Rosemary West (born November 29, 1953 as Rosemary Letts) is a British serial killer. Now an inmate at HM Prison Bronzefield, Kent.
She was convicted of murdering ten teenage girls, including her own common law step-daughter, Charmaine, and also of a serious sexual assault on a woman in January 1973. The Police suspect she was involved in further murders for which she has not been convicted. She killed Charmaine alone, but her other murders were all believed to have been carried out with her husband and fellow serial killer, Fred West.
Rosemary or "Rose" was West's second wife. They developed a habit of picking up girls from bus stops in and around Gloucester, England (they would be less afraid of a couple than of a lone man) whom they would imprison in their home for several days before killing them. The victims were sadistically tortured. One such victim, Caroline Raine, escaped and reported the couple to the police. They were subsequently convicted but only given a modest fine.
Rosemary West had a voracious sexual appetite and enjoyed extreme bondage and sadomaschistic sex, even more so than her husband. She was bisexual, but preferred women, and it is likely that her victims (apart from Charmaine) were picked up mostly for her sexual pleasure. She also worked as a prostitute, often preferring black clients, and many of her children were fathered by these clients.
The Wests were arrested in 1994. Fred in February 1994 and Rosemary in April 1994. The crimes for which she was convicted occurred from 1973 to 1979, by which time the basement of the Wests' house at 25 Cromwell Street was full of the bodies of her victims (apart from Charmaine, who was buried at the Wests' previous home of 25, Midland Road, Gloucester). The only other body found at Cromwell Street was Heather, West's daughter, who was murdered by the Wests in 1987. The police consider it highly unlikely that the Wests just stopped their sexually motivated murders in 1979, and there are likely to have been many more murders with the bodies being buried elsewhere.
Rose West was convicted of ten murders and the police have concluded that her late husband Fred murdered a total of twelve, but Rose played no part in the first two murders. Fred West killed Ann Mcfall alone in 1967 and his first wife in August 1971.
Some reports claimed that the Wests may have killed as many as 30 people. Most of the victims were people whose disappearances were unlikely to be detected, which is why their killing spree went undetected for over 20 years. All of the 12 known victims of the Wests were women or girls, though it is possible that the Wests may have murdered men and boys as well.
Although she did not confess, the evidence against Rosemary West, which was all circumstantial, was overwhelming. She was tried in October 1995, after her husband's suicide. The jury was unanimous: West was guilty of ten murders, and the judge, Mr Justice Mantell, sentenced her to life imprisonment with a recommendation that she should serve at least 25 years.
Since the trial Rosemary West's Counsel has claimed that there was no direct evidence to link her to the murders. Her counsel also accused the media of having "a malign influence" on her trial. Richard Ferguson, QC, said "Other than the sheer horror of the discovery of the remains of the victims, the most striking feature of this case, say the defence, was the dearth of evidence to connect the applicant to these crimes." He said the evidence linking Rosemary West to the deaths of Heather West, her daughter, Charmaine West, her husband's step-daughter, and Shirley Robinson, a lodger at 25 Cromwell Street, was "tenuous."
Evidence connecting her to the seven victims of sex killings found at Cromwell Street, "was virtually non-existent unless the evidence advanced under the banner of similar fact evidence was properly admissible".
Rosemary West had never admitted being involved, and there was evidence that Frederick West had carried out two murders and other attacks on his own. The so-called "similar fact" evidence adduced at the trial is of highly questionable validity as it referred to a different type of crime (a sexual assault on Caroline Raine) rather than murder (for which Rosemary West was actually on trial). "Similar fact" evidence is only valid when comparing the same offences (ie if Rosemary West had previously been convicted of murder).
The remains of Ann McFall, who disappeared before Frederick West met Rosemary, were found dismembered and bound with cord. Mr Ferguson said this showed that Rosemary West had not been involved in killing the seven Cromwell Street victims discovered in similar circumstances.
Her original minimum term set by the judiciary was 25 years, but this was increased to whole life in 1997 by the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw. A November 2002 Law Lord's ruling could see West released in 2019, by which time she will be 66 years old.
She Must Have Known: Trial of Rosemary West by Brian Masters
- BBC website about the West murder case
- BBC report of West's conviction
- Transcript of a policy interview with Rose West
- A Horror Story article from City Journal