|“||Yeah, see, you've got the killing all wrong, no, nobody went through hell, enjoyment turned to disaster, well most of it anyway.||”|
— Fred West
FredFred was born in the small town of Much Markle in Herefordshire. He was the second of the six children of Walter Stephen West and Daisy Hannah Hill. By Fred's own account, sexual abuse of various kinds were common in the household; he claimed his father had sexual relationships with his daughters and taught him bestiality (sex with animals). It has also been suspected that Fred's mother started sexually abusing him when he was twelve, though he never admitted to it and it has never been confirmed, like the stories about his father. Neither have Fred's claims that he also engaged in incest and even impregnated one of his sisters. Regardless, Fred and his mother were very close. When he was physically punished for doing badly in school, where he showed some aptitude at woodwork and artwork, his mother, who was obese and often dressed unattractively, often went to his school in person to yell at the teachers for doing so. Fred left school at the age of fifteen even though he was almost illiterate and got a job as a farm hand. When he was sixteen, his looks improved and he became more attractive to girls. At the age of seventeen, he was in a motorcycle accident that put him in a coma for a week, led to him having a metal plate operated into his head and breaking one of his legs so badly it was permanently shorter than the other. Afterward, he got a bad temper and often had violent bursts of anger. Two years after the accident, Fred hurt his head yet again when he stuck his hand up a girl's skirt and she pushed him down from a fire escape. When he was nineteen, he was convicted of molesting a thirteen-year-old girl, even though he didn't serve any jail time because his doctor said he suffered from epileptic fits. Afterwards, he was sent to live with his sister and was practically disowned by the rest of his family.
Fred got a job in construction, but was fired for stealing from his workplace. When Fred was twenty-one, his family let him back into their lives and he moved back to Much Markle, where he resumed a romantic relationship with an ex-girlfriend, Catherine "Rena" Costello, who had been a petty thief when they first dated and moved on to prostitution. Though Rena was already pregnant with the child of a Pakistani man, they married and kept the child; to explain why the baby was half-Asian, Fred had Rena write to her parents and say that the baby had died in childbirth and that her child, a girl she named Charmaine Carol, was adopted. They married in November, only two months after getting back together, and moved to Scotland together. Fred demanded sex from Rena daily and wasn't too interested in "regular" sex. The couple had a child of their own in July of 1964, a daughter named Anne Marie. During their rocky marriage, Fred worked as an ice-cream truck driver, a job that gave him plenty of access to available young women. Their life in Scotland came to an end when Fred accidentally ran over a four-year-old boy with his truck. Though the accident wasn't his fault, Fred moved with his family as well as Isa McNeill, who took care of their children, and Anna McFall, a friend of Costello, to Gloucestershire, where he got a job at a slaughterhouse. When her marriage finally collapsed, Costello went back to Scotland alone, but came back in July of 1966 because she missed her daughter, only to discover that Fred had started a relationship with McFall. In 1967, McFall became pregnant with Fred's child and tried to get him to divorce Costello. In response, he killed, dismembered and buried her. Costello finally left Fred a few months later, leaving their children with him. Fred is suspected to have killed again in January of 1968, when fifteen-year-old Mary Bastholm disappeared from a bus stop. After the death of his mother in February, Fred started committing a lot of petty thefts and changed jobs a lot. It was during a stint as a bakery truck driver that he met his future wife and accomplice, Rosemary Letts.
RosemaryRosemary was born as Rosemary Letts was born in Devon, England in 1953. Her household was troubled and abusive; her father, Bill Letts, was a schizophrenic who constantly disciplined her, her siblings and her mother, Daisy. While Daisy had been pregnant with Rosemary, she had received electroconvulsive therapy as treatment for her severe depression. Growing up, Rosemary was sexually abused by her father. Because she wasn't very bright and a bit overweight, she was often teased and responded by attacking her bullies aggressively. When she was a teenager, she became more sexually active and was even caught getting into bed with one of her younger brothers and sexually fondling him. Because her figure and her father's rules prevented her from dating boys her own age, she pursued relationships with older men where she lived; one of them took advantage of her and raped her. When Rosemary was fifteen, her mother finally had enough of her husband's abuse, took Rosemary and moved in with one of her adult daughters and her husband. Rosemary started spending even more time with male companions. Later the same year, Rosemary, surprisingly, moved back in with her father. Not long afterwards, she met Fred West, who was twelve years her senior. In spite of the way he had treated her, Rosemary's father strongly objected to her seeing Fred and even went to the trailer park where he lived with his two daughters and threatened him. While Fred did several stints in jail for thefts and also failures to pay his fines for previous offenses, Rosemary became pregnant with his child, a girl named Heather, and took care of his children on her own. Because of her temper problems and her resentment about caring for children who weren't hers, she often treated her de facto stepdaughters badly.
