Fred West

From Academic Kids

Frederick Walter Stephen West (September 29, 1941 - January 1, 1995) was an English serial killer who, together with his wife Rosemary West, was responsible for the murder of at least twelve young women, many at the couple's home in Gloucester, England.

Background

West was born in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, into a poor family of farm workers. He left school aged fifteen, academically undistinguished, and began work as a casual labourer. After a spate of petty crime and a conviction for child molestation, resulting in the pregnancy of a thirteen-year-old, he moved away from his rural home until 1962.

He married Catherine (Rena) Costello, a prostitute, in November 1963 and they moved to Glasgow. She gave birth to a girl, Charmaine, in March 1963 and another girl, Anna Marie, in 1964. During this period, West was working as a casual labourer and an ice cream man. In late 1964 they moved to Gloucester, and West took a job in an abattoir. Their marriage under strain, the Wests separated, and when she returned in 1966 he was living with another woman, Anna McFall. West killed the pregnant McFall around July 1967 and buried her in a field near Much Marcle. Rena returned to live with him and their children for a short time before leaving again.

In late 1968 West met Rosemary Letts (b. 1953). She fell pregnant to him, something she concealed from her parents until West was serving a short prison sentence for unpaid fines. She left her family home and moved in with West in Midland Road in Gloucester. She gave birth to a girl, Heather, in 1970, and often neglected the older children. Charmaine died in mid-1971 while West was still in prison, probably at Letts' hands. West dismembered the body upon returning from prison, and hid it under the floor. Rena returned to Gloucester in August 1971 looking for her children. West murdered her and disposed of the body near his childhood home. The couple married in January 1972, but West regularly encouraged Rose to prostitute herself. Rose gave birth to a girl, Mae, in June 1972, and the family moved to a new home at 25 Cromwell Street, an unprepossessing three-storey house.

West adapted the cellar as a place for his wife to work, extending and soundproofing it. It was there that West raped 17-year-old Caroline Owens, whom they had taken in as a nanny, in late 1972. West was arrested and went to trial in January 1973, but he was only fined. West then began following a pattern: young females would come to their home as lodgers or to care for the children and would be abused and then murdered. The first victim was Lynda Gough, murdered shortly after West's trial. The second was 15-year old Carol Ann Cooper, abducted and murdered around November 1973, and the third was Lucy Partington (a relative of Martin Amis), murdered in January 1974. The bodies were dismembered and disposed of under the cellar floor as West extended and renovated the building.

Lucy Partington, Carol Cooper, Julia Mott and Shirley Hubbard were murdered from 1973 to 1975. They were all buried under the cellar floor. There was a hiatus before Shirley Robinson, a pregnant ex-prostitute, was murdered in July 1977 and buried in the garden. Later that same year, the Wests abducted, abused, tortured and killed Alison Chambers and Therese Siegenthaler.

Rose was often pregnant, and gave birth to Tara (December 1977), Louise (November 1978), Barry (June 1980), Rosemary Junior (April 1982) and Lucyanna (July 1983). Tara, Rosemary and Lucyanna were not West's children.

If the Wests continued their behaviour after killing Chambers and Siegenthaler, they did not conceal the bodies in the house. The next woman to be buried at Cromwell Street was West's daughter Heather. She was murdered and buried in the garden some time in 1987.

Following the report of the rape of a minor, police obtained a search warrant. After examining the house, they arrested West for rape and sodomy of a minor and Rose as an accomplice. Police interviewed the Wests' children, discovering the abuse and the mysterious disappearances of Charmaine, Heather and Rena. The six surviving children still at home were taken into care.

The rape case against West collapsed when the two main witnesses declined to testify. However, the police obtained a further search warrant in February 1994, allowing them to excavate the garden in search of Heather. The police began searching the house and excavating the garden on February 24, 1994. On the 25th, after the police had uncovered human bones, West confessed, retracted and then re-confessed to the murder of his daughter, denying that Rose was involved. Rose was not arrested until April 1994, initially only on sex offenses. The extended search and the grisly finds prompted much media interest.

On December 13, West was charged with twelve murders, and on January 1, 1995, he committed suicide in his cell at Birmingham's Winson Green Prison. The evidence against Rose was largely circumstantial, and she did not confess. She was tried from October 1995, found guilty of ten murders and sentenced to life imprisonment. A whole life tariff was imposed on her, and she is extremely unlikely to be released.

In October 1996, the Wests' home was demolished, and the site became a simple path.

West's sociopathy has been linked to a head injury. He had a motorcycle accident in 1958 which briefly left him in a coma, with a broken leg and skull damage which required a fixative metal plate.

Related Works

Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn. A non sensationalist account of Fred and Rosemary West, written by a former Sunday Times journalist.

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