke of how wary Heather was of men. She couldn't stand to be in the same room as them. Hardly surprising considering that the only men she had ever known had taken advantage of her and abused her. Yet we know that Heather developed a crush on one of her male teachers at high school. It must have been intense because Frederick West was later called to the headmasters office to discuss it.

Heather West, aged eight. 
What is interesting about Frederick and Rosemary West is how distorted their view of their daughter was. In hindsight, their remarks are very telling. There was clearly antipathy towards her. They spoke so negatively about their missing daughter that it must have jarred. Later when Frederick West confessed to the murder of his daughter, he did so in a flat monotone which appalled those who listened.

Frederick had allegedly declared that he had made his children and could do what he liked with them. He also believed that it was a father's duty to take their virginity and that their first child should be his.

Heather did everything in her power to repel her father. And as his insistence on raping her intensified, so did the fight to resist.

Heather had committed the unforgivable sin of speaking to outsiders about what was going on at
home. And as a result her parents kept a strict eye on her in the final weeks of her life. It is unlikely that she knew about the murderous career of her parents. But she was an intelligent and perceptive girl and may have suspected they were capable of anything. She was determined to leave home as soon as the opportunity arose.

In the last few years of her life, Heather was having nightmares. As her sixteenth birthday approached she became convinced that "something terrible" was going to happen to her.

Frederick West was the jocular, odd-job man with an unrelenting work ethic. He was short with simian features, startling blue eyes and bushy black hair. West was swarthy and crudely good-looking. He had suffered three serious accidents resulting in head injuries which drastically altered his personality. West was obsessed with sex. He may have been initiated by his mother who dominated him. At the age of eight, he was taught how to have sex with a sheep by his father.

Rosemary West was the unstable prostitute who had been sexually precocious from an early age. She claimed to have been raped while still a young girl and regularly slept with her violent paranoid schizophrenic father. She initiated both her brothers and may have been sleeping with her grandfather. In the hands of Frederick West, she expanded her repertoire and acquired a taste for well endowed West Indian men.  Rosemary West may have incurred brain damage due to the ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment) administered to her depressive mother while she was still in the womb. Certainly, she displayed disturbed behaviour as a child and her fits of intense rage as an adult were abnormal.

Both Frederick and Rosemary had a taste for kinky sex. They were already damaged when they eventually came together. It was the perfect storm. Two severely dysfunctional people coming together. In the early days of their relationship, Frederick was the master and Rosemary the servant. But she superseded him and became the dominant force. She was the one most likely to lose her temper and become violent.

By the time they were married, Frederick had already murdered his first wife Catherine Costello and possibly others, and Rosemary had almost certainly murdered Costello's daughter Charmaine. Nobody knows for sure what happened to eight-year-old Charmaine West but she almost certainly died at the hands of Rosemary West. Her pitiful remains were recovered in 1994.

Frederick and Rosemary West were to have eight children; two of which were fathered by a West Indian client of Rosemary's. Heather was born in October, 1970, and the Wests called her their "love child". After Heather, came Mae (she was born May but changed it) and Stephen West. There was only eighteen months between Heather and Mae, and they shared a bond.

The Wests moved to 25 Cromwell Street while Heather was still a toddler. It was a three-storey townhouse in Gloucester and would be split into two with lodgers inhabiting the top half and the West family living beneath. There was a special room where Rosemary conducted her business. Occasionally the children lived in the cellar which would later became notorious as the Wests torture chamber.

Life at 25 Cromwell Street was a nightmare for the West children. It was likened by Heather's best friend to living in a prison camp. The children were never allowed out and were expected to do most of the house work.The disciplining of the West children was nothing short of sadism. They were often beaten as punishment. Punched, kicked, slapped and even stabbed  Frederick wired the house so he could listen to his wife having sex with her clients and eavesdrop on conversations. He bore holes into walls and doors so he could observe his wife having sex and spy on Heather and her sister Mae dressing and undressing.  As the girls reached puberty his insistence on molesting them increased.

Anne Marie was the daughter of Frederick West and his Scottish first wife Catherine Costello. She was a gentle young girl who had been sexually abused by West and her stepmother Rosemary from the age of eight. At fifteen she was pregnant with her fathers child but was forced to have an abortion after the baby was found to be growing in the Fallopian tubes. Anne Marie had been initiated into prostitution from an early age and was expected to perform with her stepmother. She later escaped Cromwell Street in the dead of night. Her evidence would later be crucial in convicting Rosemary West.

After Anne Marie left 25 Cromwell Street, Frederick and Rosemary West turned their attentions to Heather. But she was not as submissive as Anne Marie had been and openly argued with her parents. Heather and her sister fought off their father but only one of them would survive. In 2011, Mae revealed that she and Heather had always planned to escape together.

