Couple told victim she would be buried

Rosemary West trial: Woman tells court how she was raped, assaulted and threatened at 25 Cromwell Street
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The victim of a sex attack carried out by Rosemary and Frederick West told yesterday how she was threatened with being kept alive in the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street, and then buried under the streets of Gloucester.

Caroline Owens was in tears as she left the witness box at Winchester Crown Court after giving harrowing evidence of how she was seized by the Wests, gagged with tape, bound and taken to Cromwell Street where she was raped and sexually assaulted.

Mrs Owens, 39, told the court that Mr and Mrs West were angry with her when she tried to make a noise to attract the attention of someone else who was in the house after the attack in December 1972.

She said: "He told me that he would keep me in the cellar and let his black friends use me and when they had finished with me he would bury me under the paving stones of Gloucester. He said there were already hundreds of girls there and that the police would not find me."

Earlier another witness, Elizabeth Agius, told the court that the Wests used to go out in their car to pick up young girls who they might be able to get in to prostitution and that Mrs West went because they were more likely to accept a lift.

Mrs West, 41, denies 10 charges of murdering girls and young women whose remains were found at 25 Cromwell Street and at the Wests' previous home in Gloucester. Fred West, who was charged with 12 murders, was found dead in his prison cell on New Year's Day.

The prosecution alleges that seven of the victims were bound and gagged and kept alive while they were sexually abused and that five of these were abducted while hitch-hiking or making other journeys and subsequently buried in the cellar at 25 Cromwell Street.

Mrs Owens told the jury of eight men and four women that she was first picked up by the Wests when she was hitch-hiking in Gloucestershire in the autumn of 1972. They offered her a job as their nanny but she left after just five or six weeks because she did not like Mr West and went back to live with her family in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.

On 6 December, 1972, she was hitch-hiking from Tewkesbury to Cinderford via Gloucester when the Wests picked her up again. She said Mrs West got in the back of the car with her and after they left Gloucester Mr West asked her if she had had sex with her boyfriend that day. Mrs West put her arm round her and started touching her breasts.

Mrs Owens said: "I think that is when Fred said 'what are her tits like?'. She started to grab hold of me grinning and laughing, not a nice laugh. Then she started to grab me between the legs. He pulled up and turned round in his seat and we were struggling with each other and I was trying to get her off and he turned round and started punching me and calling me names like 'bitch'," said Mrs Owens. She said she was then knocked unconscious.

"When I came round, my arms had been tied behind my back with a scarf and they had tape around my head all the way round my mouth and the back of my head. It was a gag. Rose was holding me and Fred was putting the tape round."

Sometimes biting her lip as she relived her ordeal under the impassive gaze of Mrs West just across the court room, Mrs Owens said: "I didn't think I was going to go home again."

She said the Wests drove her to 25 Cromwell Street, Mrs West continuing to touch her between her legs and there she was taken to an upstairs room where Mr West took the gag off, cutting her face with a knife which he used to remove it.

Mrs Owens said she was then undressed, gagged this time with cotton wool and blindfolded. She was sexually assaulted and while Mrs West held her legs apart Mr West beat her genital area with a belt.

She said Mrs West then performed oral sex on her and later Mr West raped her when his wife was out of the room. She said that afterwards "Fred started crying and said he was sorry he had done it. He said I was there for Rose's pleasure."

While her attackers slept Mrs Owens, still bound and naked, said she tried to escape but could not lift the window.

The following morning she heard another man's voice in the house and tried to make a noise to attract his attention but Mrs West put a pillow over her face and it was after that that the threat to keep her in the cellar was made. "I was scared frightened to death," said Mrs Owens.

She was then astonished to be offered her old job back and accepted because this was her chance to escape. She went home and told her mother about the attack and she called in the police.

Earlier the court was told by Mrs Agius, a neighbour at the West's previous home at 25 Midland Road, Gloucester, how the Wests used to go out in their car as far away as London looking for young girls to pick up. "He liked 15 to 17- year-olds, hopefully she would be a virgin. They had the opportunity to go and live with them and be on the game if they wanted," she said.

Mrs Agius said Mr West wanted to have sex with her and that Mrs West suggested the three of them go to bed. She said she declined both offers.

She said that on one visit to 25 Cromwell Street, which the Wests had just bought, Mr West showed her the cellar and said it could be a children's playroom but added: "Or I could make this my torture room." Mrs Agius said: "They were such a close couple. They were the type of people that didn't hide anything from one another."

Cross-examined by Richard Ferguson for the defence, who accused her of trying to cash in on the case, Mrs Agius admitted she had contacted the Sun with her account of living next to the Wests and had also been paid pounds 750 each by two television channels for her story, to be used after the trial.

She believed the first was from ITV and the second from the BBC.

The case continues today.