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FRED AND ROSE WEST

by Neil Paton

For anyone who studies crime, and especially serial killers, Fred West stands out as among the most abominable murderers in history. He not only murdered at least twelve innocent young women -- including some children -- he raped and tortured them, sometimes for days at a time. Furthermore, the twelve murders he is known to have committed may be just a sampling; it is highly likely there were many more.

His crimes first came to light when his youngest children were taken into care in 1992, as a result of Fred and Rose being accused of sexually abusing some of their children. While they were in care, the children passed on a macabre "family joke" to the effect that their elder sister Heather, who had disappeared in 1987, was buried "under the patio". The social workers who heard this "joke" passed it on to the police, who obtained a warrant to search for Heather's body at the family home at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester. Before long, the police had started to find human remains in the backyard and Fred West had decided to confess: he told police he had killed Heather. Before the police were finished, they had found the remains of nine bodies in the "house of horrors". Another three were found at three other sites. Fred West was charged with twelve murders but hung himself in prison before his trial came up. His wife Rosemary was then charged with ten murders and was found guilty on all counts. She is currently serving ten life sentences.

                   

The Story

Fred West was probably the purest psychopath I have ever studied. He was a compulsive murderer, rapist, liar and thief. He felt no remorse for his actions but, like other psychopaths, could be charming and friendly when it suited him. Also like other psychopaths, he was obsequious to people above him and a bully to those below him. Any woman who became involved with him would soon find herself on the receiving end of his fists. Although he was almost illiterate, he possessed a native cunning and shrewdness which, combined with his smarmy charm, enabled him to evade the police for years.

West was born on 29th September 1941, in the village of Much Marcle, Herefordshire. His education was rudimentary and he soon started work in a long series of jobs that kept him busy all his life. (Indeed, his only redeeming feature was that he was a good worker.) His upbringing was a typical one for a working class boy in the country, although some sources consider that he had an incestuous relationship with his mother. His biographer Geoffrey Wansell says that "almost certainly" West's mother took him into her bed, but his use of his favourite phrase "almost certainly" shows that he was not certain. An investigating officer, John Bennett, later wrote a book in which he cast serious doubt on this story. West's daughter Anne Marie, in her book "Out of the Shadows",  said nothing about his mother but stated that he had been abused by his father.

At the age of seventeen West was in a motorcycle accident during which he received serious head injuries. Members of his family noticed that his personality seemed to change after the accident; he became "darker" and more solitary. It is a fact that many serial killers suffered a blow to the head at a fairly early age and appeared to "go off the deep end" afterwards; whether Fred West's head injuries contributed to his criminal career is something we will never know, but the possibility is there.

In November 1961, West went on trial for having an incestuous relationship with one of his sisters, who was pregnant, but the girl refused to testify against him in court. Whether she was trying to protect him, or whether he had threatened her, we cannot know, but it was not the last time Fred West would be lucky in court.

In 1962, West married a Scottish prostitute, Catherine "Rena" Costello and moved to Glasgow with her. She soon had a baby daughter, Charmaine, but the father was her Pakistani pimp, rather than Fred West. Nevertheless, West stayed with Rena and Charmaine, but never developed any emotional attachment to the child.

In 1964, Charmaine was joined by the West's first child together, Anna-Marie, to whom West was considerably more attached. The marriage between West and Rena was a turbulent one, characterised by frequent arguments and beatings. Things did not improve when another Scottish girl, Anna McFall, came into the picture and rapidly became Fred's lover. Fred and Anna were apparently in love but eventually Anna decided to leave him. Her threatened departure apparently infuriated West and he killed her. Anna was buried in Fingerpost Field, near Much Marcle. As far as we know, she was his first murder victim. (Although, only a few months before, a young male friend of West's, Robin Holt, had been found hung. His death was treated as suicide, but the possibility remains that he was murdered by West.) Anna was dismembered and beheaded in a fashion that would become standard for West's victims.

In January 1968, a 15 year-old girl named Mary Bastholm disappeared from Gloucester. She was never seen again. It is a known fact that Mary had some contact with Fred West; her disappearance was never traced to him with any certainty, but he was later to tell one of his children that he had killed her.

   

Mary Bastholm.

