Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fred & Rose West


Fred's last portrait (POLICE)
Fred's last portrait

Rose's rejection was devastating to Fred. On December 13, 1994, he was charged with twelve murders. Again, Rose brushed him off. He had written to her, "We will always be in love...You will always be Mrs. West, all over the world. That is important to me and to you."

Just before noon on New Year's Day at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, when the guards were having lunch, Fred hanged himself with strips of bedsheet. He had clearly planned his suicide well in advance so that he would not be discovered.

Rose leaves court following testimony (AP)
Rose leaves court
following testimony

Despite the paucity of direct evidence linking her to the murders, Rose went to trial on October 3, 1995. A number of witnesses -- including Caroline Owens, Miss A, and Anna Marie -- testified to Rose's sadistic sexual assaults on young women.

The goal of the prosecution, led by Brian Leveson QC, was to construct a tight web of circumstantial evidence of Rose's guilt. The defense, led by Richard Ferguson QC, tried to show that evidence of sexual assault was not the same as evidence of murder. That Rose did not know what Fred was doing when he murdered the girls and buried them in various places.

Ferguson made the mistake of putting Rose on the stand. Her defiance came through very clearly to the jury. Furthermore, the prosecution learned to extract damaging testimony from her by making her angry. She left the jury with entrenched beliefs that Rose had treated the children badly and that she was completely dishonest.

Finally the defense played the recordings of Fred West describing how he had murdered the victims when Rose was out of the house. Unfortunately for Rose, Fred was shown to be lying on key issues, which threw his entire statement into doubt.

The most dramatic evidence was given by Janet Leach, who was called as the "appropriate adult" (witness) to Fred West's police interviews. Privately, Fred had told her that Rose was involved in the murders -- and that Rose had murdered Charmaine and Shirley Robinson without him -- but that he made a deal with his wife to take all the blame on himself.

Janet was so stressed by this confidential confession that she suffered a stroke. It was only after Fred's death that she felt that she could tell the police what he had said to her. After her testimony, she collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.

Rosemary West (AP)
Rosemary West

In his summary, Leveson called Rose the "strategist" and the dominant partner. "The evidence that Rosemary West knew nothing is not worthy of belief." Ferguson, in his summary, stressed that the evidence only pointed to Fred.

The jury took very little time to find Rose guilty of the murders of Charmaine, Heather, Shirley Robinson and the other girls buried at the house. The judge sentenced her to life imprisonment on each of ten counts of murder.

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