Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fred & Rose West

House of Horrors

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Carol Ann Cooper (South West News Services)
Carol Ann Cooper
(South West News
Services)

1973 was a year for the Wests to celebrate. They walked away from Caroline Owens' rape and abduction charge with only a fine and they murdered Lynda Gough with no police repercussions at all. Then in August, their first son, Stephen, was born.

Emboldened by their success, they abducted fifteen-year-old Carol Ann Cooper in November and amused themselves with her sexually -- that is, until she outlived her entertainment value and was snuffed out by strangulation or suffocation, dismembered and buried. She joined the growing city of the dead at 25 Cromwell Street.

Industrious Fred, persistent in his home improvements, had enlarged the cellar and was demolishing the garage to build an extension to the main house. No matter that these improvements were done at very strange hours.

A little over a month later, university student Lucy Partington had gone home to her mother's house to spend the Christmas holiday. On December 27, she went to visit her disabled friend and left to catch a bus shortly after 10 P.M. She had the misfortune to meet up with Fred and Rose, who probably knocked her out and abducted her. Like Carol Ann Cooper, she was tortured for approximately a week and then murdered, dismembered and buried in Fred's construction projects. He cut himself while dismembering Lucy and had to go to the hospital for stitches on January 3, 1974.

Lucy, like Carol Ann Cooper, was reported missing, but there was nothing to tie the two girls to the Wests.

Between April of 1974 and April of 1975, three young women -- Therese Siegenthaler, 21, Shirley Hubbard, 15, and Juanita Mott, 18, met the same fate as Carol Ann Cooper and Lucy Partington. Their tortured and dismembered bodies were buried under the cellar floor of the West's house.

Bondage was becoming a major thrill for Fred and Rose. Shirley's head had been wrapped entirely with tape and a plastic tube was inserted in her nose so that she could breathe. Juanita was subjected to even more extreme bondage:

Juanita was gagged with a ligature made from two long, white nylon socks (similar to those worn by Rose), a brassiere and two pairs of tights, one within the other. She was then trussed up with lengths of plastic-covered rope, of the type used for washing line. The rope was used in a complicated way, with loops tied around her arms and thighs, both wrists, both ankles and her skull, horizontally and vertically, backwards and forwards across her body until she could only wriggle like a trapped animal. Then the Wests produced a seven-foot length of rope with a slipknot end forming a noose. This was probably used to suspend Juanita's body from the beams in the cellar. (Sounes)

Incredibly enough with this charnel house in his cellar, Fred continued to attract the police with continuous thefts and fencing stolen goods. It was necessary for Fred to keep stealing to pay for his home improvement projects. His home improvement projects were necessary to keep the monstrous habits of his wife and himself covered up with layers of concrete.

In 1976, the Wests enticed a young woman, designated as Miss A by the courts, from a home for wayward girls. At Cromwell Street, Miss A was led into a room with two naked girls who were prisoners there. She witnessed the torture of the two girls and was raped by Fred and sexually assaulted by Rose.

Shirley Robinson (South West News Services)
Shirley Robinson
(South West News
Services)

One of the girls that Miss A saw was probably Anna Marie, Fred's daughter who was a constant target of the couple's sexual sadism. As if Fred's rape and torture of his daughter was not enough, he brought home his friends to have sex with her.

In 1977, the upstairs of the house had been remodeled to allow for a number of lodgers. One of them was Shirley Robinson, 18, a former prostitute with bisexual inclinations. Shirley developed relationships with both Fred and Rose. Shirley became pregnant with Fred's child after Rose was pregnant with the child of one of her black clients.

While Fred was pleased that Rose was carrying a mixed child, Rose was not comfortable with Shirley carrying Fred's child. Shirley foolishly thought that she could displace Rose in Fred's life and, in the process, jeopardized her own existence. Rose made it clear that Shirley had to go.

And go she did, seven months after Rose gave birth to Tara in December of 1977, Shirley joined the rest of the girls buried on Cromwell Street. The cellar being full, Shirley was put in the rear garden along with her unborn child. This time, Fred dismembered Shirley and their unborn baby.

In November of 1978, Rose and Fred had yet another daughter who they named Louise, making a total of six children in the bizarre and unwholesome household. Fred also impregnated his daughter Anna Marie, but the pregnancy occurred in her fallopian tube and had to be terminated.

In May of 1979, Rose's father died of a lung ailment. Several months later, the Wests were up to their old tricks and murdered a troubled teenager named Alison Chambers after they raped and tortured her. Like Shirley, Alison was buried in the "overflow" cemetery in the rear garden.

The children were aware of some of the goings on in the home. They knew that Rose was a prostitute and that Anna Marie was being raped by her father. When Anna Marie moved out to live with her boyfriend, Fred focused his sexual advances on Heather and Mae. Heather resisted her father and was beaten for it.

In June of 1980, Rose gave birth to Barry, Fred's second son. Then again, in April of 1982, Rose gave birth to Rosemary Junior, who was not Fred's child.

In July of 1983, Rose gave birth to another daughter who they named Lucyanna. She was half-black, like Tara and Rosemary Junior. Rose became increasingly irrational and beat the children without provocation. The stress of so many children in the household took its toll on Rose's already bad temper.

The Wests probably continued to carry on their sexual abductions, but did not bury any of these new victims at 25 Cromwell St.

