Fred and Rose West were English, serial killers who killed at least twelve people. These kills happened between 1967 and 1987 in Gloucestershire.
Rose, was Fred’s second wife. Most of their victims were young women who had been brutally tortured and mutilated. Motivated by their sexual gratification the murders took horrific forms.
Once dead, the victims were dismembered and buried in the couples home.
Like Primrose Shipman, some have speculated that Rose West suffered from Folie a deux. I don’t believe this to be true. Within this couples life, Rose was as much to blame as her husband, if not the driving force for the murders.
West was born in 1941 to a close-knit, farming family. He was the eldest of 9 children, six of whom survived. His father was a disciplinarian, his mother overprotective.
In similarities with Harold Shipman, West was his mother’s favourite. She devoted most of her time to him.
All children within the West family were given jobs at the age of seven. From this, West developed a strong work ethic, as well as a tendency for petty theft.
West was introduced to sex at twelve but his mother. It was thought she observed him in acts of bestiality and incest. These claims have since been dismissed by his younger brother. Whether true or not, it is clear that West was a sexual deviant from an early age.
During his teens, West was described as an aggressive pursuer of women. Sex for him was all about his gratification and little about his partners. He later admitted to molesting young girls in his teens.
The first trial for rape, occurred when he was in his teens. It came shortly after a motorbike accident, where West had a fractured skull. He later blamed this accident for his violent outbursts.
Fred’s First Wife
West married Catherine Costello when she was pregnant with another man’s child. Charmaine was born shortly after the wedding and would later become Rose West’s first victim. A second child shortly followed.
West treated both children appallingly, he caged them in their bunk beds with railings and bars. He systematically beat both his first wife and his children. It is suggested, he molested Charmaine.
During his marriage to Costello, there was evidence of several extra-marital affairs. One of the women West was connected to later fell pregnant. When this woman Anne McFall was found mutilated, her foetus had been removed and kept as a keepsake.
In 1968 Costello walked out on the relationship leaving West with both children. In 1971 when she confronted West about the treatment of her children, she disappeared. Costello’s body was recovered several years later.
In similarity with the Shipman’s, Rose met Fred on a bus. Rose had never had a boyfriend but was known to be sexually promiscuous. She soon became flattered by West’s advances. She was fifteen at the time.
Rose left home and went to work for Fred as a nanny, looking after his two children. Rose would later state, she had been molested by her father during childhood.
When the relationship with the much older West was uncovered, she was placed in a children’s home. At sixteen she left and moved in with West.
In 1970 Rose fell pregnant. Shortly after the birth, West was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail. Rose found herself left with three children at the age of seventeen. Both of West’s children reported abuse at Rose’s hands.
Rose’s First Murder
In 1971 Charmaine disappeared. It was said she had gone to live with her mother. What happened was Rose has murdered her.
Storing the body in the cellar, she was later buried by Fred on his release. Fred was in prison during the murder, Rose was the only person who could have killed her.
When Costello confronted West about this, she was also murdered. This left Fred, free to marry Rose, now pregnant with their second child. After the marriage, they bought Cromwell Street from the council. To pay, they turned the upstairs into bedsits. Cromwell Street would later be nicknamed, the house of horrors.
After her second child, Rose would use one of the bedsits as a prostitute. Rose would have sex with both genders. Sexual deviance was constant in her relationships. There was always an aspect of violence to Rose’s encounters.
Whilst Rose was working, Fred would watch through peepholes. When Rose’s father found out she was a prostitute, he became one of her customers.
My 1983 Rose had eight children, at least three of them being fathered by a customer. The children were not socialised. They were abused by both parents. Sexually by Fred, from as young as eight. From thirteen they were sold into prostitution.
Between 1972 and 1992, the children were admitted to the hospital 31 times, with unexplained injuries.
Throughout their life, charges of sexual assault were brought against the West’s. None of these was ever heard as always the witness refused to appear in court. The torture they had been subjected to, meant they couldn’t face their perpetrators.
The murders followed a pattern. A young girl who they would get to know and invite to stay. They would then torture and murder them. Once dead, they would be disembodied and buried either in the garden or the cellar.
The couple would attract girls from care homes, who had little family. The chances of them being missed were less likely. Some victims were as young as fifteen.
All victims showed sign of restraint, sexual assault and torture. One such victim was found with her lower jaw bound in tape and two tubes up each nostril for breathing.
One murder during this time was the murder of Heather. Heather West their first daughter. Tired of the constant abuse she threatened to inform the police about her parents. She was later found in the garden.
On 1992 the West’s daughter Louise was found, by her siblings, writhing in pain. She started her father had raped and sodomised. When she told her mother Rose replied, ’oh well, you were asking for it.’. What followed, was another three rapes. This time with Rose watching and filming.
Louise then confided in a friend, who told her mother. The mother went on to report this to the police.
On 6th August 1992, the house was searched and the couple arrested. Louise gave a full statement. The children were all placed in foster care. Charges were made of rape and buggery against Fred West. Rose was charged under child cruelty as an accomplice.
Although, this trial collapsed as the previous ones had. Louise refused to give evidence in court. What it did highlight was Heather, the missing eldest child of the couple. Police kept investigating the location of Heather.
When the police questioned the children again on the whereabouts of their sister, several stated that dad joked she was under the patio. The investigation also uncovered the disappearance of both Costello and her daughter.
This was enough for the police to get a search warrant for the property of Cromwell Street. As the police arrived, Fred confessed to the murder of Heather and was insistent he showed the police where to dig for her body.
However, as excavation occurred the police uncovered a different thigh bone. When questioned Fred confessed to another two murders. Having now discovered three bodies the whole garden was dug up. Fred then confessed to nine murders. What followed was a search of the whole house. The cellar was dug up, where more bodies were found.
Fred always insisted that Rose did not know anything that had happened. Rose was charged on 20th April 1994 with five counts of murder. In a twist, Fred would never stand trial as he killed himself in 1995.
Throughout her trial Rose denied all charges against her, she still does to this day.
Despite evidence from the defence and Rose taking the stand, she was convicted in November 1995 on ten counts of murder. She would serve these sentences and never be released from prison.
Twelve victims were connected to the couple. However, other unsolved cases have also been linked to them. The final death toll is unknown.
All the West children were given the help they needed and new identities.
Rose could have suffered from Folie a Deux. It is also as likely, that she was the mastermind behind all the murders. Fred West was illiterate and not well educated. He was aggressive but did that make him the instigator.
He could have confessed to the crimes under Rose’s influence. Then not wishing to face her again, he took his own life. Let’s not forget Rose murdered Charmaine whilst Fred was away. It is also fair to say her childhood abuse, would not have helped her mental health.
Was Rose a victim of both her father and Fred West? Or was she a vicious serial killer who mastermind twelve murders? As Rose West still maintains her innocence it is unlikely the truth will ever be known.