A street name that may rival Rillington Place: Police identify body of pregnant teenager

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The Independent Online
CROMWELL STREET in Gloucester is a narrow inner city thoroughfare of slab-fronted Victorian brick terraces which have seen better days and face a dismal future. In the long back garden of number 25, lugubrious policemen with shovels have unearthed three bodies.

Yesterday, Frederick West, who lives at number 25, was charged with murdering two women whose bodies were found on Tuesday. He is in custody and has already been charged with the murder of his daughter Heather. Her body was found on

Saturday.

One body has to be identified, the other was named yesterday as Shirley Robinson, 18, a former lodger. Police said she was heavily pregnant when she died.

Like that other infamous street, Rillington Place (home of John Christie, where four bodies were found in the house and two buried in the garden in the 1950s), Cromwell Street was yesterday heading from mundane obscurity to infamy and notoriety.

Parkers, estate agents of Gloucester, fear the worst over a basement flat they have on the market for pounds 22,500 two doors away.

Loud hammering could be heard all day at the rear of number 25, three storeys of semi-detached ochre pebble-dash with freshly painted green windows.

A next door neighbour but one, Charlie Keen, a retired gardener who has lived in Cromwell Street for 32 years, has known the West family for two decades. He said: 'Fred would do anything for you. If anyone went to him for a tap-washer, a bit of concrete to put down or roofing, anything, he'd do it. About a month ago I was mending my front window and said, 'you haven't got a bit of putty, have you Fred?'. He said, 'give me an hour,' and came back with a bloody great bucket of the stuff.

'His wife's got a bit of a temper, though that's not for me to say. Fred's a happy-go-lucky man, thought the world of his kids. I can't make it out myself. He's the last person in the world . . .' and here Mr Keen's voice trailed away.

'I never heard digging or anything over there. 'I knew he put a patio in and there's lots of fir trees in the back. He planted them, he said, as a screen for the kids.'

The police activity across the street confirmed the worst fears of Helen, 70, and Les, 73, who have lived close to Cromwell Street all their lives.

'It used to be a nice area,' Helen said. 'Very sedate. There'd be people sitting on their doorsteps on warm evenings and they'd never draw their curtains so you could see their rooms looking perfect and the gardens would be full of flowers.'

Next door to number 25 the little Seventh Day Adventist church - brick-built with kick-proof glass panel windows - expects business as usual on Saturday.

Pastor Ian Lorek is trying not to read too much into the constabulary's spadework across the fence: 'It's very sad and unfortunate, not just for the church but for the whole of Gloucester, isn't it?'

A notice outside the church says: 'Is there hope for our world? Threatened by pollution, disease, war, terrorism . . . what next?'

Identifying the dead, page 5

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