Fred West was an English serial killer, who along with wife Rosemary West tortured, raped and murdered at least 12 young women and girls, many at the couple’s homes. Rosemary West also murdered Fred’s stepdaughter Charmaine, while he was in prison.
Fred West was born into a poor family of farm workers and was the second of six children. West would later claim that his father had incestuous relationships with his daughters, and that his father taught him bestiality from an early age. West recalled, in police interviews, that his father had said on many occasions “Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it”. It is also alleged that his mother Daisy began sexually abusing him from the age of 12.
In November 1958, he suffered a fractured skull and a broken arm and leg in a motorcycle accident which put him into an eight-day coma. His family reported that after the accident he became prone to sudden fits of rage. Two years later, he was unconscious for 24 hours after hitting his head in a fall from a fire escape.
He was arrested for molesting a 13-year-old girl. He was convicted, but escaped a sentence of imprisonment. His family effectively disowned him thereafter.
Fred 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. Whilst still married West met his next wife, Rosemary Letts, on 29 November 1968, on her 15th birthday. On her 16th birthday she moved in with him, and then in October 1970 Rosemary gave birth to their daughter, Heather Anne. Fred West was imprisoned for theft on 4 December 1970 and remained so until his release on 24 June 1971.
It is believed that Rosemary killed Charmaine (Fred’s stepdaughter from his first marriage) shortly before West’s release in June 1971. According to Anne Marie, both sisters were subject to frequent beatings, but Charmaine infuriated Rosemary by her refusal to cry no matter how severe they got.
On 1 June 1972, Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. Around this time West encouraged his wife into prostitution. Rosemary eventually had seven children, of which three were mixed race. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell St, 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 for warning the children not to enter when she was “busy”. Like West, 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. She rejected Fred and Rosemary’s advances into their “sex-circle” and left a few weeks later. On 6 December 1972 the Wests invited her to their home, where they both raped her. 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 eight-year-old Anne Marie to the cellar, where they bound and gagged her before West raped her while Rosemary watched. In 1979 Anne Marie became pregnant by West, but the pregnancy was terminated as it was ectopic. Unable to cope with her father any longer, she left home; West now began abusing Heather, who disappeared a few years later.
In May 1992, West filmed himself raping one of his other daughters, and twice again afterwards. She told friends at school what had happened. On 4 August one of the friends told her mother and she went to the police. On 6 August 1992, the police decided to investigate, eventually leading to West being charged, with Rosemary as an accomplice, with rape. 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 about a joke about “Heather being buried under the patio” and the children themselves, they obtained a further search warrant in February 1994, allowing them to excavate the garden in search of Heather. They started searching the house and excavating the garden on 24 February 1994.
After 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. Further bodies were found and, on 4 March 1994, West admitted that he had carried out nine more murders.
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. On 1 January 1995, Fred West hanged himself in prison and was then cremated with only 3 people present. The evidence against Rosemary was circumstantial; unlike her husband, she did not confess. She was tried and found guilty of all 10 murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In October 1996, the Wests’ house, along with the adjoining property, was demolished and the site made into a pathway. Every brick was crushed and every timber was burned to discourage souvenir hunters.