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Rosemary_West

Rosemary West

Rosemary Pauline ("Rose") West née Letts (born 29 November 1953 in Barnstaple), is an English serial killer, now an inmate at HMP Bronzefield, Ashford, Middlesex after being convicted of 10 murders in 1995. Her husband Fred, who committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial, is believed to have collaborated with her in the torture and murder of at least 10 young women, many at the couple's home in Gloucester, England.

Fred West is known to have carried out 12 murders, but Rosemary had no involvement in the first two, as she had not met Fred at the time.

Early life and marriage to Fred West

Rosemary Letts was born in Devon to William Andrew and Daisy Gwendoline Letts, the result of a difficult pregnancy. Her mother suffered from depression and was given Electro-convulsive therapy while pregnant; some have argued that this may have caused prenatal injury to her daughter. Rosemary grew up a moody teenager and performed poorly at school. She had a slight weight problem in adolescence, but this did not prevent the development of sexual precocity and an interest in older men.

Rosemary's parents split up when she was a teenager, and her father was prone to violence. She lived with her mother before moving in with her father around the time she met West at the age of 16. Rosemary's father disapproved of the relationship, threatening to call social services and threatening West directly. However, by 1970, Rosemary found herself pregnant by West and caring for his daughter Anne-Marie (by his previous marriage to Rena Costello).

Rosemary West and her husband were convicted of sexual assault in January 1973. They were fined for indecent assault of Caroline Roberts, who escaped the couple's home after being attacked and reported them to the police. The Wests' typical pattern was to pick up girls from bus stops in and around Gloucester and imprison them in their home for several days before killing them.

She also worked as a prostitute. She was frequently pregnant and was the mother of eight children: Heather Anne (October 1970), Mae (June 1972), Stephen Andrew (August 1973), Tara (December 1977), Louise (November 1978), Barry (June 1980), Rosemarie (April 1982) and Lucyanna (July 1983). Five of these were fathered by Fred West, while Tara, Rosemarie and Lucyanna were fathered by West Indian clients who had used Rosemary as a prostitute.

It is reported that, even after the birth of her fourth child, Rosemary's father would still visit her for sex, and would then have sex with Fred's daughter Anne-Marie.

Other possible victims

The crimes for which Rosemary West was convicted occurred mainly between April 1973 and August 1978. Charmaine West, (the daughter of Fred's previous wife Rena), murdered in June 1971, was buried at the Wests' previous home of 25 Midland Road, Gloucester. One of the bodies found at Cromwell Street was that of their daughter, Heather, who was murdered in June 1987 at the age of 16.

In August 1992 Fred West was arrested after being accused of raping his 13-year-old daughter three times, and Rosemary West was arrested for child cruelty. This case against them collapsed in June 1993 when their daughter refused to testify in court. All of the Wests' children were removed from their custody to foster homes. This case brought to light the disappearance of Heather West, who had not been seen since 1987, and triggered the major investigation that followed.

Conviction

Although she did not confess, the circumstantial evidence against Rosemary West was overwhelming. She went on trial in October 1995, nine months after her husband's suicide; he had hanged himself in Winson Green Prison on 1 January that year. The jury was unanimous: West was found guilty of 10 murders on 22 November 1995, and the judge, Mr Justice Mantell, sentenced her to life imprisonment, saying: "If attention is paid to what I think, you will never be released."

The Lord Chief Justice later decided that she should spend at least 25 years in prison, but in July 1997 Home Secretary Jack Straw subjected West to a whole life tariff. This was only the second instance of a British woman being condemned to die in prison, the other being serial killer Myra Hindley (who has since died). In the first two years of her sentence, West was held at the same prison as Hindley.

A November 2002 Law Lords' ruling could see West released in 2019, by which time she will be 66 years old.

Doubt over guilty verdict

A great deal has been written about the complete lack of evidence linking her to the murders at Cromwell Street or at Midland Road, and it has been suggested that her conviction seems to be based on little more than the idea that "She Must Have Known" (see Brian Masters' 1996 book). Masters suggested that Rosemary West was only put on trial because the main suspect (Fred West) committed suicide before he could be convicted. Masters asserts that the police had never intended to prosecute her and clearly only did so because of public opinion against her. However, Rosemary West had been arrested and jointly charged with the murders prior to Fred West's suicide.

Further reading

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