A 62-year-old Rosemary West sits in her jail cell in England, tabloids reporting that she has feared her fellow inmates ever since a documentary aired on a jailhouse telly described the heinous crimes she committed with her husband in the 1970s. Rosemary West murdered at least 10 women and girls, including her own daughter, and buried their bodies beneath her so-called ‘house of horrors.’
Rosemary West was 15 years old when she met 27-year old Fred West at a bus stop in Gloucester in 1969. Rosemary, who had been abused by her father, quickly began a relationship with the much older man, and by 1970, gave birth to their first daughter, Heather. (It is speculated that Heather’s father may have been Rosemary’s own father.) Fred had two children from a previous marriage to a woman named Catherine Costello: his daughter Anne Marie, and his stepdaughter Charmaine. When Fred went off to jail for theft, a then 17-year-old Rosemary found herself overwhelmed with caring for three young daughters and murdered the eldest, 8-year-old Charmaine. She told anyone who inquired that Costello, Charmaine’s mother, had collected her and taken her to Scotland.
After Fred got out of jail, Costello did come to see about her children. Unable to tell her the same lie they’d told everyone else, they murdered her. Fred and Rosemary married in 1972, and the pair moved to 25 Cromwell Street. Rosemary earned money via sex work, which she did at the West home while Fred watched. One of her repeat clients, with Fred’s blessing, was her own abusive father.
The couple met a teenage girl named Caroline Owens as she was hitchhiking in the fall of 1972. They asked her if she would nanny for then. She agreed, but found the Wests rather strange and left. Not long after, the couple encountered Owens again and persuaded her to come with them. This time, they kidnapped her and took her back to their home, where they raped and tortured her. Owens escaped and reported the incident to the police, but the Wests were only slapped with a fine, leaving them free to escalate their deranged behavior.
From 1973 through 1979, the pair killed Lynda Gough, 19; Lucy Partington, 21; Juanita Mott, 18; Therese Siegenthaler, 21; Alison Chambers, 17; Shirley Robinson, 18; Carol Ann Cooper, 15; and Shirley Hubbard, 15. Each of them were buried on the property at 25 Cromwell, where no one would find them for several years. Some were lodgers of the Wests, some were orphans living in Gloucester children’s homes. Some simply vanished while going about their daily lives, never to be seen again.
Though Rosemary had suffered a childhood of abuse, she did nothing to stop her husband from abusing her own children. The Wests would go on to have a total of seven children, and for any baby girl born to these monsters, misery was soon to follow. Fred sexually abused Anne Marie until she left home at age 15, then began abusing Heather. When Heather reported the abuse to a friend, the couple murdered her and buried her beneath their patio. After threatening their other children that the same fate would befall them should they ever reveal the truth about their parents, they purported that the 16-year-old had run away.
Fred then began to abuse yet another daughter. This daughter told a friend, and that friend told her mother, and this led to Fred being charged with rape. The children were removed from the home, which caused police to wonder what had happened to the couple’s other daughter, Heather. This led to them excavating the property, discovering not only the remains of Heather West, but all the other women as well.
Fred and Rosemary were charged with the 10 known murders, and Fred was charged with with two more that had occurred before he met Rosemary. Rather than face trial, Fred asphyxiated himself with a bedsheet in jail. Rosemary was sentenced to life, despite claiming that she somehow had no knowledge of the murders that had occurred in her own basement.
The Cromwell house was demolished in 1996 and replaced with a public pathway.