Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fred & Rose West


Bill Letts
Bill Letts

Rosemary Letts was born in November 1953 in Devon, England with a less than auspicious heritage. Her father, Bill Letts was a schizophrenic. Her mother, Daisy Letts, suffered from severe depression. Bill Letts was a violent domestic tyrant who demanded unconditional obedience from his wife and children. He enjoyed disciplining them and seemed to look for reasons to beat them. Given Bill's psychotic episodes and rigid Victorian behavior, he was not an ideal employee and drifted through a series of low-paying, unskilled jobs. The family was always short of money.

His son Andrew recalled, " If he felt we were in bed too late, he would throw a bucket of cold water over us. He would order us to dig the garden, and that meant the whole garden. Then he would inspect it like an army officer, and if he was not satisfied, we would have to do it all over againWe were not allowed to speak and play like normal children. If we were noisy, he would go for us with a belt or chunk of wood. He would beat you black and blue until mum got in between us. Then she would get a good hiding."

After giving birth to three daughters and a son and trying to cope with her violent husband, Daisy's deepening depression resulted in hospitalization in 1953. She was treated with the controversial electroshock therapy. Shortly after a number of these treatments, which delivered electric currents into the brain, Daisy gave birth to Rosemary. The effect of the electroshock therapy upon the daughter growing in her womb was unknown.

However, Howard Sounes in his book, Fred & Rose, describes how Rose was different from other children:

She developed a habit of rocking herself in her cot; if she was put in a pram without the brake on, she rocked so violently that the pram crept across the room. As she became a little older, Rose only rocked her head, but she did this for hours on end. It was one of the first indications that, in the family's words, she was 'a bit slow.'As Rose grew from a baby to a toddler to a little girl, she would swing her head for hours until she seemed to have hypnotized herself into semiconsciousness."

"Dozy Rosie," as she was called, was not very intelligent, but she had very pretty features: big brown eyes, a clear complexion and attractive brown hair. As she got older, she developed a tendency towards chubbiness.

Rose Letts in her teens (school photo)
Rose Letts in her
teens (school photo)

Rose was smart enough, however, to make herself her father's pet, always doing whatever he wished immediately. Thereby, she alone received paternal affection and escaped the beatings.

Given her lack of intellectual gifts, Rose was not a star performer in school. Also, she was overweight, which made her the butt of cruel jokes by her peers. She lashed out at them and attacked anyone who teased her. Consequently, she became known as an ill tempered, aggressive loner.

As a teenager, Rose showed signs of being sexually precocious, walking around naked after her baths and climbing into bed with her younger brother and fondling him sexually. Her father's rules forbade her to date boys her own age and her heaviness and temperament kept boys from being interested in her. She focused her interest in sex on the older men of the village.

In January of 1968, Rose and other girls of the community began to fear for their safety. A fifteen-year-old girl named Mary Bastholm disappeared from a bus stop in Gloucester. Mary had been on the way to visit her boyfriend, carrying a Monopoly set. All that the police found at the bus stop were a few pieces of the Monopoly set. The disappearance was thought to be linked to several other rapes in the area.

Rose was cautious for awhile, but her boredom and loneliness drove her to seek out male companionship. On one occasion, an older man, who had taken advantage of her na´vetÚ, raped her.

Early in 1969, Daisy Letts became tired of being her husband's punching bag, took fifteen-year-old Rose, and moved in temporarily with her daughter Glenys and her husband. Without her father watching her, Rose spent a lot of time out at night. Her brother-in-law, Jim Tyler claimed that Rose carried on with a number of men much older than she was and that Rose had even tried to seduce him.

In mid-1969, Rose moved back with her father, an action that surprised everyone. Some said that Rose and her father had an incestuous relationship and that Bill Letts had a reputation for molesting young girls, but all of this was unsubstantiated rumor.

Thus in her early teens, Rose Letts seemed destined for a dull and unhappy life: she was not very smart and not very pleasant tempered. She was an underachiever, a rebel against authority and unfocused toward any productive goal, aside from finding a lover older than herself.

Then she met Fred West.

A young Fred and Rose West
A young Fred and Rose West

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