Frederick Walter Stephen West was an evil man, with crimes dating back to as early as 1967. But it wasn’t until he married his second wife, Rosemary “Rose” Letts, on January 29, 1972, that he became half of a deadly pair that lured young women into their home to rape and murder them.
One of the couples’ earliest stories begin with the murder of Charmaine West, Fred’s stepdaughter from his first marriage, who was murdered by Rose in 1971 while Fred was serving time for theft. At the age of sixteen, Charmaine had moved in with Fred and his then-girlfriend Rose, who hated Fred’s association with the child’s mother and is believed to have killed the teen to sever the ties. When the girl’s mother visited the West home (by this time Fred had been released), Fred killed Catherine Bernadette “Rena” West to keep her from reporting the missing child to authorities.
The following year, Rose and Fred married and a few months later Rose gave birth to their second daughter. Needing a bigger house, the family moved to 25 Cromwell Street, where West converted the upper floor to bedsits – not unlike the rooms of a Bed & Breakfast in America. One of the room’s was designated as “Rosemary’s Room” and had a reverse peephole, allowing Fred to watch his wife, whom he had forced into prostitution, have sexual relations with her “johns” – which included Rosemary’s own father, Bill Letts.
In October 1972, Fred and Rose hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as a nanny. She quickly became uncomfortable by the strange remarks, often of a sexual nature, made to her by Fred and voluntarily left her job. In December 1972, the couple found Caroline, apologized for their behavior, and persuaded her to return to the house Cromwell Street. Before she what was happening, Caroline was bound and raped by both Fred and Rose. During and after the assault, Fred made comments about the “hundreds” of girls the couple had killed and buried their bodies where police would never find them. In fear for her life, Caroline gave in and allowed the couple to do with her as they may. Believing they had Caroline fully under their control, they allowed her to leave the next day on her promise she would return to work as their nanny. She immediately reported the rape to police but withdrew the accusation when the case went to trial. Fred and Rose pleaded guilty to indecent assault and fined £50 – approximately $75 USD by today’s standards.
The next victim of sexual assault would be the couples’ oldest daughter Anne Marie West, only 8 years old at the time. She was found in the cellar where she was raped while her mother watched.
In April 1973, Lynda Gough was a lodger at the West home. It was said she and Rose shared “johns.” By the time Gough’s mother came to visit a couple of months later, Lynda had disappeared. Rose said she had left to find work in Weston-super-Mare.
In November 1973, Carol “Caz” Ann Cooper was a children’s home ward when she was abducted off the street by the Wests while returning home from the cinema. She was raped and murdered, her body quickly disposed of.
Lucy Katherine Partington disappeared in December 1973 after leaving the home of a friend to catch a bus. It is believed that she was held captive several days before she was murdered and dismembered.
Therese Siegenthaler was a South London student who had set off to tour Ireland when she disappeared.
In 1974, Shirley Hubbard became the Wests’ next victim when she was abducted while returning home from an internship. When her body was discovered, her head was completely covered in duct tape with a three inch tube protruding from her mouth to allow breathing.
Juanita “Nita” Marion Mott had been a former lodger of the Cromwell Street resident when she was murdered in April 1975.
Shirley Anne Robinson had lodged and worked as a prostitute at the West home when she was killed in May 1978. At the time of her disappearance, she was said to have been pregnant with Fred’s baby.
Alison Chambers was the last known non-relative victim of the murderous duo. She was killed in August 1979.
While it is likely there were victims after this date, no more are known until the murder of Heather Ann West, the 17 year old daughter of Rose who was rumored to be fathered by Bill Letts. Heather became the target of incestuous sexual abuse after the death of sister and, growing tired of the suffering at home, began telling friends of her troubles. When Fred and Rose heard about her betrayal, they murdered her and told those who asked that Heather had left to find work in other places.
In 1992, Fred raped another one of his daughters – one of the seven children Rosemary gave birth to who may or may not have been Fred’s biological children (3 were of mixed race and known for certain not be fathered by Fred) – and video taped himself committing the sickening crime. This daughter, like her older sister, unburdened herself to friends. This friend shared the West daughters’ story with her mother, who in turn contact police. This brave Mum undoubtedly saved the lives of untold scores of young women.
Police were investigating the sexual assault of the West child, but soon realized the case was much larger than they could have ever expected.
When police unearthed numerous bones scattered about the West property, Fred quickly confessed, only to retract then confess again. Rosemary, alternatively, refused to confess and was not officially arrested until 1994.
While awaiting trial, Fred took the coward’s way out and hanged himself in his prison cell on January 1, 1995. Rose West was tried in October 1995 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1996, the house at 25 Cromwell Street was demolished and turned into a public pathway. Every brick was crushed and every timber was burned to discourage souvenir hunters.
The surviving West children were placed into foster homes in 1992. Their current whereabouts are unknown.