Meanwhile, the girl who was to become West's second wife came into the picture. Rosemary Pauline Letts had been born on 29th November, 1953, in Northam, Devon. She did not start life with any great advantages, having been in her mother's womb while her mother was given electro-shock therapy for depression. It is impossible to know what effect the shocks might have had on the unborn Rosemary, but she was always a slow and dull child who only started to come out of her shell when her younger brothers came into the world. At school she was known as Dozie Rosie. (Caroline Roberts, author of "The Lost Girl", later described her as simple minded.) It is generally believed that she had an incestuous relationship with her father, Bill Letts -- who was schizophrenic as well as violent -- and also began molesting her brothers before long.

      

Rose West as a child.

By October 1969, Rosemary was in Fred West's life to the extent of becoming a nanny for Charmaine and Anna-Marie. Fred's wife Rena was still on the scene but was always moving back and forth between Scotland and West's home outside Gloucester. She could never bring herself to leave West permanently, in spite of his violence. She could certainly not stop him from getting involved with the young and attractive Rosemary Letts, who was pregnant to West by February 1970. Rosemary gave birth to her first child, Heather Ann, on 17th October 1970.

The arrival of West's first child with Rosemary did nothing to change his habits, however. Always lightfingered, Fred was sent to prison for theft in December 1970. He was released in June 1971 and, around the same time, another mysterious "disappearance" took place. West's stepdaughter Charmaine was murdered at the age of eight and buried under their house at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester. There seems to be great uncertainty about whether the murder was actually committed by Fred or Rose. Anne Marie West states clearly that Fred was still in gaol when Charmaine was killed, as does Howard Sounes, author of "Fred and Rose". Brian Masters, author of "She Must Have Known", begs to differ; but it is, in any case, difficult to know exactly when Charmaine died. Fred and Rose seemed to have agreed that it would be convenient if Charmaine disappeared, but this may have referred to the possibility of her going back to Scotland with Rena. It seems that Fred himself had never been attached to Charmaine and Rose despised her, so they would not have been saddened by her absence. In the following August it was her mother Rena's turn; she was murdered by Fred and buried in Letterbox Field, near Much Marcle.

The house at Midland Road, Gloucester, where Charmaine West was murdered.

Rena's convenient disappearance meant that the way was now clear for Fred and Rosemary to get married, and they did so in January 1972, at the Gloucester Register Office. In June of that year, Rose gave birth to her second child, Mae. Only a few months later, the family moved into a new home at 25 Cromwell Street, not far from the centre of Gloucester.

Fred and Rose were a perfect match, one a bullying psychopath and the other a deeply disturbed young woman who was eager to learn from her new-found teacher. Both were equally obsessed with sex, both were equally nasty and temperamental, both were willing to lead lives of crime and both had little or no feeling for other people, except hostility. Their children were beaten as soon as they were "old enough for the strap"; Rose, for her part, preferred a wooden spoon and would lose her temper at the slightest provocation. Anne Marie West has said that "Rose's violence knew no bounds...Often there seemed no reason for it." Outwardly, they seemed to be a normal married couple, but behind the scenes it was a very different story. Rose also followed in Rena's footsteps by taking up prostitution with Fred's encouragement. Fred began making porn films featuring his wife and any willing males who came along. Since they were murdering people and making porn movies, it is thought they may have combined the two by making snuff movies.

The wrought-iron sign made by Fred West.

A new person was to come into the family's life before long in the form of one Caroline Roberts (formerly Caroline Raine), a young woman who was quickly given a live-in job as nanny to the Wests' three daughters. As Caroline soon found out, the Wests were always on the lookout for new "talent" which they could use and abuse, but she was eventually disturbed and frightened by their activities. After only a month or so, she left the Wests, but made the mistake of bumping into them several weeks later. This time, the Wests did not hesitate; Caroline was forcibly abducted and taken to Cromwell Street, where she was beaten and sexually abused. She was luckier than most of the Wests' victims, however, and managed to escape. The Wests were consequently charged with indecent assault and actual bodily harm of Caroline. They pleaded guilty but something in their manner -- perhaps Fred's usual charm and obsequiousness -- seemed to convince the judge that they were relatively harmless; he let them off with fines of only fifty pound each.

Caroline Roberts around the time she met the Wests (from the book "The Lost Girl").

