This Valentine’s Day let’s take a look at Fred and Rose West, a pair of depraved lovebirds who together sadistically killed at least a dozen young girls between 1972 and 1987 in Gloucester, England at the notorious address, 25 Cromwell Street. The married serial killers and rapists turned their love nest into a veritable house of horrors and even killed several of their own daughters.
Fred and Rose met at a bus stop when she was just fifteen years old and he twenty-seven. She was a wild child, eager to escape a traumatic upbringing which featured an abusive schizophrenic father and depressed mother who recieved ECT (shock treatment) while she was pregnant. Rose survived years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and eventually began sexually abusing her younger siblings, raping a brother.
The much older Fred came with plenty of baggage too: multiple ex-spouses, a history of murder, and several children of his own including a non biological daughter named Charmaine, who was the product of an affair his first wife had with a bus driver. Rose was smitten and initially joined Fred living in his van along with two children, Anna Marie (Fred’s daughter from a previous marriage) and Charmaine. Being just fifteen, Rose’s parents weren’t thrilled with this living arrangement and sent her to a girls home. She would visit Fred on the weekends and eventually ran away from the home setting up house with Fred at his recently acquired apartment on Midland Road. By 16, Rose gave birth to a daughter, Heather Ann. Not surprisingly there is some speculation that Heather Ann could have been the biological daughter of Rose and her father, however that has not been proven.
Rose was now caring for three children at the age of 17 while Fred was serving a jail sentence on a theft charge. The girls were subjected to various forms of abuse while in the care of Rose. A childhood friend of Charmaine’s named Tracey Giles, who had lived in the apartment above, described an incident she witnessed saying she saw “Charmaine, naked and standing upon a chair, gagged and with her hands bound behind her back with a belt and Rose standing alongside the child with a large wooden spoon in her hand.” That was just one of countless incidents. At one point Charmaine was even hospitailzed for a severe puncture wound in her ankle, Rose telling hospital staff it was a “household accident.”
Prior to Fred’s prison release in the Summer of 1971, Rose killed Charmaine and secreted her body in the coal cellar until Fred was released from prison. At that point, Fred assisted her in burying her naked body in the back yard. When people asked about the child’s whereabouts Rose would say, “She’s gone to live with her mother, and bloody good riddance.” When Catherine came looking for her daughter Charmaine, she suffered a similar fate at the hands of Fred with her dismembered body eventually being found buried among a cluster of trees.
Love was in the air and Rose and Fred were married on January 29, 1972. She would soon become pregnant with a second child and the couple would move into the notorious house at 25 Cromwell Street. It was here where Rose would spend her time working as a prostitute. She had a special room Fred had outfitted with peepholes so he could watch her entertain her clients. Rose’s Room, as it was called, had it’s own private bar and a red light outside which let everyone know Rose was busy and did not want to be disturbed. She was known to always wear the only key to the room around her neck. Handy man Fred also created an area in the house where they could take in boarders to provide extra income and a constant flow of victims. The couple became involved in all sorts of sexual activities including threesomes and bondage, taking great pleasure in pushing participants beyond their limits. No safe word with those two! They collected a large array of bondage gear, restraining devices, all varieties of sex toys, magazines and photographs depicting bestiality and graphic child sexual abuse.
By late 1972 they were regularly raping Fred’s daughter Anna Marie. Rose liked to hold her down while Fred brutalized her. She was exposed to all sorts of sadistic sexual abuse on a near daily basis. It was during this time The West’s hired a 17-year- old nanny named Caroline Owens and their behaviors began to escalate. Caroline became fed up with their constant sexual advances and innuendo and left 25 Cromwell Street. The couple soon caught up with Caroline, apologized and offered her a ride to her home. She accepted, hopping in the car but quickly came to regret it – she would be bound, gagged, and subjected to hours of prolonged sexual assault from Fred and Rose. The couple gave Caroline two options, be held captive as a sex slave in the cellar or return to work as their nanny. She chose the latter and within a couple of days was able to escape by running from a laundromat where she was doing laundry with Rose. Caroline ran to her family home and her mother immediately called the police to report her daughter’s ordeal. Shockingly, even though the Wests were brought up on multiple charges, all pertaining to sexual abuse were dropped. The pair pled guilty to minor, reduced charges, paid a small fine and were allowed to walk out of the courtroom on January 12, 1973 without any jail time.
