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Rose West

Fred and Rosemary in the mid 1980s
Background information
Birth name: Rosemary Pauline Letts
Born: 29 November 1953 (1953-11-29) (age 56)
Barnstaple, Devon, England, UK
Conviction: Indecent assault
Sentence: Life imprisonment
Number of victims: 10
Span of killings: June 1971 – May 1987
Country: England
Date apprehended: April 1994

Rosemary Pauline ("Rose") West (née Letts) (b. 29 November 1953 in Barnstaple) is an English serial killer, now an inmate at HMP Low Newton, Brasside, Durham, after being convicted of 10 murders in 1995. Her husband Fred, who committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial, is believed to have collaborated with her in the torture and murder of at least 10 young women,[1] many at the couple's home in Gloucester, England.

Fred West is known to have carried out 12 murders. Rosemary West had no involvement in the first two; she had not met Fred at the time.


Early life and marriage to Fred West

Rosemary Letts was born in Barnstaple, Devon,[2] to William Andrew and Daisy Gwendoline Letts after a difficult pregnancy. Her mother suffered from depression and was given ECT while pregnant; some have argued that this may have caused prenatal injury to her daughter.[3] Rosemary grew up into a moody teenager and performed poorly at school.

Rosemary's parents split up when she was a teenager. She lived with her mother before moving in with her father at the age of 16; her father was prone to violence and repeatedly sexually abused her. At around this time, she began dating West. Her father disapproved of the relationship, threatening to call social services and threatening West directly. However, by 1970, Rosemary found herself pregnant by West and caring for his daughter Anna-Marie (by his previous marriage to Rena Costello) and his stepdaughter, Charmaine (daughter of Rena Costello and an unknown man).

Rosemary West and her husband were convicted of sexual assault in January 1973. They were fined for indecent assault of Caroline Roberts (née Owen), who escaped the couple's home after being attacked and reported them to the police. The Wests' typical pattern was to pick up girls from bus stops in and around Gloucester and imprison them in their home for several days before killing them.[4]

She also periodically worked as a prostitute, often while her husband watched.[5] One of the most frequent visitors to 25 Cromwell Street was her father, by whom she'd been abused from a young age. She was often pregnant and was the mother of eight children: Heather Anne (October 1970), Mae (June 1972), Stephen Andrew (August 1973), Tara (December 1977), Louise (November 1978), Barry (June 1980), Rosemarie (April 1982) and Lucyanna (July 1983). Five of these were fathered by Fred West, while Tara, Rosemarie and Lucyanna were fathered by West Indian clients who had used Rosemary as a prostitute.

It is reported that, even after the birth of her fourth child, Rosemary's father would still visit her for sex, and would then have sex with Fred's daughter Anne-Marie.[6]

Other possible victims

The crimes for which Rosemary West was convicted occurred mainly between April 1973 and August 1978. She murdered Charmaine West, the daughter of Fred's previous wife Rena, in June 1971, and buried her in their previous home of 25 Midland Road, Gloucester whilst Fred West was serving a prison sentence for petty theft. One of the bodies found at 25 Cromwell Street was that of their daughter, Heather, who was murdered in June 1987 at the age of 16, after being abused by Rosemary while Fred raped her. The Wests told friends and concerned parties that Heather had gone away to work at a holiday village.

In August 1992 Fred West was arrested after being accused of raping his 13-year-old daughter three times, and Rosemary West was arrested for child cruelty. This case against them collapsed in June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court. All of the Wests' children were removed from their custody to foster homes. This case brought to light the disappearance of Heather West, who had not been seen since 1987, and triggered the major investigation that followed.


Although she did not confess, the circumstantial evidence against Rosemary West was overwhelming. She went on trial in October 1995, nine months after her husband's suicide. He had hanged himself in Winson Green Prison with a knotted bed-sheet on 1 January that year, despite being on suicide watch.

The jury was unanimous. On 22 November 1995 West was found guilty of 10 murders. The judge, Mr Justice Mantell, sentenced her to life imprisonment, saying: "If attention is paid to what I think, you will never be released."[7]

The Lord Chief Justice later decided that she should spend at least 25 years in prison, but in July 1997 Home Secretary Jack Straw subjected West to a whole life tariff.[8][9] This was only the second instance, in modern times, of a British woman being condemned to die in prison. The other was serial killer Myra Hindley, who has since died. At the start of her sentence, West was held at the same prison as Hindley.[10]

The house at Cromwell Street (along with the adjoining property) was demolished in the autumn of 1996. The site is now occupied by a public walkway.[11]

In 2001 West announced her intention not to appeal, while maintaining her innocence.[12]

Further reading

  • Bennett, John (2005). The Cromwell Street Murders: The Detective's Story. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0750942738. 
  • Burn, Gordon (1998). Happy Like Murderers. Faber and Faber (London). ISBN 0571195466. 
  • Masters, Brian (1996). She Must Have Known: Trial of Rosemary West. Doubleday (London). ISBN 0385406509. 
  • Roberts, Caroline (2005). The Lost Girl: How I Triumphed Over Life at the Mercy of Fred and Rose West. Metro Books (London). ISBN 1843580888. 
  • Sounes, Howard (1995). Fred and Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors. Warner Books (London). ISBN 0751513229. 
  • Wansell, Geoffrey (1996). An Evil Love: The Life of Frederick West. Hodder Headline (London). ISBN 0747217602. 
  • West, Anne Marie (1995). Out of the Shadows: Fred West's Daughter Tells Her Harrowing Story of Survival. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671719688. 
  • Wilson, Colin (1998). The Corpse Garden. True Crime Library (London). ISBN 1874358249. 


External links

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