By now, the scene was set at the house of horrors. The Wests were in the habit of taking in lodgers, both male and female, and some of them became sex partners of both Fred and Rose, to say nothing of Rose's steady stream of clients. The house at Cromwell Street became something of a centre of promiscuous sexual activity and drug-taking, with a constant stream of visitors of both sexes. One regular visitor was a 19 year-old girl named Lynda Gough, who was eventually seduced by Rosemary. Lynda Gough soon moved into the house as a nanny for the Wests' children, and was eventually sharing a bed with Fred as well as Rose. It happened that she was interested in the Dark Arts of Satanism and Black Magic, so that it was only a matter of time before she wanted to combine the rituals of Black Magic with the frenzied sex life she enjoyed with the Wests. In April, 1973, this benighted girl was led into the basement of the house at Cromwell Street. She allowed Fred to suspend her from the ceiling by her ankles, thinking she was about to take part in exotic rituals and sex rites. What she did not know was that she would have no control over what happened next, or that the Wests, whom she trusted, were about to turn on her like savage beasts. Once Lynda was suspended by the ankles, the Wests began to abuse her mercilessly, treating her like a piece of meat. This orgy of sadism and sexual abuse may have gone on for some days and other individuals may have taken part at some stage. At the end of it, Lynda Gough was dead. Fred West cut her body up and buried it beneath the old garage at the back of the house. Characteristically, he kept a number of bones as trophies, especially bones from the hands and feet.

Berkley Mill, where Fred West claimed to have buried more victims (from the book "The Lost Girl").

The murder of Lynda Gough set the pattern for the other murders that would follow. A girl would generally be taken down to the cellar, which had become the torture chamber. If she did not go voluntarily, she might be drugged or bashed. She would be bound with tape and ropes in a way that was utilitarian --  ie it restrained her -- but which also satisfied the Wests' appetite for bondage. Her mouth would be taped up so she could not call out. She would be sadistically tortured and abused over a period of time, which might have stretched out for some days. Finally she would be killed, then dismembered and beheaded before being squeezed into a small hole dug in the ground. In this fashion, nine young women would be killed and entombed in the house at Cromwell Street: five in the cellar and four out the back. In every case, a large number of bones would be kept as trophies, invariably including bones from the hands and feet.

Thus, another seven girls were murdered over the next five years:

Carol Ann Cooper, aged 15, murdered in November 1973

Lucy Partington, aged 21, murdered in December 1973

Therese Siegenthaler, aged 21, murdered in April 1974

Shirley Hubbard, aged 15, murdered in November 1974

Juanita Mott, aged 18, murdered in April 1975

Shirley Robinson, aged 18, murdered in June 1978

Alison Chambers, aged 17, murdered in September 1979

When not murdering the young, Fred and Rosemary were busy creating more of them. No less than six more children joined the family during this time, which was obviously a busy period for the Wests: Stephen, Tara Jayne, Louise, Barry, Rosemary Jr and Lucyanna. Tara, Rosemary and Lucyanna were not the children of Fred West; they were the half-caste children of a West Indian man who had a sexual relationship with Rose. Fred had no objection.

The house at 25 Cromwell Street in 1994.

The cellar of the house at 25 Cromwell Street.

For eight years there was a drought in the murderous activities of Fred and Rose, as far as we know. It is quite possible that they were, in fact, killing young women without interruption throughout this entire period; but in terms of the murders we know about, there was a hiatus between 1979 and 1987. What caused the breaking of the drought?

Fred and Rose had been sexually abusing their eldest child, Anna-Marie, from when she was 8 years old. The abuse started one day when they tied her up in the cellar and deflowered her -- as painfully as possible -- with a vibrator. Fred also raped her. After that, they abused her steadily and regularly; Fred would also rape her when Rose was not around. Anna-Marie reacted by fleeing the family home when she was 15. This created a regrettable gap in the sex live of her parents, so they responded in the only way they knew: they turned their attentions to two of their other daughters, Heather and Mae. Both of these girls were on the receiving end of sexual abuse from their parents for a period of at least four years. They resisted the advances as best they could and in fact made a pact to the effect that they would never let their father have sex with them. Most of the time they held out against him, but the cries of distress heard occasionally by the neighbours seemed to indicate that Fred's sexual advances were at times successful.