Heather was an exemplary pupil at high school but years of abuse at the hands of her parents had taken its toll. Christopher Davis later married Anne Marie, and he recalled how withdrawn Heather had became. She had always been quiet, but now she hardly spoke at all. She sat around the house deep in thought. She became a recluse and spent more and more time alone. Heather later confided in Christopher Davis that her dream was to live in the Forest of Dean. She longed to be in the outdoors, among the sanctity of nature away from other people. Mae remembered how Heather never wore shoes and went everywhere barefoot.

Heather had learned to displace herself from the claustrophobic world she inhabited. Not just because of her temperament, but because it was part of her coping mechanism.

In the spring of 1987, Heather was an exceptionally pretty, raven-haired sixteen-year-old. She had become infatuated with one of her male teachers. One of her school friend's recalled that Heather was more sexually aware than other girls. Nobody suspected that she was being abused. Nobody investigated why the studious girl refused to shower after sports, often getting detention as a result. Had they investigated further, they might have seen the bruises and weal marks on her body. By the time 25 Cromwell Street yielded it's horrific secrets, Heather was already gone.

Anne Marie suspected that Heather was ashamed of the lifestyle at Cromwell Street and had made her feelings known. Rosemary West later asserted that Heather disliked her because of all her other men. In the final year of high school, word got round about the peculiar lifestyle at 25 Cromwell Street. Heather, perhaps unwisely, let a few facts slip. And there were still more shocks in store for the unhappy girl. She learned that the father of a school friend was also the father of two of her sisters. Frederick West had always explained away his mixed-race children as a throw back to his fictitious gypsy past. The revelation upset Heather immensely and she confronted the girl who in turn went to her parents It culminated in a showdown between the West Indian and the Wests which resulted in Heather receiving a terrible beating. She had become a liability.

Of the West children, Heather was the one who most resembled her mother. She was known as a tough girl at high school and nobody messed with her. But she was also a sensitive and perceptive girl who had been abused for most of her life. Her school friends later recalled Heather being particularly unhappy towards the end of term. By the time she sat her final year exams, she had already formed a plan. It was written in code across her exercise books - FODIWL. The code was cracked after she died - Forest of Dean I will live. It had been her long held dream to live by nature in the Forest of Dean where nobody could harm her. There she would be free.

25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester 

With just weeks to go before she graduated from high school, Heather broke down one afternoon and opened up to her best friend. She said her father cane into her room at night and raped her. She said he was beating her and that her mother said she was a "little bitch" and deserved it. Denise Harrison had seen the bruises and weal marks on her body, and she urged Heather to go back to school and tell the teachers. Harrison told her parents what Heather had confided in her but they dismissed it. They couldn't accept it. They graduated shortly after, and Denise never saw Heather again.

Heather passed all her exams but never lived to receive the results. It was eight days after she left high school that she disappeared.

On the 17 June, 1987, Heather attended the party of her half-sister Anne Marie's daughter. But it was evident to everyone that she was not herself.  It was also clear that there was friction between Heather and her parents. She would not socialise and stayed at the bottom of the garden. Anne Marie noticed how Frederick and Rosemary would not leave the girl alone. It was two days later that Heather vanished.

Heather had been pinning her hopes on a job as a chalet cleaner at a Butlins holiday camp in Torquay Her spirits lifted at the prospect of escaping 25 Cromwell Street. "To be honest I felt sorry for her, because it was the first time she'd shown any interest in anything since she left school" Rosemary West later claimed. Her uncle observed how happy Heather suddenly seemed. But it was not to be.

The night before Heather was due to leave for Devon, a woman called at 9.30 pm to inform her that the holiday camp job had been canceled. Heather was completely devastated and went to bed sobbing. She cried all through the night. Mae shared a bedroom with her. She had never seen her sister like this before - she had always been such a strong girl. Heather's dreams had been shattered.

The following day, 19 June 1987, was the day Heather disappeared. It was raining hard and Frederick West was unable to work outside. Heather was alone in the house with Frederick and Rosemary West. Nobody living knows what happened to her that day. Only Rosemary West. And she isn't talking. The date is corroborated by Mae and Stephen West. Mae remembered seeing Heather before she left for school that morning. She can't remember what her last words to Heather were, but she distinctly remembers what she was wearing and how desolate she looked. Both Stephen and Mae recall coming home from school around 5 p.m and finding Heather gone.

Heather was not forgotten in the ensuing years. She was spoken of frequently in the house. Her absence was noted. The three elder West children had always had each other and now one of them was missing. Mae took Heather's absence particularly hard. Both she and Stephen searched diligently for their sister but to no avail. Anne Marie  even made a trip to the Butlins holiday camp in Torquay to find her. But nobody had ever heard of Heather.  All the while Frederick West had been regaling them with stories about Heather. He had seen her in various destinations and spoken to her and Rosemary even informed the West family that Heather contacted them if she felt like it. But it was all a pack of lies.