In 1986, the wall of filial silence that has protected the Wests, was broken. Heather told her girlfriend about her father's advances, her mother's affairs and the beatings she received. The girlfriend told her parents, who were friends of the Wests, and Heather's life was in jeopardy.

After her parents murdered her, they told the children that she left home. Fred asked his son Stephen to help him dig a hole in the rear garden, where Fred later buried Heather's dismembered body.

Rose built up her prostitution business by advertising in special magazines. She and Fred were on the lookout for women who they could get to participate in their various perversions as well as prostitute herself under Rose's direction. One such woman, Katherine Halliday, became a fixture in the West household and saw first hand the black bondage suits and masks that they had collected, plus the whips and chains. With good reason, Katherine became alarmed and quickly broke off her relationship with them.

As time went on, Fred and Rosemary became increasingly concerned about creating a minimum fašade of respectability, not because they cared what people thought of them, but because they were concerned that knowledge of what had gone on in their house would jeopardize their freedom.

The West's long run of luck was coming to an end. One of the very young girls that Fred had raped with Rose's assistance told her girlfriend what happened. The girlfriend went to the police and the case was assigned to a very talented and persistent Detective Constable named Hazel Savage. Hazel knew Fred from his days with Rena and remembered the stories that Rena had told her about Fred's sexual perversions.

On August 6, 1992, police arrived at 25 Cromwell Street with a search warrant to look for pornography and evidence of child abuse. They found mountains of pornography and arrested Rose for assisting in the rape of a minor. Fred was arrested for rape and sodomy of a minor.

Hazel Savage went to work interviewing family members and friends of the Wests. When she talked to Anna Marie, she heard for the first time the shocking story about how she had been so severely abused. She also expressed her concerns about Charmaine, who Hazel had known from her experiences with Rena.

Hazel had all she needed to bring child abuse charges, but she needed to further investigate the disappearance of Charmaine, Rena and Heather. Hazel was not satisfied that Heather had disappeared without a trace. Insurance and tax records showed that Heather had not been employed nor had she visited a doctor in four years. Either she had left the country or was dead.

(left to right) Rosemary Jr., Tara, Barry West with school friend (school photo)
(left to right) Rosemary Jr., Tara,
Barry West with school friend (school
photo)

The younger children were taken from Rose and put into government care. With Fred in jail and the police closing in on her, Rose took an overdose of pills and attempted suicide. Her son Stephen found her and saved her life. Later, she escaped from her loneliness by stuffing herself with candy and watching Disney videos.

Fred didn't do much better in prison. He was very depressed and sorry for himself. Actually, his luck was holding -- for the time being. The case against the Wests collapsed when two key witnesses decided not to testify against them. But the seeds of their discovery had been sown. The strange, inexplicable disappearance of Heather was firmly implanted in Hazel Savage's mind.

Hazel took over the case and launched an inquiry into Heather's whereabouts. When no sign of the girl was found, Hazel feared that that the rumor was true that Heather was buried under the patio. The West children were questioned repeatedly. Fred had threatened them that if they didn't keep their silence that they would end up under the patio like Heather.

Detective John Bennett (AP)
Detective John
Bennett (AP)

Detective Superintendent John Bennett was in charge of the media-sensitive case. Finally the warrant to search the Cromwell Street house and garden was signed, but the logistics of digging up a fifteen by sixty-foot garden were nontrivial. Furthermore, Fred's extension to the house was built over a portion of the garden. The search would be very expensive and be certain to attract attention of the media.

Things improved for the investigation after Fred confessed to killing his daughter and after human bones other than Heather's were found in the garden. When Rose was informed of Fred's confession, she claimed that Fred had sent her out of the house the day Heather disappeared and had no knowledge of Heather's death.

The police set about the grim task of digging up the large garden. Fred had been released temporarily until there was evidence to hold him. But, as Fred watched the police dig up the garden, he knew it was a matter of time before they found Heather and the others buried in the rear garden.

Police digging in the garden (AP)
Police digging in the garden
(AP)

Fred told his son that he had done something really bad and would be going away for awhile. Steve remembered that "He looked at me so evil and so cold. That look went right through me."

Finally the police found the remains of a young woman, dismembered and decapitated. Then another victim was found. When the police heard about the disappearance of Shirley Robinson, the scope of the investigation widened.

To protect Rose, Fred claimed responsibility for the murders himself. He was charged with the murders of Heather, Shirley Robinson and the as yet unidentified third woman. Furthermore, an investigation was opened into the disappearance of Rena and Charmaine. For some reason, Fred decided to tell the police about the girls buried in his cellar. Fred admitted to murdering the girls, but not rape. These girls, he maintained, wanted to have sex with him.

As Fred chatted about his murders, the police tried to grapple with the evidence. Lining up bodies with names was not an easy task. Nine sets of bones were discovered in the cellar and the police did not know whose they were. Fred was not much help since he could not remember the names and details of some of the women he had picked up. Considering the many women who go missing every year, extensive work had to be done to match up missing person's reports with the remains.

As the case developed, Rose abandoned Fred to save herself. She tried to position herself as the victim of a murderous man, but she was not particularly convincing. Police worked continuously to tie her in to the crimes.

The bodies of Rena, Anna McFall and Charmaine were found as Fred continued to cooperate with the police. On the Mary Bastholm case, Fred decided to quit cooperating and her body was not found.

At their joint hearing, Fred attempted to console Rose, but she avoided his touch. She told the police he made her sick. The great partnership in crime was over.

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