Things finally came to a head in 1987, when Heather told a school friend, Denise Harrison, about her father's sexual advances. Denise in turn told her parents, who were close friends of Fred and Rose, and the parents passed the rumour back to Fred. Suddenly, the 16 year-old Heather was a threat; she had told someone about Fred's illicit sexual activities and there was a chance that she might do so again. Fred rose to the occasion with all the ruthlessness and coldbloodedness of the psychopath: apparently without hesitation, he murdered Heather on 19th June 1987. He dismembered her body in the same impersonal way that he dismembered all the others and buried her in the backyard; again after keeping several bones as trophies.

In studying the Wests, the murder of Heather comes across as the nadir of the Wests' criminal career. Unlike the other victims, Heather was their own daughter; did this count for anything in their eyes? Apparently not. Furthermore, it is impossible to study the family photos without being touched in some way by the young and doomed Heather. A sensitive-looking child from an early age, she gradually developed the look of the child who expects to be beaten at any moment. A family portrait from the 1980s shows Heather as the only child who does not smile; her head is bowed slightly and she has a hesitant or fearful look on her face, as if she is expecting something unpleasant to happen. If proof were needed that Fred West was a beast, it was supplied a million times over by the brutal murder of his own daughter.

Strangely enough, however, Fred behaved oddly at times after the death of Heather. Some of his children have told how he sometimes would hang around the spot where Heather was buried, looking lost or distracted. At other times he would sweep the patio aimlessly, as if his mind were on something else. Perhaps even psychopaths have some kind of bond with their children, deep down among all the sang-froid.

   

Heather West

For the next five years, life was unusually quiet at Cromwell Street, with no further murders that we know of. Fred kept working diligently, as he always had, and Rose continued to work as a prostitute. She also continued her incestuous relationship with her father, who was quite happy to share his daughter with her husband. The pornographic film production probably continued apace, as well as the general molestation and abuse of the children.

Finally, in May 1992, Fred made a mistake. He raped one of his daughters repeatedly over a period of several days, but was not successful in keeping her quiet. His daughter sooner or later told a friend about what had happened, and the friend eventually passed it on to a policeman. The latter made some enquiries and, within a few days, the police had formally notified Social Security in Gloucester. They also obtained a warrant to search 25 Cromwell Street for evidence of child abuse and pornography.

On 6th August, the police arrived at Cromwell Street in force and began to search the premises. Rose immediately lost her famous temper and attacked a policewoman, which led to her arrest on a charge of obstruction. Fred, after further searching and questioning, was charged with rape and sodomy. The five younger children were placed in care but the older children, Mae and Stephen, were able to go on living with Rose while she and Fred waited for their trial to come up. Fred was remanded in custody while Rose was able to go on living at Cromwell Street.

Now that things were coming out into the open, Anna-Marie, now aged 28, also came forward and made a statement to police about how she had been abused. Her punishment for this action was to be excommunicated by Rose, who refused to talk to her.

Anne Marie West.

Having been charged with assisting Fred in the rape of the children, Rose became somewhat depressed and took an overdose of tablets. Mae and Stephen found her collapsed on the sofa and sent her immediately to hospital, where her stomach was pumped.

Fred, for his part, was placed on remand at Gloucester Prison but was in time moved to the more casual environment of a bail hostel, where he was allowed some freedom of movement. So free were his movements, in fact, that some people consider that he may have murdered another woman during this period of time.

The big day came on 7th June 1993, when Fred and Rose had their day in court. Once again, the gods were on their side; the children, who were the main witnesses, backed down at the last minute and refused to testify in court. Fred and Rose were free.

The gods, however, move in mysterious ways, and fate was gradually catching up with the couple from Cromwell Street. The five younger children, who had been taken into care, began to share a macabre family "joke" with their social workers. The "joke", which had been in the family since Heather's disappearance, was to the effect that the absent Heather, who had allegedly run away from home, was actually buried under the patio. Anna-Marie has told how this "joke" originated with Fred himself, who laughed heartily when he first said it. Such a perverse "joke" would have been reckless in the extreme, but psychopaths, like the gods, move in mysterious ways. The "joke" had been doing the rounds for some time and the children eventually passed it on to their social workers, who in turn passed it on to the police. DC Hazel Savage, who had had previous contact with the Wests, was given the job of tracking down Heather. She eventually established that there were no records of any kind of Heather's existence after she had disappeared in 1987; no medical records, dental records, Social Security or anything else.

