The sadistic couple is believed to have killed at least 12 women and children during their 20-year spree. From toying with them in horrendous sex games to ‘torture masks’ and pipes stuffed up their noses, the final hours of Fred and Rose West’s helpless victims were sickening.
Tied to a metal contraption Fred had constructed while working as a laborer, the victims were held in his specially-designed ‘sex dungeon’, which allowed for hours of abuse without fear of discovery.
Chillingly, when police finally dug up the garden and cellar at 25 Cromwell Street in 1994, the bodies were found in “anatomical disarray” – their skulls wrapped with leather belts and masking tape.
Now, a new Channel 5 documentary, Fred and Rose West: The Search for the Victims, lays bare the killers’ twisted campaign of “sadistic sexual abuse”.
It comes following a renewed search for 15-year-old waitress Mary Bastholm, a potential 13th victim whose disappearance was probed by cops during an excavation of a Gloucester cafe last month.
Warped desires from early age
Fred’s depraved desires first emerged when he was still a child. In police interviews he claimed he was introduced to sex by his mother aged 12 and encouraged to engage in acts of bestiality – allegations disputed by his brother.
Chillingly, journalist Howard Sounes, who researched the killings at the time of the murder investigation, also revealed 19 year old Fred was charged over the rape of a 13-year-old girl – whom a relative claimed was his sister, Kitty.
Sounes said when West was questioned by police, he acknowledged the accusations, remarking: “Well, doesn’t everybody do it?”. The trial later collapsed and Kitty died in 2006.
Rose, meanwhile, was herself sexually abused as a young girl by her “brutal and violent” father Bill Letts – a dark relationship that continued into her adult life.
“There was still a sexual relationship between Rose and Bill. At one point he was living in a caravan at the bottom of Cromwell Street,” Geoffrey Wansell, a Fred West biographer, later said.
“I think Rose was always fascinated by her father. They couldn’t stay apart – they were in a sense inextricably linked. You couldn’t break that.”
Prostitution and sordid games
After Fred, then 27, met Rose at a bus stop days after her 15th birthday, the pair struck up a bond over an “insatiable desire for sex” as he lavished her with gifts.
Marrying and moving into 25 Cromwell Street in 1972, the couple’s twisted appetites grew more extreme.
Rose began working as a prostitute, inviting men and women into their home for increasingly brutal sexual games, while Fred joined for threesomes and watched extreme pornography including bestiality and child abuse.
By now, the pair had already embarked on their killing spree. Before he met Rose, Fred murdered Anne McFall, a 16-year-old ‘nanny’ to his daughter Anne Marie and his first wife Catherine ‘Rena’ Costello’s daughter, Charmaine.
When Anne became pregnant in 1967, she vanished – her remains were not discovered until nearly two decades later.
Rose subsequently murdered Charmaine and when Rena enquired about her disappearance, she was strangled by Fred, who dumped her mutilated body in Gloucester’s Letterbox Field.
Victims strung up in ‘torture masks’
Regularly abusing their own children, the pair also turned their attention to unsuspecting outsiders after building a ‘sex dungeon’ in the basement of their home.
Here, their warped games reached their horrifying peak. Beginning with 19-year-old Lynda Gough, Fred and Rose lured a string of young girls to the basement, suffocating them to death.
Excavating the cellar, police found that ceiling beams had holes drilled into them, suggesting victims were strung up while they were raped and tortured. Bindings and bondage suits were also found at the home.
Speaking in the new documentary, Howard Ogden, who was Fred’s lawyer, recalls the horrific instruments used by the couple to keep the women alive.
“I remember one particular grave,” he says. “It was a skull that was wrapped round with masking tape and coming out of the nostrils of the skull were two little pipes that enabled the victim to breathe.
“That was an example of someone who had been treated in that way and would have had digits and so on removed and would have been in agony and would have been asking to die. And in Fred’s warped mind he’s done her a favour.”
Evidence that emerged at the trial of the Wests – which came after Fred was found dead in his prison cell in 1995 – revealed seven of the nine victims found at the home had been masked or gagged.
The court heard that the bones of Shirley Hubbard, 15, were discovered with her skull encased in a mask of brown parcel-type adhesive tape. Inside the tape was a plastic tube, which was bent up to reach her nostrils.
Alison Chambers, 16, was found with a leather belt fastened around her skull, while a knotted cloth rolled to form a loop was seen next to the skull of Therese Siegenthaler, 21.
‘A picture emerged of sadistic sexual abuse’
“The excavation of the cellar had tangible, real evidence of the fate of those victims,” Leo Goatley, Rose West’s lawyer, tells the documentary.
“There was a picture emerging, sadistic sexual abuse, resulting in their lives ending, whether deliberately through stabbing or strangulation or through just total abuse and neglect and expiring whilst they were, for example, strung up in the cellar.”
Giving evidence at the trial, the Wests’ surviving children – Anne Marie, Mae and Louise – also revealed the brutality they had suffered at the hands of their parents.
Anne Marie said she was repeatedly strapped to a metal frame, erected in the cellar by Fred, so that his wife could indulge in lesbian sexual acts with her.
She told how she was regularly assaulted and humiliated by Rose, who laughed and sneered after Fred had kicked her in the mouth with steel-capped boots.
Dr Julian Boon, a forensic psychologist, later said of their methods: “The thing that haunts me the most was a mask that had nothing but two nose holes so the person can breathe but they can’t see or hear.
“As a consequence they could have anything done to them and that is very frightening.”
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