Three months after the trial they committed their first murder as a couple. The two murdered and dismemebered 19-year-old Lynda Gough after subjecting her to horrific abuse. She would be buried in the cellar at Cromwell Street. Over the next two years more victims would join Lynda in her basement gravesite with Fred eventualy pouring concrete over the floor and moving burial operations outside to the back yard.
In the end Fred and Rose West murdered at least a dozen young women together, possibly more. They violently raped and sexually abused multiple others including many of their own children. The detailed accounts of this abuse is absolutely vile and horrific. Anna Marie eventually ran away from the madness afer suffering a horrible beating from Rose after discovering the girl had been treated for an ectopic pregnancy, brought on by Fred’s abuse.
With Anna Marie gone, Fred shifted his lurid focus to Heather and Mae, using them as his personal sex slaves. Stephen, the boy of the family wasn’t safe either, in addition to helping his gather dig holes for bodies he was told he would have to have sex with his mother by the age of 17. In all Rose had a grand total of eight children, three of whom were thought to be fathered by her clients.
By the mid 1980’s, most of the children were teens and also suffered at school, as countless rumours of Rose’s prostitution had reached several of their classmates. Heather confided to her close friend that many of these rumors were true and shortly after, Fred pulled her from school in 1986. June of that same year was the last time anyone would see Heather, she was just 16 years old.
Their decades long reign of terror would finally end on August 6, 1992. When police arrived at 25 Cromwell Street to look for, get this – stolen property!!! As they searched they found numerous objects of sexual paraphernalia and countless homemade pornographic videos, some depicting children. The West children were removed from the home and questioned. Many made statements describing their father’s actions and sexual abuse but they all said their Mother Rose inflicted the majority of the beatings. All the children in the household were placed in foster care the following day and thus began an official investigation. On February 24, 1994 armed with a search warrant police proceeded to 25 Cromwell Street. They began digging and found the chopped up bones of Heather Ann West buried in the backyard. As excavations continued police uncovered the skeletal remains of eight more young women. On May 4, 1994 authorities dug up property surrounding 25 Midland Road, the West’s first apartment, it was there they located Charmaine’s little bones, she was only eight when Rose murdered her.
In a written confession taken in 1994 Fred stated:
“I mean Heather, I mean I thought the bloody world of Heather. So anyway I got to grips with it after a while, and the first thing that [came] into my mind was I’m gonna have to take this .. and sort it out, which I did, all the messes Rose got herself into, I took the fucking rap for them, and helped ’em out. … So anyway, I said. ‘You’ll have to tell me exactly what happened’. She said that Heather was cut up. Well, I never felt so ill for a few seconds, a few minutes before I could get to grips with myself again, and I said: ‘What on Earth did you cut her up for?’ She said, ‘She wouldn’t fit in the dustbin!’ Now, the thing that makes it hard, [is] that she cut Heather up and chucked her in a fucking dustbin. Her daughter, in a dustbin.”
While Rose is spending the rest of her days behind bars, her husband Fred committed suicide in prison on January 1, 1995. The building where Charmaine was killed still stands. The house at 25 Cromwell Street was razed in 1996, two years after the Wests were arrested. It was replaced by a simple pathway, a rather stark reminder of the atrocities committed on one quiet English street.
Sounes, Howard (1995). Fred and Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors. Warner Books
West, Anne Marie (1995). Out of the Shadows: Fred West’s Daughter Tells Her Harrowing Story of Survival. Simon & Schuster.
West, Mae; West, Stephen (1995). Inside 25 Cromwell Street: The Terrifying, True Story of Life with Fred and Rose West. The Bath Press.
Wilson, Colin (1998). The Corpse Garden. London: True Crime Library.
Woodrow, Jane (2011). Rose West: The Making of a Monster. Hodder.