In February 1994, DC Savage took formal statements from the social workers and applied for a search warrant; on 24th February, the police turned up in force at Cromwell Street and began the search for Heather's body. Rose immediately rang Fred, who was at work, and told him to get himself home. The sight of the police digging up the backyard must have made Fred realize that "the jig was up". Apparently embarking on a campaign of damage control, he soon admitted to DC Savage that he had killed Heather. This statement was the beginning of an almost endless series of contradictory statements that West made as the police dug their way through the house.

Above: police digging up the backyard of the West home at Cromwell Street.

 

On 26th February, the remains of Heather were found, as well as other bones. Two days later, the remains of Alison Chambers and Shirley Robinson were found. West admitted to more murders and pointed out further sites at 25 Cromwell Street, as well as Letterbox Field, to the police. Digging further, the police found the remains of Therese Siegenthaler and Shirley Hubbard at Cromwell Street, to be followed closely by the remains of Lucy Partington and Juanita Mott.

By this time, 25 Cromwell Street had become the centre of media attention and the legend of the "house of horrors" had been born. The search went on in the glaring light of publicity. Fred pointed out a site at Fingerpost Field while, back at Cromwell Street, the remains of Lynda Gough were recovered. The total of bodies at Cromwell Street was finally brought to nine with the discovery of the remains of Carol Ann Cooper. The remains of Rena West were subsequently found at Letterbox Field on 10th April. Twenty-four days later, the remains of Charmaine were found at 25 Midland Road. At last, on 7th June, the remains of Ann McFall were dug up at Fingerpost Field. She was the last known victim to be found.

Police removing human remains from the house at Cromwell Street

Fred West was charged with twelve murders but apparently had no intention of doing time for them. He was depressed by the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison and was also harassed by other prisoners. When they saw him in the exercise yard, they would say things like, "Build us a patio, Fred," and "Kids getting under your feet?" Rose had also turned her back on him by this time, which probably added to his depression. According to some sources, Fred said to someone, "I can't take it anymore." His daughter Anne Marie tells how he said to her, "Your dad's had enough, love. I'm going to finish it myself. I've had enough." On New Years Day, 1995, he put an end to it all by hanging himself in his cell.

Rose was left to soldier on without Fred's help, although he may have thought he had deflected most of the blame to himself. On 14th February, she was committed for trial on no less than ten charges of murder. Her trial began in Winchester on 3rd October. Rose's defence apparently advised her not to testify, but she ignored them and promptly destroyed her credibility with her belligerence and ill temper. The prosecution soon realized they could trip her up simply by getting her angry, and Rose was only too happy to oblige.

One of the features of Rose's trial was the testimony of Janet Leach, official witness present during Fred West's interviews. She testified that West had told her privately that Rose had been involved in the murders and that Rose had killed Charmaine and Shirley Robinson on her own. Rose probably talked herself into prison and by November 22nd had been found guilty on all ten charges. The judge sentenced her to ten life sentences and told her that, if his opinion was listened to, she would never be released. Shortly afterwards, the Court of Appeal refused her permission to appeal against her conviction. The gods had finally sent the Avenging Angel down to earth.

 

The Aftermath

 For the West children and others, the ordeal was not over. Anna-Marie, who changed her name to Anne Marie later as a gesture of independence, took an accidental overdoes of tablets after hearing of her father's suicide. In spite of everything that had happened, she still loved him. In her distress, she consumed a combination of alcohol and various tablets, but was rushed to hospital and had her stomach pumped. She then wrote the book "Out of the Shadows" with Virginia Hill, which gives a vivid and horrifying account of life with Fred and Rosemary West. By that time she had married a man named Chris and had had two daughters. In November 1999, she was rescued after throwing herself off a bridge in Gloucester, apparently in a suicide attempt. Clearly, Fred and Rose had left their mark.

Fred's younger brother John was charged with raping Anne Marie but, like his brother, hung himself before the verdict was in. It is quite possible that John was involved in the activities at Cromwell Street, but there is no definite evidence.

