Fred & Rosemary West: a British Couple with an Appetite for Murder and Rape

Fred & Rosemary West: A British Couple With an Appetite for Murder and Rape

  • Terrorized Herefordshire for years by killing and sexually torturing mainly white teenage girls
  • Incest was an accepted part of the household – the father of Ms. West would often come and have sex with his daughter while Mr. West voyeuristically watched
  • Mr. West videotaped himself raping one of his daughters

The ominous looking pair is one of the most notorious serial killer couples in modern British history. Before the two devils met, Fred was already a killer and rapist, together, the duo formed a deadly mix.

Fred and Rosemary West terrorized Herefordshire, a historic English county in the West Midlands, for 20 years, by luring young girls back to their house where they kept them bound in the cellar. As a couple, they claimed ten victims including two members of their own family. There, they raped and tortured them until they grew bored with their victims, who were then killed and their dismembered body parts buried at or near the house where the West’s lived at the time.

A house the British press would soon dub the "House of Horrors".

Rosemary West

Rosemary, whose maiden name was Letts, was born to Bill and Daisy Gwendoline Letts in 1953. When Rosemary’s mother was pregnant with her, she was suffering from depression and received a controversial electroshock therapy that may have caused prenatal injury.

Her father was a paranoid schizophrenic, prone to violence, forcing her mother Daisy to move out, taking Rose with her. She grew up as a moody teenager and just like Fred, she too performed poorly at school.

Young Rosemary West as a child
Rosemary West as a child.

Fred West

Born in 1941 to a big, poor family of six, Fred was his mother's favorite child. He claimed his father had incestuous relations with his sisters. There were rumours that his mother Daisy molested him from an early age, but Fred himself denied such claims. He recalled what his father Walter had told him on many occasions: Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it.

Young Fred West with his sisters
A young Fred West with his sisters Daisy and Kitty.

Fred didn’t do well at school, he dropped out and became a simple farm laborer. He had a low IQ of 84. Low intelligence, a dysfunctional upbringing and suffering from two major head injuries must have had an impact on the choices he made later in his life. In his younger years he fell off of a fire escape at a local youth club, damaging his head. When he was 17 he suffered further head injuries. This time a motorcycle accident put him in a coma for a week with major head injuries.

Before meeting Rosemary, Fred was already married to Rena Costello - a Scottish girl who worked as a prostitute. When Rena bore Fred's child, the couple met Anna McFall. Eventually, McFall became pregnant with West’s child, urging him to divorce Rena and marry her instead. West was unwilling to do so and decided to kill McFall and the unborn child. The following year Rena, tired of her husband’s sadistic sexual desires, decided to leave and abandon the children in Fred’s ‘care’.

Fred West with Rena Costello
Fred with Rena Costello.
Chairmane West
Charmaine West, left, was born in March 1963. Rena Costello’s child by an Asian bus driver and not Fred West. Charmaine disappeared in the summer of 1971 at the age of eight; her remains were recovered from beneath the kitchen of Fred’s house.

The Match Made in... Hell

While technically still married to Costello, 27-year-old Fred met Rosemary Letts in 1968 on her 15th birthday. Just a year later they moved in together. The next year Rosemary gave birth to their first mutual daughter, Heather Ann, who was raised with the other two girls from Fred’s previous marriage.

Young Fred and Rosemary West
Young Fred and Rosemary West.

For a short period Fred was imprisoned for theft. At that time Rosemary is believed to have killed one of the step-daughters, Charmaine, just before her husband’s release. When their birth-mother Costello turned up to collect Charmaine, she too disappeared.

In 1972 Fred and Rosemary got married and Rosemary gave birth to their second daughter, Mae. At the time Fred encouraged his wife to work as a prostitute. Rosemary eventually had seven children, not always fathered by her husband. Needing a bigger house for the family, they moved to a new residence where Fred designed a room for Rosemary to offer sexual services. The room had peepholes so that Fred could watch. It even had a red light as a warning sign for their children to know when mom was busy.

Rosemary's escorting advertisement
Rosemary's escort advertisement.

At the beginning of their marriage Rosemary’s father strongly disapproved of their relationship, but later would visit the house with Fred’s approval to have sex with his own daughter, while Fred voyeuristically watched from the peepholes he had made.

The Killing Spree

In 1972 the Wests hired 17-year-old Caroline Roberts as the children’s nanny. They kept making sexual advances on her but the girl declined. One night in December she was held captive overnight and bound heavily with bondage tape while both Fred and Rose raped her. Somehow Fred was able to convince the court that the rape was consensual and was only fined, along with Rosemary, £50 for indecent assault.

Caroline Roberts
Caroline Roberts.

After the incident, the couple felt that they could not leave witnesses. Most of their victims were white females with ages ranging from teens to mid-twenties. They preferred young girls, whom they usually lured to the house under the premise that they would be hired as nannies. Eventually they raped and tortured them in elaborate, sadistic bondage acts for days and then strangled or suffocated and buried them on their property.

Victims of Rosemary and Fred West
A composite image of victims of Fred and Rosemary West.

While raping, torturing and murdering young women, Fred also sexually abused Anne Marie West – his daughter from his relationship with Rena Costello. She eventually became pregnant, but miscarried. When she fled the home Fred continued abusing his daughters. This time it was Heather West. When she told her friends about the domestic situation, her parents strangled her to death, dismembered her and buried her body in the garden.

Arrest and Sentences

In May 1992 Fred videotaped himself while raping one of his seven daughters. She told friends at school what had happened and their parents contacted police. Eventually Fred was charged with rape and Rosemary was charged as an accomplice. When police uncovered human bones buried at or near the house, the deeds of the sick predator couple were exposed to the British public.

The basement of Fred West
Many of the bodies were buried in the dark cellar, which chillingly by this time had been transformed into a children's playroom.

Fred West was charged with twelve counts of murder, but the coward hanged himself while on remand in his cell, using knotted bed sheets on 1 January, 1995.

The evidence against Rosemary was largely circumstantial. Unlike her husband she did not confess, and tried to distance herself from Fred, claiming she too was a victim. But nevertheless she was found guilty of all ten murders and sentenced to life.

Fred and Rosemary West.
•   •   •

The case of Fred and Rosemary West is somewhat similar to Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, a Canadian serial killer and rapist couple, with the only differences being the Canadian duo had better looks and Karla was able to get away with rape and murder.

•   •   •
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