Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Frederick Walter Stephen West (September 29, 1941 - January 1, 1995) was a 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.
Frederick 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. A spate of petty crime and a conviction for child molestation, resulting in the pregnancy of a thirteen-year-old, led to a move 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, Fred was working as a casual labourer and an ice cream man. In late 1964 they moved to Gloucester, and Fred took a job in an abattoir. Their marriage under strain, Fred and Rena separated, and when she returned in 1966 he was living with another woman, Anna McFall. Fred 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 Fred met Rosemary Letts (b. 1953). He got her pregnant, which she concealed from her parents until Fred was serving a short prison sentence for unpaid fines. She left her family home and moved in with Fred in Midland Road in Gloucester. She gave birth to Heather in 1970, and often neglected the older children. Charmaine died in mid-1971 while Fred was still in prison, probably at the hands of Rose. Fred returned and the body was dismembered and hidden under the floor. Rena returned to Gloucester in August 1971 looking for her children. Fred murdered her and disposed of the body near his childhood home. Rose and Fred married in January 1972, but Fred regularly encouraged Rose to prostitute herself. Rose gave birth to Mae in June 1972, and the family moved to a new home at 25 Cromwell Street, an unprepossessing three-storey house.
Fred adapted the cellar as a place for Rose to work, extending and soundproofing it. It was there that Fred raped 17-year-old Caroline Owens, who they had taken in as a nanny, in late 1972. Fred was arrested and went to trial in January 1973, but he was only fined. Fred 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 Fred'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 Fred extended and renovated the building.
Lucy Partington, Carol Cooper, Julia Mott and Shirley Hubbard were murdered during the period 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. Alison Chambers and Therese Siegenthaler were abducted, abused and finally tortured and killed by the Wests also in 1977.
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 Fred's children.
After the deaths of Chambers and Siegenthaler, if the Wests continued their behaviour, they did not conceal the bodies in the house. The next woman to be buried at Cromwell Street was Fred'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 Fred for rape and sodomy of a minor and Rose as an accomplice. Police interviews of the Wests' children rapidly revealed the abuse and highlighted the mysterious disappearances of Charmaine, Heather and Rena. The six surviving children still at home were taken into care.
The rape case against Fred 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, Fred 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 offences. The extended search and the grisly finds prompted much media interest.
On December 13, Fred 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.
Fred's behaviour 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.
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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