In September 1962, the 21-year-old Fred West became re-acquainted with a former girlfriend, Catherine Costello, who was better known as Rena from her time working as a prostitute. Costello was already pregnant by another man, and she and West married on 17 November before moving to Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. Her daughter, Charmaine Carol, was born on 22 February 1963. Costello and West claimed they had adopted Charmaine, whose father was a Pakistani bus driver. In July 1964, Costello bore West a daughter named Anne Marie. During this period in Coatbridge, West worked as an ice cream van driver. On 4 November 1965, he ran over and killed a four-year-old boy with his van. At the end of 1965 West feared he might suffer reprisal attacks over the ice cream van accident if he stayed in Coatbridge. As a result the family, along with Isa McNeill, who looked after the couple’s children, and Costello’s friend Anne McFall, moved into the Lakeside Caravan Park at Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire. In 1966, to escape from West’s sadistic sexual demands, Costello and McNeill moved back to Scotland. McFall remained to care for the girls, as she had become infatuated with West. Costello continued to visit the children every few months. In August 1967, McFall, who was eight months pregnant with West’s child, vanished. She was never reported missing, and her remains were found buried in a local field by police in June 1994. In September 1967 Costello returned to live with West, but left again the following year, leaving the children in West’s care.
While still married to Costello, 27-year-old Fred West met his next wife, Rosemary Letts, on 29 November 1968, on her 15th birthday. On her 16th birthday, she moved in with him; a few months later, they moved from the caravan to a two-storey house in Midland Road, Gloucester. On 17 October 1970, Rosemary gave birth to their daughter, Heather Ann. Fred West was imprisoned for theft from 4 December 1970 until 24 June 1971. Rosemary West is believed to have killed Charmaine (Fred’s step-daughter from his first marriage) shortly before Fred West’s release in June 1971, as she was last seen alive while Fred West was still in prison. According to Anne Marie West, both sisters were subject to frequent beatings, but Charmaine infuriated Rosemary by her refusal to cry no matter how severely she was beaten. Charmaine disappeared in mid-June. Rosemary explained this by claiming that Costello had called and taken her back to Scotland. Costello turned up to collect Charmaine in late August, and she too disappeared. On 29 January 1972, Fred and Rosemary married in Gloucester. On 1 June, Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. Around this time, West encouraged his wife to work as a prostitute. Rosemary eventually had seven children. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell Street, where West converted the upper floor to bedsits. “Rose’s Room”, the room Rosemary used for prostitution, had peepholes so he could watch and a red light outside the door to warn the children not to enter when she was “busy”. Like West was alleged to be, Rosemary came from a family where incest was common; Rosemary’s father, Bill Letts, with Fred’s approval, would often visit their home to have sex with Rosemary.
In October 1972, the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as the children’s nanny. They had picked up the girl one night on a secluded country road and she told them she wished to escape her cruel step-father; a week later she moved into 25 Cromwell Street to look after their three children at the time. Rosemary, who had begun prostitution in her bedroom by this time, explained to Roberts that she was a “masseuse” when the younger woman inquired about the men frequently visiting her. According to Caroline, while she worked there Fred West had informed her that if ever she needed an abortion he was well equipped to provide one. She became suspicious when Fred boasted that many of the women he had treated with an abortion were so overjoyed that they would offer him sexual services as a reward. She rejected Fred’s and Rosemary’s advances into their “sex-circle” and left a few weeks later.
On 6 December 1972, the Wests picked Roberts up again along the same secluded road as before and apologised profusely for what had happened. They invited her to their home to make amends with a “cup of tea”. Roberts had believed they had been genuinely courteous in what they said in their apology to her and obliged, believing that they had simply mistaken what the job had entailed. Back at 25 Cromwell Street, soon after they made her welcome with the promised cup of tea, Rose started kissing her, bound her heavily with bondage tape, and both Fred and Rose raped her. According to Roberts, Fred West had remarked that “her vagina was unusual” and that he “would have to change that”. When she screamed, Rosemary smothered her with a pillow and she was bound further around the neck. Fred threatened her that they would keep her locked up in the cellar and let some of the black men who “visited” Rosemary “use” her and that when they had finished, they would bury her under the paving stones of Gloucester. Fred boasted that they had killed hundreds of young girls and the police would never find them. Quickly realising that they would kill her, Caroline gave in to them and let them do whatever they wanted without a fight. Fred allowed Roberts to leave the next day only after she promised she would return as their nanny. Roberts reported the rape to police but withdrew the accusation when the case came to court. The Wests pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of indecent assault and were fined £50.
In early 1973, the Wests took their eight-year-old daughter Anne Marie to the cellar, where they bound and gagged her before Fred West raped her, while Rosemary watched. Heather Ann West, their 16-year-old daughter (possibly sired by Rosemary’s abusive father, Bill Letts) became the focus of Fred’s attentions after Anne Marie left home at 15. Heather complained to friends about the abuse, and when this got back to Fred and Rose, they decided to kill her. In June 1987, Fred and Rose killed Heather. Her disappearance, Fred and Rosemary’s changing stories about Heather’s whereabouts, and the threats to their other children that they would “end up under the patio like Heather” if they misbehaved, indirectly led to the Wests’ arrests in 1994. In May 1992, Fred West filmed himself raping one of his seven daughters, and four times again afterwards. She told friends at school what had happened. On 4 August, one of the friends told her mother, who went to the police. On 6 August 1992, the police began an investigation, eventually leading to West being charged with rape, with Rosemary as an accomplice. She was also charged with child cruelty, and the remaining children were placed in foster care. The rape case against the Wests collapsed when the two main witnesses declined to testify at the court case on 7 June 1993. The police continued investigating the disappearance of their daughter Heather. After taking statements from social workers, and the children, about a joke about “Heather being buried under the patio”, they obtained a search warrant in February 1994, which allowed them to excavate the garden in search of Heather. They started searching the house and excavating the garden on 24 February 1994.
After Fred West’s arrest the following day, the police uncovered human bones. He confessed, retracted and then re-confessed to the murder of his daughter, denying that Rosemary was involved. Rosemary was not arrested until April 1994, initially on sex offences but later charged with murder. Additional bodies were found and, on 4 March 1994, West admitted that he had carried out nine more murders, including that of his first wife, whose body was found on 10 April 1994. Fred and Rosemary West were brought before a magistrates’ court in Gloucester on 30 June 1994; he was charged with 11 murders and she with 10. Immediately afterwards, Fred West was re-arrested on suspicion of murdering Ann McFall, whose body had been found on 7 June 1994. On the evening of 3 July 1994, he was charged with her murder, appearing in court the following morning. On 1 January 1995, Fred West hanged himself while on remand in his cell at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham. His funeral was held in Coventry on 29 March 1995. West was cremated with only four mourners present, after a five-minute service. His ashes were later scattered on the beach at Barry Island near Cardiff.
- September, 29, 1941
- United Kingdom
- Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England
- January, 01, 1995
- United Kingdom
- Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, England
Cause of Death
- suicide by hanging