In the summer of 1971, Rosemary apparently snapped completely and killed Charmaine. After severing the body's fingers and toes, Fred buried it under their kitchen floor. In August of 1971, Costello disappeared when she came looking for Charmaine. Because her body was found to have had its fingers and toes cut off when it was discovered, Fred is suspected to have been the killer. Though they married on January 29, 1972, Fred encouraged Rosemary to have sex with other men, both for money and for fun, and often watched her through a peephole. He also took erotic photos of her and posted them in swinger magazines as ads for prostitution. In June of 1972, they had another daughter together, Mae West. In order to make room for their expanding family and Rosemary's business, they moved to 25 Cromwell Street, where they carried out their rapes and murders. Rosemary continued working as a prostitute from their home in a room fitted with peepholes for Fred to use and a red light outside that would be lit to tell the children not to enter. Over the following years, she gave birth to seven more children, of which three were fathered by Fred. Another may have been conceived by Rosemary and her own father, who kept engaging in incest with her even after she gave birth to her fourth child. The other three, who were of mixed race, were all fathered by her clients.
Killings, Arrests and IncarcerationsIn October 1972, Fred and Rosemary hired a young woman named Caroline Owens to work for them as a nanny for their children. They kept making sexual advances on her, but she declined every time. One night in December, after they both unsuccesfully tried to seduce her, she tried to leave only to be held captive overnight. When Fred threatened to let some of his friends "have" her and that he would then kill her, she complied. The next day, she was released. Though she pressed charges, Fred was able to convince the court that the acts she was forced into had been consensual, so he and Rosemary were instead only fined 50$ for indecent assault. Over the next six years, they killed at least eight young women who made their way to 25 Cromwell Street as lodgers or employees together. The first was Lynda Gough, a seamstress the Wests knew personally. Next was Carol Ann Cooper, who disappeared while walking home from a movie theater. In December, Lucy Katherine Partington disappeared from a bus stop while on her way home after Christmas. She was murdered by Fred and Rosemary, who abducted her, held her captive for a week over New Year, raped and tortured her and then killed her. On January 3, Fred was treated for laceration, which is believed to have been inflicted when he dismembered Partington. From 1974 to 1979, five more women, Therese Siegenthaler, Shirley Hubbard, Juanita Marion Mott, Shirley Anne Robinson, and Alison Chambers, met the same fate. It's unknown if the Wests killed more over the following years. If they did, which is not improbable, the bodies weren't buried on their property. Some of the girls are known to have been abducted, raped, and then released.
While committing murders, Fred also sexually abused Anne Marie West, his daughter from his relationship with Rena Costello. She eventually became pregnant, but the pregnancy had to be terminated because it occured in her fallopian tube. When she left home, he started abusing Heather West, who was conceived by Rosemary and possibly her own father, and one of his own daughters, Mae West. Fred disposed of the victims by burying them under the garage of the house or in the garden. To cover up the frequent burials, he pretended to be doing regular home improvement. In order to afford the supplies needed, he frequently stole and fenced the loot. Even though he was often brought to the police's attention for this reason, his killings went unnoticed. The couple came close to being exposed in 1986, when Heather told her friends about the abuse she suffered. In June of the next year, Fred and Rosemary strangled her to death to silence her. She was then dismembered and buried in the garden. The Wests were finally exposed in May 1992, when Fred videotaped himself raping one of his daughters. When she told her friends, one of them reported the Wests to the police. The investigating officer, Hazel Savage, had heard of Fred while he was in a relationship with Rena Costello. When another girl raped by Fred came forward, the police obtained a search warrant. In August, they searched the house for evidence of child abuse. Fred was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor and Rose was arrested as an accomplice. While they were being processed, their younger children were placed in the care of the government.