Rose West was sent to Durham Prison, where Moors murderer Myra Hindley was also held. She eventually abandoned all attempts at an appeal and resigned herself to spending the rest of her life in prison. She had some correspondents over the years and actually got as far as becoming engaged to one of them, a rock musician who played in the band Slade. When this information became public, he was immediately sacked from the band. The engagement with Rose was broken off. In statements that were later made public, Rose said that she wanted to apologise to Anne Marie for the way she had treated her, and that she had come to a better understanding of herself and the relationships in her life. It is also reported that she had lesbian relationships at Durham Prison and later at Bronzefield Prison, where she was transferred in late 2005. On arrival at Bronzefield, she was immediately placed in segregation because of threats from other prisoners. By March, 2006, she was on a hunger strike and had lost a great deal of weight. The problem was that Rose's girlfriend had been transferred to another prison, so Rose responded by going on a hunger strike. At that stage the authorities had not tried to force-feed her.

Anne Marie's brother Stephen tried to hang himself after his girlfriend left him in January 2002, but survived when the rope broke.

The notorious house of horrors at 25 Cromwell Street was demolished by Gloucester City Council in October 1996. A committee had been set up to examine the options and had considered the possibility of creating a memorial garden on the site. There was concern, however, that this might become a kind of ghoulish shrine; instead, a pedestrian walk was established at the site.

The pedestrian walk created at the site of 25 Cromwell Street

Perhaps the last word should go to the Irish writer Jim Cairns, who has argued that Fred and Rose West may have been supplying sacrificial girls to Black Magic groups in the Gloucestershire area. One supposed indication of this is the fact that every victim had bones removed from the hands and feet, which is apparently significant in Black Magic. Another piece of evidence is the fact that a bar installed at 25 Cromwell Street was known as the Black Magic Bar. All one can say is, "It would be no surprise."

Bronzefield Prison, where Rosemary West was transferred in 2005.

 

(Text Copyright Neil Paton 2006)

 

The Handwriting

Ruth Myers, a London graphologist, has analysed a sample of Rose West's handwriting and made the analysis available on her web site. According to Ruth, "Rose West's letters prove she is a twisted, sadistic killer with no conscience...Rose West lives in a world of deception and has a tough ruthless nature. She is also deeply disturbed.She appears friendly, but this is only on the surface. In reality she is cold and introspective, shown by her writing leaning to the left. She is highly secretive -- one of the main characteristics in a murderer's personality --  shown by the closely dotted i's. The o's are also closed in a perfect ring, one of the biggest signs of someone who likes to hide things.

"Her true feelings are frozen and repressed, probably the result of childhood traumas. She is emotionally warped and has no conscience or sense of right or wrong. She is moody and prone to flashes of quick temper and irritability shown by the t bars not crossing through the stem of the letter. Her sweeping t bars with upward strokes indicate an enthusiastic, optimistic attitude at times. She is able to fire others with zeal and dominate the scene.

"However, the pointed ending of the t bars shows hostility with a desire to punish. The mixture of rounded and spiky formation of her letters, especially the hooked initial strokes on the b, a t,i and s show cruel tendencies. And some of the lower descenders of the y's denote sexual deviation and violence. Her writing is quite large which shows a need to be noticed. It also means she has a low attention span.

"She is fairly unpredictable, immature and impressionable, shown by the fully looped h's, k's and l's."

www.ruthmyers.com

 

Photos From The Book "An Evil Love"

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Photos From The Book "Out of the Shadows"

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Photos From The Book "Fred and Rose"

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The West Family Tree From The Book "Fred and Rose"

 

Photos From The Book "The Cromwell Street Murders."

  

 

Further Reading

The Corpse Garden------------Colin Wilson

Out of the Shadows------------Anne Marie West

An Evil Love-----------Geoffrey Wansell

Fred and Rose-----------Howard Sounes

She Must Have Known------------Brian Masters

Happy Like Murderers------------Gordon Burn

The Lost Girl-----------Caroline Roberts

Couples Who Kill------------Carol Ann Davis

Inside 25 Cromwell Street-----------Stephen and Mae West

The Cromwell Street Murders------------John Bennett

   

 

POLICE SITE ON THE WESTS -- ADOBE ACROBAT READER REQUIRED

POLICE INTERVIEWS WITH ROSE WEST

BACK TO CHRISTINE AND LEA PAPIN

 

 

 

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