Cromwell St memories turn to rubble

Demolition work begins on House of Horrors as debate opens over what should become of site
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Demolition work began at the Cromwell Street "House of Horrors" yesterday, as a row erupted over the disclosure that serial killer Rosemary West will be allowed a say in what happens to the site.

Watched by hundreds of onlookers, the demolition team moved in shortly after dawn and began preparing the outside of the three-storey Edwardian building for scaffolding and huge hoardings.

Gloucester city council has commissioned a survey to ask relatives of the Wests' victims, and neighbours and local residents what should become of the site, where West and her late husband murdered and buried nine young women. Although the council said no direct approaches would be made to Rosemary West - now serving 10 life sentences - it would be prepared to consider any views that may be expressed through her solicitor, Leo Goatley.

Gloucester Tory MP Douglas French was among those who condemned the council's decision. "This is a grotesquely insensitive step. Rose West is a convicted mass murderer. She no longer owns a property in Cromwell Street and she is no longer a citizen of Gloucester. Her views are irrelevant."

Mr French added that the families of the Wests' victims should consider suing the West estate for the suffering they had endured.

He said he had been investigating the possibility of a civil action against the West estate, and concluded that the new rules allowing lawyers to take on no-win-no-fee cases made it feasible.

"It would be for the shock and distress the families have suffered and are continuing to suffer. If the families were so minded they could come together and get a lawyer to act on their behalf. But I know that some of them wouldn't wish to go down that road because it would add to their distress."

A former teenage nanny to the West children who survived a terrifying attack by the Wests yesterday called for a memorial to the victims to be erected at Gloucester Cathedral.

Caroline Roberts described the start of demolition work at 25 Cromwell Street as "one of the best days of my life". "I think they should destroy everything, just burn down the lot. There is no place in Gloucester for that house," she told the Western Daily Press.

Stephen West, the son of Rose and Fred West, said yesterday he would like a memorial garden on the site of 25 Cromwell Street to remember those who died, including his sister Heather.

Mrs Roberts, a mother of three, did not agree. "I don't think it's right to remember those young girls in the place where they suffered so much," she said. "They had a horrific end there. I wouldn't want to go back there to remember them and I'm sure their parents wouldn't want to either."

Relatives of the Wests' victims will be the first interviewed and invited to put forward suggestions for the site. Around 350 local residents will be consulted next. The recommendations are expected to be put to the council early next year.

A spokesman for Leo Goatley said yesterday that Rosemary West "did not care" what happened to the site and was happy to see it demolished.

Paul James, Conservative group leader on Gloucester city council, commented: "In an exercise like this we have to listen to everybody. Although we will listen to Rosemary West's views we won't necessarily act on them."

He added: "This has been a painful chapter in Gloucester's history and whatever happens, we don't want a dispute over whether it is right. We want a consensus."