While Fred was in custody, Rosemary became depressed and even attempted suicide once, but was saved by one of her sons. Unfortunately, the rape case fell apart when the victims backed out. Meanwhile, Savage became increasingly suspicious of the Wests' past, the disappearance of Heather and the results of the interviews of the West children, especially that they had been threatened by Fred that they would be buried under the patio like Heather. She was able to obtain another search warrant to have the property dug up. The task was simplified when Fred confessed to Heather's murder in custody. When human bones started cropping up, Fred confessed to having committed the murders alone in order to protect Rosemary. However, he would not admit to raping any of his victims, saying they had wanted to have sex with him. Soon enough, the bodies of Anne McFall and Charmaine West turned up as well. Seeking to protect herself, Rose cut off all contact with her husband. On December 13, 1994, he was charged with a dozen counts of murders. On New Year's Day, he hanged himself in his cell at Winson Green Prison with a knotted bedsheet. His body was cremated and his funeral unattended except for five of his children. Rose was also put on trial in the end, first for rape but then for murder as well. She never confessed to any murders and the evidence against her was largely circumstantial. An important witness was Janet Leach, Fred's appropriate adult, who revealed that Fred had told her that Rose had been involved in the murders and even killed Charmaine West and Shirley Robinson on her own. On November 22, 1995, Rose was found guilty of ten murders and sentenced to life in prison. She will be never released. Though she maintains her innocence, she announced in 2001 that she will not try to appeal her conviction. In 1996, 25 Cromwell Street was completely demolished and the site turned into a pathway.
The Wests' victims were Caucasian females in their mid-teens to early twenties and sometimes related to them. The ones who weren't were usually lured to the house under the premise that they would be hired as nannies or some other job. When the victim was under Fred and Rosemary's control, they would rape and torture her in elaborate and sadistic bondage acts for days and then strangle or suffocate her and bury her on the property. Fred's signature was cutting off the victims' fingers and toes and sometimes their knee caps post-mortem before burying them.
- Unspecified date:
- Catherine Costello (Fred's first wife; assaulted by Fred)
- John McLachlan (Cathrine's lover; his stomach was grazed with a knife by Fred)
- November 4, 1965: Michael O'Keefe, 4 (accidentally killed; was run over by Fred)
- July 1967: Anna McFall, 18 (killed and dismembered by Fred alone; was pregnant at the time of her death; presumably removed her fetus from her womb post-mortem; her body was found June 7, 1994)
- January 5, 1968: Mary Bastholm, 15 (possibly; suspected to have been killed by Fred alone)
- June 20-24: Charmaine West, 8 (Fred's daughter from his first marriage)
- August: Catherine "Rena" West, 27 (née Costello; Fred's first wife; possibly)
- December 1972: Caroline Owens, 17 (held captive overnight, bound, gagged, smothered with a pillow and raped by both; released the next day)
- April 19: Lynda Gough, 19
- November 10: Carol Ann Cooper, 15
- December 27: Lucy Katherine Partington, 21
- April 15: Therese Siegenthaler, 21
- November 14: Shirley Hubbard, 15
- April 12, 1975: Juanita Marion Mott, 18
- May 10, 1978: Shirley Anne Robinson, 18 (was pregnant)
- August 5, 1979: Alison Chambers, 16
- June 1987: Heather Ann West, 16 (daughter of Rosemary and possibly her own father; was choked, strangled with a pair of stockings and dismembered)
- Note: In addition to the above crimes, Fred is known to have committed several additional rapes whose victims are anonymous or unnamed. He also claimed to have committed more murders.
On Criminal Minds
The Wests were mentioned in ...A Thousand Words as an example of serial killers who have children. They may also have provided some inspiration for the unsubs of the episode, Robert Burke and Juliet Monroe. Like Rosemary West, Juliet was an accomplice to serial rape and murder committed by her lover and was sexually abused by her father. Like Fred West, Robert Burke also committed suicide, though he did it before getting caught and not afterwards.
Fred West also might've been some inspiration to Jacob Dawes ("Riding the Lightning"), who also tortured and killed young girls, later burying the bodies on his property. Also, the initial assumption that Jacob's wife, Sarah Jean Mason, was aiding him in the murders appears to be an allusion to Rosemary aiding Fred in his murders.
- Evil Beyond Belief (2008)
- 101 Crimes of the Century (2008)
- TruTV Crime Library articles about the Wests
- The Gloucestershire Police website about the Wests
- Transcripts of documentary series The West Murders
- BBC News about Mary Bastholm
- The Crime Web timeline articles that mention the Wests:
- Blogspot's article about Heather Ann West