John Bennett believes that Frederick and Rosemary West had made a pact on their last night together. On their arrest, their stories followed each other closely. And over time there would be variations on a theme. Heather had left home to go and work in a holiday camp. She had left with a lesbian in a mini. There had been a "hell of a row" and she had left home. Rosemary gave her £600 to start a new life. Rosemary gave her a good hiding. Rosemary was out shopping when it happened. Heather had been sneering at Frederick. He had not meant to kill her. She had been giving the children LSD. She was a lesbian. She dug her own grave.

Later when Frederick West confessed to murdering Heather, he gave an unconvincing account of her final moments. He claimed that there had been an altercation in the hallway of 25 Cromwell Street. Heather defied him and as a result he strangled her. The ludicrous exchange was somehow supposed to justify his actions. It cannot wholly be true. Howard Sounes suggests in his book Fred & Rose, that an argument ensued between Heather and her parents which quickly spiraled out of control. Frederick spoke with little emotion. He went into lurid detail about how he dismembered her body which sickened those who heard it.

Frederick was adamant that his wife was not present at Heather's murder and knew nothing about it. Apparently she was on a three hour shopping expedition when her daughter died. He also claimed that his daughter had not been sexually assaulted before she died.

When Heather's remains were eventually unearthed, two lengths of chord were also recovered. They were fifteen and twenty-two inches long. There was no clothing suggesting that Heather was naked when she was buried.  All of which points to Heather having been subjected to some kind of sexual act, bondage or sex game. Carpet fibers embedded in the chord and what remained of her hair give credence to this theory. Somebody held Heather down while she was being tied up.

Heather's remains showed clear signs of mutilation. There were missing bones. Part of Frederick West's modus operandi was the mutation of his victims bodies. And this bears all the hallmarks of his handiwork.

Fredrick West's confession.
It was estimated that Heather died around 9.30 a.m in the hallway of 25 Cromwell Street. She was dismembered in a frenzy. And her remains were left overnight in a dustbin beneath the stairs. Shortly after, Frederick West enlisted the help of his son Stephen to dig a hole in the back garden for a pond. Unbeknownst to the boy, he had dug the grave for his own sister. The hole was filled up and a patio laid over it and the Wests celebrated with a barbecue supper over the spot where Heather was buried.

I believe that Heather died that rainy morning in June because she resisted her parents that one last time. She was sexually assaulted and put up a fight and that was why she was murdered. We cannot know if it was premeditated or not. But I believe Heather was brave to the very last moment. 

Five years later, Frederick would repeatedly rape another of his daughters and during the course of one of the ordeals, he put his hands around her throat. The act clearly excited him, but the girl thought she was going to die. 

In 2005, Barry West gave an account of Heather's death for a tabloid newspaper. In it he claimed that he witnessed Heather's murder through a crack in a door. Heather had returned home in the early hours of the morning and been set upon by her parents. Frederick raped her and after Heather refused a sexual act Rosemary instigated her death. The account is not corroborated by what has already been established about Heather's death and it did not form key evidence. There are also troublesome details. For instance, if Heather was murdered on the morning of the 19 June 1987, seven-year-old Barry West would have been at school.

There is no circumstantial evidence to place Rosemary West at the scene, yet the logistics of the undertaking suggest that it could not have been carried out alone. Frederick West's insistence that she was absent cannot be wholly true. Even if she hadn't been present or had a hand in it, she certainly knew about it. Considering the kind of relationship Frederick and Rosemary West had, it seems absurd that he would have kept the murder of his daughter a secret. The idea that Frederick West murdered and dismembered his daughter within three or four hours is utterly ridiculous, as John Bennett concluded.

It's more likely that Rosemary West knew full well what had happened to her first born child and that she and her husband had concocted a story together. They agreed that he would take the can. This is a belief held by John Bennett.

One of the reasons suggested for Heather's murder, might have been fear of what she would say once she left 25 Cromwell Street. She had already committed the cardinal sin of speaking to outsiders about the goings on at home. And Heather was a spirited girl with a mind of her own.

By the time Rosemary West was bought to trial, her husband was already dead. He had asphyxiated himself in his cell. None of the jury were convinced by Rosemary West's declaration that she had loved her daughter "very, very, very much". Her antipathy towards Heather was never far away. She hadn't bothered to report her missing and had shown little regard for her whereabouts. She had spoken disparagingly about her and had allegedly told a neighbour that she didn't care whether Heather was alive or dead.  The jury were unanimous in finding Rosemary West guilty. The judge recommended that she never be released.

Heather's funeral took place on Tuesday, 19 December 1995 at St. Michael's parish church at Tinturn, on the Gwent border with Gloucestershire in the Forest of Dean. It was the area that Heather had loved. Her young life was interrupted the morning she died at the hands of her wicked parents. Heather West was a courageous girl who stood up to them. She was brave to the very last moment.

It had taken seven years, but in the end it was as if Heather had reached from beyond the grave to bring down her evil parents.

Heather West will never be forgotten.

There is hope (by Bolognist deviantart.com)